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Picturing a World

Académie Julian

This photo gives an idea of how many women crowded into Rodolphe Julian's highly successful art classes, and the drawings mounted on the wall shows how good the best of them were. Notice how they are posed so that not everyone is staring straight ahead at the canera. That was a 19th C convention for group photographs. It is artificial, but it does enliven the composition—just a little prod toward the historical novelist's goal of imagining them as separate individuals, each with her own story.

For Jefferson David Chalfant's informative painting of one of the men's studios, click here.  Read More 
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Vassar College

Where the Light Falls opens as Jeanette Palmer is being expelled from Vassar College. To imagine what the college meant to her, I read a lot about the campus and student life. With its Mansard roofs and symmetrical wings, the original main block was said to have been based on the Tuileries Palace in Paris (a nice echo for the novel). It embraced Old World grandeur and intellectual aspirations at the same time that it kept the girls contained within its protective walls. I like the way this print shows how impressive the college was in its rural setting and also hints at the surrounding beauties of the Hudson River Valley countryside where Jeanette's art class could go sketching.

For an image of a Vassar sitting room like the one in Jeanette's suite, go to dorm room.  Read More 
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