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Picturing a World

Smith College art class

And now back to school! Early in my research on women’s art education, I  Read More 

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Typists' strike

This 1919 poster, which shows typists as New Women who are voicing demands by striking is, in fact, an advertising poster for Labor brand typewriters (see Ruth E. Iskin, “Popularising New Women in Belle Epoque Advertising Posters,” in A Belle Epoque?: Women and Feminism in French Society and Culture, 1890–1914 (2006). But, heck!, it’s a great image. And if we have to resist the Lords of Creation, we might as well do it handsomely. Sisters, solidarity—and happy Labor Day! Read More 

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Note of Explanation

Lovely serendipity: Face-out at a local independent bookstore this week, I found A Note of Explanation by Vita Sackville-West. As if a previously unpublished jeu d’esprit by Sackville-West were not enough, there were the ravishingly elegant, Art Deco illustrations by Kate Baylay who is, for me, a real discovery. I do love illustrated books, especially those that are handsomely made, as this one is. And it’s about Queen Mary’s dollhouse! Not only that, it was originally written to be one of the tiny volumes in the dollhouse library. Read More 

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Powerful Overstory

Usually my blog posts begin as reactions to images, but picturing worlds in fiction depends solely on words. In The Overstory, Richard Powers deploys his gifts and well-honed skills to carry us to the top of the trees, weave us through American society, and plunge us into  Read More 

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Zorn’s bathers

As we near Labor Day, Anders Zorn’s bathers are a reminder of summer’s pleasures that will soon be coming to an end. I loved this picture when I was writing about my young artists in Pont Aven. Nudes were basic to academic training  Read More 

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Breslau’s milliners

Louise Catherine Breslau was a star student at the Académie Julian at the time during which Where the Light Falls is set. She does not play a role in the novel, but it was like coming across an old friend  Read More 

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Beaury-Saurel’s cigarette

In the latter 19th C, polite society considered it a sign of shocking Bohemianism for women to smoke. Now we might not worry about the sitter’s morals, only her health. When Amélie Beaury-Saurel painted this picture, however, she probably meant it as  Read More 

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Boost your mood

Website alert: Yea! In May of this year, Prevention posted its its list of 55 happy books proven to boost your mood, and I'm proud to report that Where the Light Falls is No. 28!
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Scaffolding

Barriers to training and opportunity, and sheer prejudice are correctly cited as having held back women in the arts in the past (and now!). For painters, male and female, moreover, there was the cost of materials. Even easel-sized canvasses had to be paid for, as did pigments, brushes, props, and solvents. When I saw this image recently in a Gurney Journey blog post, it struck me that the sheer size of the support and apparatus required to produce a very large work meant that independent wealth, prior success, or an institutional commission was necessary before an artist could undertake the sort of grand works that won prestige in the 19th C. Poets and fiction writers were at an advantage when they could scribble away with no more investment than the cost of paper and pen. My main point, however, is that in visualizing a world for fiction, it’s the unexpected detail—like Detaille’s scaffolding—that can provide verisimilitude and possibly a plot twist. Read More 

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Wegmann and Bauch

Blog tip: This is one of around twenty portraits of Swedish artist Jeanna Bauck by her Danish friend Bertha Wegmann, who reciprocated with several portraits of Bauck. It appeared recently at a Gurney Journey post, one of several on artists painting each other’s portraits. What strikes me as a writer is the challenge in Bauck’s eye, her fashionable dress, the thoughtful touch of the eyeglasses to the mouth. What a lot the portrait could suggest for a fictional character!  Read More 

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