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Picturing a World

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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Passage des Panoramas

Blog tip: For some great photographs and the sound of a voice echoing in the Passage des Panoramas, where Jeanette finds the Académie Julian, visit the Soundlandescapes' Blog for May 16!
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Abbéma panels at Félix

What fun! An article, Paris Dressmakers, in the December 1894 issue of Strand Magazine reports on the fashion salon of the couturier known as M. Félix: “A gallery leading from the first salon to a second has four large panels, painted by Louise Abbéma, representing Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Ruy Blas,’ Croizette in the ‘Caprices of Marianne,’ Ada Rehan in the ‘School for Scandal,’ and a fancy costume of the period of Louis XV.” Read More 

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Marotte

Marottes were wooden or papier mâché forms used by hatmakers when they were decorating or showing their wares. They are clearly akin to penny wooden dolls and also remind me of artists’ lay figures. According to the OED, the word is possibly related to marionette, although the etymology of both is obscure. Read More 

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Elwell Landing

Website tip: Is it one of Jeanette’s Portraits without People or simply a painting of an interior? Either way, it’s a pleasure to be introduced to Mary Dawson Holmes Elwell—an artist who married a man twice her age, had a happy marriage (he supported her art), and after his death married the artist Frederick Elwell. Read all about it here.

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Millinery workshop

I am reading the catalogue for Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade, a 2017 exhibition at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco. The show has now closed, but the museum mounted a great website where you can still explore some of its themes and images—including this illustration by Courboin. Read More 

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