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Picturing a World

Carolus-Duran's mehods

Website alert: At his instructional website Sight-Size, artist Darren Rousar has posted an article, Carolus-Duran's Methods, that provides historical context, a good summary of the topic, many illustrations, and a video. Duran's methods are well known, but it's good to see a demonstration. Furthermore, this self-portrait was new to me because it is privately owned. It was auctioned in 2018 by Bonham's, a reminder that galleries are a good source of images.

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Letters to Camando

Cover, Letters to Camando (2021)

Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal, the July selection for my public library's book club, is a book about archives and memory, memorials and loss. I read it a first time with interest. A second reading to formulate discussion questions (see below) deepened my interest to admiration, sorrow, and gratitude.

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Moses' glasses

It's the glasses. Dark glasses, no less! The medieval iconography of Moses with horns is goofy enough, but these spectacles are irresistible. The question is, What to do with the picture besides use it to expound an oddity in art history? Maybe let it provide a model for some imaginary wizard? I like the idea of substituting a goat's face for the man's.


Incidentally, the Hagenau Bible, from which the picture comes, also illustrates a moment in publishing history, the move into mass-produced books through a rationalized system within scriptoria. Might the head scribe of a magical scriptorium be a demon?

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Anna Nordgren

Anna Nordgren—another Scandinavian female artist who studied first at the Académie Julian and then with Carolus-Duran! She was in Paris at just the time the real Jeanette or my fictional character could have known her. She even exhibited at the Salon of 1879, which plays a part in Where the Light Falls. If I had known Lady in a Train Window when I was first researching the novel, I wonder how it might have shaped my imagination?

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Jennings' illustration process

Blog post alert: Kathleen Jennings, one of my favorite working illustrators, has a terrific post on Art process — designing "the Fairest" for Owen King's The Curator. You can see her progression from first sketches, through the development of concepts, and examples of her use of silhouettes. Owen King is new to me. Thanks to Jennings, I'm giving him a try. As for the jacket design, that belongs to Jaya Miceli—give more of her work a look-see here.

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Vulgarity? Style!


In reading Letters to Camando by Edmund de Waal, I was much amused just now to come across his comment on this portrait by Carolus-Duran: "The critics have decided that this painting is the height of vulgarity but, my God she has style" (p. 48). Well, she does, doesn't she?!?

Image via Wikimedia.

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Pen in hand

A friend recently bought an early-19th C miniature portrait that shows a woman writing a letter. It struck me that her pen-holding hand rested only on her little finger, something my fifth-grade teacher insisted on. (Ever since, I have enjoyed defying that teacher by resting the whole side of my hand against the surface.) For fun I looked for other images of Regency ladies writing and found this one, which shows something closer to the way I hold a pencil on paper. Not sure how my childhood experience or a detail in a painting could be used in fiction, but odd things make connections hop out in the imagination.
For the entire portrait by Pajou, click here.

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Eva Bonnier and clay

How I wish I had known Interior of a Studio in Paris by Eva Bonnier when I was writing about Sonja at work in Where the Light Falls! I have seen 19th C photographs of sculptors' studios and their works-in-progress. Photographs are excellent sources for historical details and accuracy. But as David Hockney often reminds us, the camera does not see what the human eye sees. Oil painting, moreover, has a tenderness and tactility all its own—even in digital reproduction!
Eva Bonnier is new to me, a Swedish contemporary of the real Jeanette. You can read more about her and her place among the Scandinavian artists who studied in Paris in the well-illustrated article, The context of Anders Zorn's paintings in Sweden.

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Yuta Onoda cover

At bedtime, I'm rereading Kelly Barnhill's excellent middle-school novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. This time, what struck me when I took the book off the shelf was the cover art by Yuta Onoda. Flat, poster-style art works well for making a jacket visible across a room, and Japanese manga-anime styles can thus be very effective. But just look at the volume and motion achieved in billowing skirt of the girl's cloak! And the depth and contrast created by the fiery band below the shadowy city under that huge moon with the swirling origami birds. This isn't cartoon work.
I explored Onoda's website and was led by it to my next YA choice, How Do You Live?—which is even better when you open out the book and find that the jacket is wraparound. Maybe you can't judge a book by  its cover—but, as the publishing industry knows, it sometimes helps!

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