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Picturing a World

Café Cagniard

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on the café wall. For better or for worse, during editing the entire scene in which Jeanette and Effie visit the café was Robbie was drastically shortened. Out went Pére Cagniard’s admiration for Jeanette’s portfolio. Out went the little portrait. Out went two male art students’ attempts to impress Jeanette by identifying the painter as Sargent when she guesses it was Carolus. Out went their bantering about Sargent and Beckwith. Out went Robbie’s dangerous boredom. Ah, well, the point is that to write historical fiction with assurance, it helps to have far more specifics than can wind up in the book.

For a Gurney Journey post on notes by Sargent from his classes with Carolus, click here.

For a second Gurney Journey post on Carolus’s teaching methods, click here.
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