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Picturing a World

Painting a bug

BLOG TIP: In Pont Aven, Jeanette draws a cartoon of Amy's reaction to a bug on her canvas. For a video glimpse of James Gurney painting a seventeen-year cicada outdoors using some specially designed homemade artist's equipment, click hereRead More 
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Bathers

French artistic training in the 19th C centered on the nude figure, which was easily incorporated into paintings with classical subjects. Artists of modern life who wanted to put their training to use took up bathers as a subject, as Anders Zorn’s Against the Current illustrates the topic. My actual inspiration for the scene in which Jeanette, Amy, and Emily go swimming at Pont Aven was his painting Out, for which I cannot find a large reproduction online. I loved the way the figures in that painting are tonally part of the landscape, as they are in a related painting Opal.

EDIT: Well! Late in the day of this post, I have just double-checked the link to Zorn's Opal and been taken to the correct write-up but the wrong painting at the Worcester Art Museum. A weird computer glitch, which I hope becomes self-correcting. At least, the Eakins and Cezanne links below work! Read More 
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Breton Bed

I made a big Breton bed a focal point in the Gernagans’ farmhouse kitchen partly because they were characteristic of Brittany and were depicted frequently in regional paintings. This painting by Mosler of a son returning to his father’s deathbed illustrates also the wider 19th C genre of an ill, dying, or dead person in bed. Later in Where the Light Falls, Amy and Jeanette both paint La Grecque posed as une maladeRead More 
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Jeanette's Party Dress

If Jeanette had seen this fashion plate of only a year earlier, she might not have been so mortified by the stripes in the outfit she had to wear to the Renicks' dinner party. Then again, according to Louise Hall Tharp, in 1877 Augusta Saint-Gaudens (the almost identically named wife of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens) had a Parisian dressmaker do over her Boston wardrobe, including pleating a striped skirt so that only the gray was visible.

Later in the novel, Jeanette, Amy, and Emily use plates from Cornelia’s discarded fashion magazines to get ideas for their own artwork. They were not alone: A current major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is devoted to Impressionism, Fashion, and ModernityRead More 
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No-nonsense woman artist

It may be unromantic on Valentine's Day, but what I love about this self-portrait is Anna Bilinska-Bohdanowicz's straightforward gaze, no-nonsense hair, and that apron. Admittedly, the dress is not really what you'd wear in the studio, not without a painter's smock to cover it fully. Still, there is no doubt that she wants you to think of her as a working artist. In different measures, I transferred her attitude to Amy and Sonja.

She was a student at the Académie Julian. For more information about her, click hereRead More 
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In the Studio

When I began research on women artists in the nineteenth century, I had no idea how many there were. Every new picture of women in an art class or an artist in her studio was an exciting revelation. Among the many, Alfred Stevens’ In the Studio stood out because it seemed to capture a moment in a story.

Once, just for the fun of it, I thought of the standing artist as Sonja. The visitor might be Jeanette. Maybe Amy was posing. Or was that Emily? In fact, no identifications from Where the Light Falls fit exactly. Nevertheless, every time I look at this image, I feel like I’m peeking into their world. Read More 
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