Here in the Berkshires, as the days shorten, we face cold rain and a first frost, which certainly means a book beside the fire appeals! Florence Ada Fuller was an Australian artist, a slightly younger contemporary of the real Jeanette Smith. Like my fictional Jeanette Palmer, she studied at the Académie Julian with William-Adolphe Bouguereau. I didn't know of her until I ran across a post at My Daily Art Display. It's always a pleasure to discover a new artist, and Fuller is a reminder that Australia is a whole continent to explore. Where to start? How about Australian Impressionism?
Picturing a World
Ottilia Adelborg (1855–1936) is another of the Scandinavian female artists who was an almost exact contemporary of the real (and the fictional!) Jeanette. She studied at the Swedish Royal Academy at the same time Jeanette was in Paris and may have studied in France later herself. She became a children's book writer and illustrator. The English-language edition of her Clean Peter is available online.
She also illustrated other writer's books, such as The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgersson by Selma Lagerlöf, for which this watercolor is a preliminary design. I haven't read the Lagerlöf book (which is available in a new translation), but this picture of a daydreaming boy and a tiny figure climbing out of the chest could suggest a story just by itself, don't you think? Or prompt a poem about the nature of imagination?
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?
Maybe while New York is under a ghastly orange haze, it's wrong the wrong time to post a sepia photograph; but I got such a kick out running across this carte-de-visite , that I can't resist. According to the seller, the picture was taken in 1865 even though the card commemorates Carolus-Duran's winning of a silver medal at the World's Fair of 1878. And doesn't he look young and handsome! For Ferdinand Mulnier's sensitive portrait of Jeanette's other teacher, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, click here. For many more of Mulnier's photographs, click here.
Okay, so not a female artist, but I couldn't resist William McGregor Paxton's portrait of a woman in a kimono contemplating a Japanese doll. (A female artist connection: the model may be his wife, painter Elizabeth Vaughan Okie.) What's useful to me in my musing on Japonisme as part of Jeanette's story is the way the picture can lead to thoughts about how a particular woman might react privately to a particular Japanese object. Is this Jeanette or one of her friends? Does the character hold a doll or teacup? What is the emotion aroused in her? in the reader? Looked at this way, there's no need worry about the Male Gaze or other scholoraly or critical criteria. As for the golden frame, well, of course, I had to include it when I took a screen shot!
Image via Sotheby's.
One of the things I'll have to think about is whether Jeanette is more attracted to Japanese objects per se or to the art of Western Japonists, e.g., Henri Somm—or Mary Cassatt. Certainly, one of Jeanette's friends can be caught up in the craze for netsukes and small decorative objects. They all love fans and parasols. Amy can add Japanese blue-and-white to her teacup collection. Meanwhile, I love this image for reflecting my process of musing. See also Somm's Fantaisies Japonaises of 1879
Back to a possible future for my character, Jeanette Palmer, and Japonisme. I have thought for a long time that children's book illustrations could be one direction for her career to take. In that connection, the Red Rose Girls offer lots of hints. And now, although I don't yet know a thing about it really, the influence of Japanese woodcuts on early twentieth century illustrators seems clear. So hurrah for Helen Hyde! She actually went to Japan and learned woodcut technique. A quick search on-line has quickly turned up three informative, well illustrated websites to get me started: (1) An American in Japan: Helen Hyde. (2) Pioneering Women Printmakers: Helen Hyde and Lilian May Miller in Japan. And (3) In Memoriam Helen Hyde, American Japoniste. If you only look at the picture, enjoy!
It's not hard to find 19thC depictions of women wearing kimonos painted by male artists—Monet, Stevens, Whistler, Chase. But what interests me as I think about how Japonisme might touch my character, Jeanette, is the extent to which female artists drew or painted them. Et voilà, in addition to Marie Danforth Page—Fanny Fleury! She even studied with Carolus-Duran.
Blog post alert: The Origins of L'Art Nouveau: The Bing Empire is firing off all sorts of little explosions in my mind as Japonisme becomes my entry into a What-Came-Next for Jeanette. Take ornamental combs: Was there a connection between Japanese combs and pompadour hairstyles? No answer to that one yet, but a quick Google search led me to Historic Hair Accessories We Can't Stop Thinking About. It's worth a look just for the breadth and excellence of its images. For this particular comb, see also the object page at the V&A.
In The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club (p. 481), Christopher de Hamel reports that Belle da Costa Greene " had a miniature portrait of herself painted in 1910 wrapped in apricot silk like an odalisque of the Middle East, explaining it to [Bernard] Berenson as showing 'the Belle of one of my former incarnations — Egyptienne.'" The artist, Laura Coombs Hills, was an exact contemporary of the real Jeanette Smith, which was enough to interest me in her. For her part, Greene was the great librarian of medieval manuscripts for J. Pierpont Morgan, an endlessly fascinating woman. And then I saw the portrait in its frame! Oh, that frame!