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Picturing a World

Degas portraits

Blog Tip: As readers of this blog know, paintings and photographs help me visualize the worlds of my fiction. I can't help wondering how I might have treated a character if I had had this portrait by Degas in mind when I was imagining Jeanette, or Amy, or even Emily in action. In any case, today's post on Degas' wintry portraits of women at It's About Time is well worth a visit. Read More 
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Breton farm

Jeanette experiences her art intensely when she is in the Jernagans’ orchard, looking down on their farm. Dow’s Evening was one of the Breton landscapes I had in mind when I imagined what she saw as she composed her major picture for the second summer in Pont Aven. Read More 
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Flower Seller

During the summer of 1879, Jeanette not only draws a clump irises at the Cluny (see previous post), but also buys flowers on her way home for watercolor studies in her free time. Buying them makes her feel Parisian—and Gilbert’s painting shows why. Read More 
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Cluny

I spent a semester in France as an undergraduate. A visit to the Cluny that sophomore year fed my interest in the Middle Ages, later my field of specialization in graduate school. When I read that women art students in the 19th C valued the opportunity its enclosed gardens offered them to work outdoors unmolested, I knew I had to send Jeanette there. Read More 
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Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. Read More 

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Joyeux Noël!

On their first Christmas Eve in Paris, Jeanette and Effie go to services at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. On Christmas Day in both 1878 and 1879, they attend services at The American Church in Paris on the rue de Berri, Read More 

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Arc de Triomphe

This loosely painted detail of the distant Arc de Triomphe in the background of Hassam’s
painting of the Champs Elysées
is the kind of thing I had in mind when Jeanette sarcastically suggests sketching Adeline Vann in the Tuileries Garden with the arch just  Read More 

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House of Worth

After I ran across a footnote to George Augustus Sala’s Paris Herself Again in 1878, I was delighted to find a cheap used set. Now both volumes have been digitized and can be read on-line here and here. Sala has an amusing journalistic style, and from him I picked up all sorts of details about Parisian life as a visitor would see it during the time of the World’s Fair that celebrated France’s recovery from the Franco-Prussian War.

A passage on Charles Frederick Worth, for instance, gave me circumstantial details for Jeanette and Effie’s trip with Adeline Vann Read More 
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Blue dress at the café

While I was writing, the concept of "the male gaze” seemed more pertinent to feminist art history than to my novel. What made me chortle gleefully when I first saw At the Café by Forain was not the trio of repellent oglers, but that blue dress on the Parisiénne. Wouldn’t Jeanette love to see herself in it! Wouldn’t she love the hat! Let’s face it, she might even have enjoyed attracting the notice of strangers (she does want to be a star). But surely not these strangers: Edward was right to be dubious about the milieu and the people depicted. Read More 

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Cassatt's blue chair

I had Jeanette and Edward react to Mary Cassatt’s Portrait of a Little Girl at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition for several reasons. First and obviously, it fell in with a focus on women painters. Second, the tilting of the picture plane, influenced by Japanese woodcuts, was an important upending of pictorial convention at the time, and I wanted to show how the older Edward could in some ways be more open to the avant-garde than a typical art student like Jeanette who was invested in the prevailing conventions at the very time they were about to fall. Read More 

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