Is this a delicious scene, or what? The high life, for sure—including that androgynous figure on the right in spats with a lady's at his/her feet. I can imagine the picture's sparking any number of stories set in a park or one about the discovery of a talented relative's forgotten watercolor in an attic. The artist Thea Proctor is a certainly a discovery for me. (I love it that she painted fans.) I keep thinking, moreover, that the Australian art scene as a whole bears investigating. Learning Resources: Australian Impressionism would be a good place to start! And for more about Proctor, click here.
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?
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.
Following up on Christine Guth's book on The Great Wave, I'm looking into Western female artists, who depicted women wearing kimonos or other Japonisme-influenced garments. For instance, Marie Danforth Page! This picture of a craftswoman at the turn of the 20th C in a gorgeous house-robe fits right into interweaving strands of inspiration for my fiction. She even painted herself in a blue-and-white kimono.
Image via Wikipedia Commons.
How I wish I had known Camille Claudel's Bathers when I sent Jeanette, Amy, and Emily skinny-dipping in Where the Light Falls! It's only one of a hundred images and ideas to spark imagination in the wide-ranging Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon by Christine Guth. I began reading the book in conjunction with, Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, an exhibition open at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through July 16, 2023. I'm finding that it sends me back to Jeanette and Paris.
Although bulb spears and even daffodil buds are showing in south-facing patches, we've still got snow on the ground here in the Berkshires. A little shivering among the flowers? With a bend in meaning from the original, this example of the paper engineering art of Ukrainian illustrator Yevgeniya Yeretskaya seems a perfect way to say goodbye, Winter—hello, S-S-Spring!
Exhibition alert: I couldn't help thinking of Dimples for President and The Flapper Queens when I saw Frieze in the review article The big picture: jazz age attitude captured by Dorothy Wilding. Wild, Wilding, wilder, and fun!
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!