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Picturing a World

Thea Proctor

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.

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Abbéma's Bernhardt fan

A quick follow-up to Bernhardt and Japonisme. Here's a decorated fan painted by female artist Louise Abbéma portraying Sarah Bernhardt in a kimono. What better to inspire some detail or other for a new story set among women in Paris at the time of the 1889 Universal Exposition? For more about the vogue among Western artists for painting Asian-influenced fans, click here.
Image via Wikipedia Commons.

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Language of fans?

Website alert: It's awfully hot here in the Northeast. If I go to a scheduled outdoor meeting this afternoon, I'll carry a fan. While digging one out, I remembered the presumed "secret language of fans," which may exist primarily in historical fiction rather than history but is fun nonetheless. Can't you imagine two characters inventing their own code during an intrigue?

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Artists’ fans

Blog post alert: It's always fun to run into something that combines your interests—for me, in this case, Huguenot fan makers. For reasons of family history, I've been paying attention to Huguenots lately. Fans as part of fashion is a natural for a writer of historical fiction. Characters in Where the Light Falls carry fans, and artists' fans were part of the 1879 Impressionist show they visit. Here Gauguin follows his predecessors' lead. For more examples of artists' fans, see Fan Club: painted fans in European art 1 and Fan Club: painted fans in European art 2.

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Decorative plant stake

Surfing the web, I've just come across this painting of a young girl by Rotius. The costume is worth studying; but with my interest in garden history, what struck me most was the figurine on a stake in the potted carnations. It reminds me of Tudor heraldic figures on poles, but I've never seen a miniature decoration like this. Does anybody know anything about such them?

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Kitty Kielland's Studio

I love the way this painting illustrates a young artist’s studio as a place to live. The plain floor and dormer window hint at upper-storey, cheap digs. I didn’t include potted plants in any of my characters’ studios, but they turn up in other paintings and would be part of making an  Read More 

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Early in my research when I was discovering that there were indeed women art students in Paris in the late 19th C, I came across this copyist. I have loved her and giggled over her ever since. Wouldn’t Jeanette have longed for that dress? But can any painter, even one who prefers watercolors  Read More 
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Cendre de rose

Before it came time to design Jeanette’s costume for Cornelia’s garden party, I had seen Stevens' Summer at the Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute. I went back. Perfect! On Jeanette’s budget, it had to be modified—among other things, fewer ruffles—but I loved the suggestion of a color for her, a grayish pink, ash rose, rose cinders (Cinderella at the ball?).

For an actual dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum that is somewhat similar, click here and look at the second dress on the second row.

For a large selection of French fashion plates from the 1870’s at the New York Public Library, click here.

For Griselda Pollock's discussion of Stevens' paintings of the four seasons at the Clark, click hereRead More 
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Hotel breakfast

Literary criticism uses the term "misprision" to refer to an author's creative misreading of another writer's work. Morisot's young woman is presumably in a private house and the meal is specified as luncheon; but for me the flowers in the background call to mind the little garden behind the Hôtel des Marronniers on the rue Jacob, where breakfast was served Read More 
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All aboard in a New Year!

Because I love building fictional worlds, early in my research I spent time investigating exactly how Jeanette would get to Paris. To my delight, shipboard scenes on passenger liners were a popular painting genre in the mid 19th C. Tissot here catches the glamour attached to sea travel—not that Jeanette and Effie were wearing such clothes on board ship! Still, the fashion details are reminders of how important hats and fans were in the 19th C, and what sexual signals attire that covers every inch of the female figure can send.
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