Picturing a World
Blog post alert: For those of you who follow a traditional calendar, this is the ninth day of Christmas. You'll be pleased by a few last glimpses of a delicious interior from Amy Merrick at Dennis Severs' House. And for those of you who think about writing historical fiction, Lucinda Douglas Menzies' photographs of the house are lovely help to visualizing the chiaroscuro of a pre-20th C winter. No wonder ghost stories are a part of the season!
Three things I love: pictures of 19th C artists' studios, landscapes out over rooftops, and glimpses of worlds through windows. All three are present in Dagnan-Bouveret's painting. Look at the Japanese parasol on the far wall, the Oriental rug used as a table cover, the blue-and-white jug—to hold paintbrushes, no less. Or out the window at golden light over Paris. I haven't been able to track down where the original hangs; but as a stimulus to imagination, it doesn't matter.
As a follow-up to our writer in the library, Mrs. Sperling at her. needlework is another glimpse of Regency life. It prompts fewer ideas for stories, but isn't it cheerful? I love the way you look through the open French doors into trees, for instance. And it leads to Mrs. Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life, 1812–1823, with with all the freshness of amateur-artist Diana Sperling's authentic delight in the life around her.
Oddly enough, I remembered this watercolor as "Lady Pole in Her Library." Nope, the artist was Thomas Pole, an American transplant to Bristol, England, a doctor and Quaker preacher—no titled lady involved. Still, you know me: it's all about using images to prompt story ideas. And quiet as it is, In the Library has some suggestive clues.
Blog post alert: Eye Candy for Today: Tarbell's Preparing for the Matinee caught my eye because it plays with cool interior spaces and a hat. You know the old joke: A lady from New York asks Bostonians where they get their hats and the answer is, "We have our hats!"
Here is Walter Gay depicting the Gilded Age interior splendor for which he is best known. The word is luxe. (And, yea, the painting is shown in its ornate gilt frame.) I'll leave it to art historians to discuss Gay as an artist. For those of us who write fiction his pictures offer loads of period details for life among the rich in the latter part of the 19th C and into the 20th, especially in France.
"Creative misprision" is a concept in literary criticism. Briefly put, an artist or a writer misinterprets someone else's work and takes off from there in a new direction. When I first saw this pastel drawing by Walter Gay, I thought the window looked out onto the brick wall of the next building. I saw the room as empty, dusty, and formerly grand but now hemmed in and down-at-heels. Maybe it could be the setting for a young protagonist who is thrilled to find a romantic apartment which is cheap because of the blocked view. Maybe it could illustrate a melancholy last view by someone moving out. The fact that the image is non-narrative in itself makes it more potent in a way for stimulating imagination.
This photograph shows how many props, bibelots, and other furnishings filled Walter Gay's own studio. In looking for a photo of Carolus-Duran in his for comparison, I was delighted to find that a post—Where the Light Falls: An American Artist in Paris—is still available at the American Girls Art Club in Paris … and Beyond website. It has many images that illustrate the novel, including one of Carolus in his studio at his organ.