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Picturing a World

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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Inside Looking Out

I had never seen a reproduction of Kitty Kielland’s Paris Interior until I read the catalogue for Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900. Now I can hardly wait to see it, first and foremost because it represents the life of a young woman artist, the life explored in Where the Light Falls. Second because I love pictures of views out windows (in fact, I love real views framed by real windows). And third because of the samovar. Read More 

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Anna Alma-Tadema

Today at an exhibition, Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., I saw a reproduction of this watercolor by Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s daughter Anna Alma-Tadema. Another portrait without people! As a novelist, I find these 19th C paintings of unpeopled rooms helpful aids to imagination. The suggest a sensibility but leave me free to imagine my own stories.  Read More 
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Ellen Clacy

Serendipity landed me on an unattributed posting of this image. I have a friend who has a specialist’s knowledge of blue-and-white china, so pictures of it always catch my eye. This painting, moreover, made me think of Jeanette at the Musée Cluny.  Read More 
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Harriet Backer

Website tip: Blue Interior by artist Harriet Backer is featured on today’s Lines and Colors. I have shown here another of her interiors, a Breton kitchen, that I wish I had known when I was writing Where the Light Falls. Not only does it illustrate the Gernagans’ kitchen, it fits perfectly with Jeanette’s motif of rooms as “portraits without people.” Read More 
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More Scandinavian interiors

Carl Vilhelm Holsoe The Dining Room

Blog tip: Another artist of domestic interiors—Carl Vilhelm Holsoe.

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Images and characters

Images help me speculate about my characters. Two posts this morning on It’s About Time contain paintings of rooms from 1908—the first on interiors by Peter Ilsted, the second on interiors by Henri Matisse. One question for me is which style would Jeanette be using in 1908? Another is  Read More 

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Kitchen

When I first started researching ANONYMITY, writer Polly Shulman suggested I look for Topless Towers, a 1921 novel by Margaret Ashmun. It is set in a Morningside Heights apartment building and gave me lots of leads for details of apartment life. It opens: Read More 
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Morning paper

In the first chapter of ANONYMITY, my unmarried heroine sits alone, reading the morning paper. Images like this one of William MacGregor Paxton’s woman reader,  Read More 
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Light and rooms

A recent e-mail exchange with a friend about the rise of the word living-room in America in the 19th C set me thinking about how important it is in historical fiction to get ordinary terms right. Front parlor, back parlor, sitting room, boudoir, withdrawing room, drawing room, living-room, salon, lounge—they  Read More 
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