Exhibition alert: Women Reframe American Landscape: Susie Barstow & Her Circle is on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site from now until October 29th. The website has loads of information and images about this female artist who was as successful in her day as the men whose names are remembered for their grand paintings of the American landscape. Simultaneously comes publication of the first book-length study of her life and art: Susie M. Barstow: Redefining the Hudson River School. I'll be going to the exhibition and look forward to learning more!
Picturing a World
Bernhardt and Japonisme
Sarah Bernhardt made a cameo appearance in Where the Light Falls, so now that I'm using Japonisme as a hook for thinking about a later return to Paris by Jeanette, what fun to find this picture of the Divine Sarah herself painting a model in a kimono!
Studio and rooftops
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.
Clearing the clutter (3): Artist, frames, and lay figure
Man, had I forgotten this one! But I see why I saved it. A 19th C artist, his studio, a lay figure, mirror images, picture frames—so much to linger over. An art-appreciation teacher might point to the way verticals and diagonals direct the eye, or the way the lighting picks out the gilding and that impressive mechanical figure. But what attracts a writer? What stories does His Favorite Model suggest?
Walter Gay's interiors (3) Himself in his studio
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.
Walter Gay’s interiors (2): Another Paris studio
As a first follow-up to my last post, here is another painting that could be a "portrait without a person," one that could help a writer create the character of late-19th C artist and visualize a setting. Notice that this picture is not attributed to Walter Gay himself, but to an unnamed follower.
Walter Gay’s interiors (1)
In Where the Light Falls, my character Jeanette sketches and paints what she calls "portraits without people." The latter part of the 19th C saw many artists turn to picturing furnished rooms from which figures are excluded or very much subordinated to representations of light, textures, furniture, wall hangings, ornaments, house plants, etc. These are not genre pictures with implied stories, and yet they do let us catch glimpses of personalities, either the occupants' or the artist's.
Bertha Newcombe’s model
I'm always on the lookout for images that reveal something about the life of Parisian artists' models. Bertha Newcombe was an English suffragist, who studied at the Académie Colarrossi in Paris. Here, her woman's-eye sketch of the end of a day captures how tired the hardworking her fellow art students were and how matter-of-fact the model was in putting her clothes back on. More of Newcombe's work can be found at Wikipedia Commons, including a nifty women's suffrage poster.
Smith College art class
And now back to school! Early in my research on women’s art education, I Read More
Barriers to training and opportunity, and sheer prejudice are correctly cited as having held back women in the arts in the past (and now!). For painters, male and female, moreover, there was the cost of materials. Even easel-sized canvasses had to be paid for, as did pigments, brushes, props, and solvents. When I saw this image recently in a Gurney Journey blog post, it struck me that the sheer size of the support and apparatus required to produce a very large work meant that independent wealth, prior success, or an institutional commission was necessary before an artist could undertake the sort of grand works that won prestige in the 19th C. Poets and fiction writers were at an advantage when they could scribble away with no more investment than the cost of paper and pen. My main point, however, is that in visualizing a world for fiction, it’s the unexpected detail—like Detaille’s scaffolding—that can provide verisimilitude and possibly a plot twist. Read More