My earlier post on Marie Danforth Page mentioned this self-portrait. Looking at it again, I was struck by Page's slightly amused, slightly challenging gaze out of the corner of her left eye. The side glance is explained in part by the painter's need to look in a mirror over her shoulder for a three three-quarter's pose, but it set me thinking about how she might be interpreted as a character in a story. First result: three Imagist haikus (with apologies to William Carlos Williams).
Picturing a World
How I wish I had known Interior of a Studio in Paris by Eva Bonnier when I was writing about Sonja at work in Where the Light Falls! I have seen 19th C photographs of sculptors' studios and their works-in-progress. Photographs are excellent sources for historical details and accuracy. But as David Hockney often reminds us, the camera does not see what the human eye sees. Oil painting, moreover, has a tenderness and tactility all its own—even in digital reproduction!
Eva Bonnier is new to me, a Swedish contemporary of the real Jeanette. You can read more about her and her place among the Scandinavian artists who studied in Paris in the well-illustrated article, The context of Anders Zorn's paintings in Sweden.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.