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Thursday, 7 April 2016

Every Picture Tells a Story

As a writer of historical fiction, I've often found inspiration for my work in art and this has definitely been the case with my two most recent novels, City of Dreams and its sequel Following the Dream. Both are set in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century and tell the story of Anna, a young Russian girl, who comes to Paris with her new French husband, Emile Daubigny. She's thrilled to be in the most fashionable city on earth, but when Daubigny turns out to be a rogue and abandons her, she has to cope with a very different life from the one she had looked forward to with such joy.

Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet

The names that come to mind in the art of the time are well known - Manet, Renoir, Monet to mention the most famous. Manet's harsh realism certainly has a place in City of Dreams and Following the Dream. Monet's beautiful pictures were, on the other hand, less influential.His water lilies are a marvellous subject for his magnificent explorations of colour and light, but I suspect their private lives are a little lacking in interest.

Renoir La Loge
It was his contemporary, Auguste Renoir, whose work really fired my imagination. It's sometimes dismissed as, 'chocolate boxy' but look closer - there's so much more to it than that. Renoir's paintings, with their lush brushwork and limpid, sensuous colours, aren't just beautiful, they're full of stories too and bursting with life.

A glamorous woman with her beau in the box at the opera looks pensive, as if she's not really enjoying herself. A girl gazes wistfully out of the picture plane in The Moulin de la Galette, The young men in The Boating Party, show off their muscles while a smooth, dandified young man whispers in his girl's ear. Who are they all? What are their stories? It was my desire for answers to questions like these that planted the seeds of Anna's story in my mind. It has been a fascinating search.   
To download to your Kindle, just click on the cover images in the sidebar. (City of Dreams is currently free.)