Guest Post: The Women in Berthe Morisot’s Life

Today I am hosting Paula Butterfield, whose new novel La Luministe, was just released by Regal House Publishing March 15th.

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This is an exquisitely imagined and written novel about the artist Berthe Morisot, her determined but, also, instinctive approach to art, life and love. This novel is a beautiful, seductive, linguistic dance, subtly expressive like Morisot’s art. I highly recommend it!

 

The Women In Berthe Morisot’s Life by Paula Butterfield

Berthe Morisot’s mother played an important role in Berthe’s life, encouraging her daughter’s artistic pursuits (most of the time), and holding weekly Tuesday “evenings” to which she invited the artists that Berthe could not socialize with at the popular cafes. But Maman Morisot had no idea how to prepare her daughter to integrate a career as an artist with a traditional woman’s life.   In La Luministe, Berthe looks to two other important women in her life to offer paths for her to follow.

Her sister, Edma, was Berthe’s earliest influence. Only one year older than Berthe, Edma seemed to effortlessly stay clean, follow the rules, and—quite literally—color inside the lines. When the two sisters had studied drawing and painting long enough to begin copying at the Louvre, it was Edma who was thought to be the better artist because she copied so precisely, while Berthe left out details if she felt they were unimportant.

The sisters were on parallel paths to success. They both had work accepted at the Salon, the influential annual art exhibition put on by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Then Edma turned thirty. The vow the sisters had made as girls, to pursue lives as artists, didn’t protect Edma from societal pressure to marry. What was worse, in Berthe’s view, was that Edma married a naval officer whose career required the couple to move from one location to another, each far from Paris. The sisters promised that they would visit often, and that they would keep painting. But running a household and taking care of a growing family precluded time for paintings, and Edma eventually gave up art altogether.

Edma’s path struck fear into Berthe’s heart. She couldn’t imagine living without her artistic outlet. But at the same time, she longed for a happy family like the one Edma created. There was much to envy about her sister’s new life. Berthe painted idyllic scenes of Edma and her little daughter playing hide-and-seek or chasing butterflies.

 

The other woman close to Berthe was the Duchess of Colonna, whom Berthe met when her family spent a summer amongst other artists in the Barbizon Forest. She idolized the Duchess, a sculptor who, as the young widow of an aristocrat, had status and money that afforded her the freedom to live as an artist. She even signed her work as “Marcello”, hoping that a man’s name would protect her identity. The Duchess won prizes at the Salon and commissions from titled patrons.

But even her beauty and unmarried status could not protect the Duchess. She had many admirers—from the artist Eugene Delacroix to Emperor Louis Napoleon—too many, society determined. As she reached middle age, her independence was no longer deemed acceptable.

Berthe, too, was financially comfortable and a beauty; how could she avoid the judgment that the Duchess endured?

Berthe faced a choice: to live as a single woman, and eventually an old maid, free to devote her entire life to her art. Or to enjoy a family of her own, and the approval of the Parisian haute-bourgeoise. When Edma married, Berthe complained to Edouard Manet that she had lost her companion and competitor. He challenged Berthe to tell him about one woman who had combined work and family, but she couldn’t think of any. In the end, Berthe Morisot became that woman. She had to create her own role, one as radical as her painting.

The Impressionists were concerned with depicting modern life. Combining work and love, art and family—THAT was Berthe’s modern life.

 

Author Paula Butterfield taught courses about women artists for twenty years before turning to writing about them. La Luministe, her debut novel, earned the Best Historical Fiction Chanticleer Award. Paula lives with her husband and daughter in Portland and on the Oregon coast.

http://www.paula-butterfield.com

@pbutterwriter

https://www.pinterest.com/luministe

https://www.instagram.com/paulabutterfield2018

Thank you, Paula, for such an interesting post

and eloquent, gentle, inspiring novel!

Guest Post: Song of Paper by Cynthia Jobin

Today I am pleased to host Deborah Bennison regarding the latest publication from her independent press. This volume was truly a labor of love, exhibiting the excellence of content and presentation always representative of Bennison Books.

 

Readers of Diane’s blog may already be familiar with the New England poet Cynthia Jobin, whose blog attracted many followers worldwide. Admirers of her work will be delighted to learn that a collection of her poetry, Song of Paper, has just been published by Bennison Books.

 

Amazon.com (https://amzn.to/2A8Pq3d)

Amazon UK (https://amzn.to/2NFTF9M)

 

With a fine intelligence and shining poetic sensibility, Cynthia documents the joys and griefs that mark the common humanity of our everyday lives. She explores the inexplicable exhilaration and longing that love brings and courageously delineates the crushing desolation she felt at losing her lifelong partner.

The magnificent sequence of poems which close the collection trace the journey towards her own impending death and the deeply moving acceptance with which she finally faced it.

 

Excerpt from the introduction

Shortly before her death in late 2016, Cynthia entrusted her poetic legacy to the UK poet John Looker who had long admired her work. The following is an excerpt from John’s introduction to Song of Paper:

Cynthia Jobin’s poetry is skillfully crafted and both erudite and accessible. She wrote about the mysteries of life, her grief following the death of her partner of 43 years, love and friendship, the joy of pets and the landscape of New England. She also translated French poetry. There was a depth of feeling and an unobtrusive intellect at work, but equally a lightness of touch and humour. The poems in this collection show that variety of theme and equally her range of tone; she would write just for fun as well as with serious intent.

When reading a new poem from Cynthia Jobin I have always had that comfortable feeling of being in good hands: we know that the verses are going to be impeccably crafted but we can’t predict what path they will take.

I am sure that new readers and old friends alike will discover this for themselves on reading this collection. The title, Song of Paper, comes from the opening poem and feels so apposite. The closing poem, which was also the last she ever posted in life, and which shows humour even in the midst of wisdom and courage, is an immensely moving reflection from someone who knew herself to be very close to death.

The late Cynthia Jobin

Below are extracts from two poems included in this collection
and the full version of ‘To a Tulip’.

Extract from ‘The Palpable Obscure’:

Once a day, at least, I stop to wonder

where you are.  I do not think of

you as being here.  Except, tonight

 

a heightening of powers in the darkness

wants to break November from October

with a cold slap and a small wail in the wind.

Something more than me, something much

more sure that you abide, this night, brings

you, in ways that I can almost touch.

****

Extract from ‘Riviera Reverie’:

The boy cat, all noblesse oblige,

takes his reserved, tacitly acknowledged place.

 

Drawn to their warm, imaginary blankets

spread upon the floor, these beloved creatures

 

bring to mind the worshipful habitués

of Côte d’Azur, Côte d’Or.  As the sun reaches

 

they respond, grab on, luxuriate

and, for this brief moment, even teach.

 

Should a phone call come for any one of them

I’ll say they are away, gone to the beach.

****

To a Tulip 

You,

yellow flower

standing in a cobalt vase,

unfurling blades,

stemmed sacramental cup –

winter was hard

but now your simple grace

is green announcement:

things are looking up.

There by the window you

to sunlight are the antiphon,

beauty new as beauties past,

spring’s insistence

life should carry on.

Yet you become

most beautiful at last,

when age and death are

what you must fulfill:

come that night

you can no longer

close against the dark,

you open wide until

you are all heart,

and every petal knows

translucence as it falls.

You could be hinting

how to do it, for us all.

Copyright Cynthia Jobin estate; Bennison Books.

 

Song of Paper is available from:

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Please check out all the excellent publications from Bennison Books!

Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Thank you to Brontë scholar and biographer Nick Holland for interviewing me on his blog.

Loved Nick’s questions! Please go over to annebronte.org for my answers to:
♦“You’ve become noted for your historical fiction, but what made you pick Anne Brontë for a subject?”
♦The book’s title is ‘Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit’. What was the inspiration for the title?
♦The book features your own illustrations. Did Anne Brontë’s drawing skills inspire you, as well as her writing skills?
♦Your book looks at Anne Brontë’s time at Thorp Green Hall and at her relationship with William Weightman. Do you think she loved Weightman and did he love her?
♦What is your favourite Anne Brontë poem and why?
♦What message does Anne have for people today?
♦Your book has, quite rightly, had some great reviews – do you think you’ll return to the Brontë family for future books?
♦What do you think Anne and her sisters would have thought of the worldwide fame they’ve achieved two hundred years after their births?
♦What are you working on at the moment?

 

Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Earlier in the week I marked World Sight Day by looking at Patrick Brontë’s sight saving operation, and the impact it had on the Brontës, but today’s post is something different – an interview with DM Denton, the American author of acclaimed novel ‘Without The Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine And Subtle Spirit’.

There have been several attempts down the years to portray members of the Brontë family in a fictional form, and it can be a dangerous undertaking as I feel you really have to have a love of the family to be able to pull it off. Thankfully, Diane Denton certainly has that…

Read entire interview
via Without The Veil Between, An Interview With DM Denton — Anne Brontë

Guest Post: New Novel about Hildegard of Bingen

Thrilled to host author P.K. Adams, who “talks” about her upcoming release The Greenest Branch, A Novel of Germany’s First Female Physician (Hildegard of Bingen Book 1)

I first heard about Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098-1178) in a history of music class in college. Her chants are sublime and, as I fell in love with them, I started to read more about their composer – the first woman in the Western world to do so.

It turns out Hildegard did much more than that – she was a pioneer in many fields thus far reserved as a man’s domain. One such field was medicine. She was a skilled herbalist who applied treatments in a way most medieval physicians did not, namely by observing the outcomes of the cures rather than relying on ancient texts for guidance, irrespective of whether they worked or not.

As I researched Hildegard’s life, two things began to puzzle me in the (admittedly sparse) historical accounts. One is that she was enclosed at a young age (possibly as young as eight or ten) at a very strict women’s convent, where the residents lived in enforced poverty and isolation from the world. In such a place, historians tell us, she lived for the next three decades.

This, to me, is hard to believe. The psychological and intellectual toll such privations would exact on a child would be extremely damaging. Yet Hildegard re-emerges in contemporary chronicles, around the age of forty, as an accomplished physician, writer, and composer, and a diligent student of nature. She is already well-known in the Rhineland, and her theological writings are about to catch the attention of Pope Eugenius III. She is also preparing to leave the abbey of St. Disibod, where she had been enclosed, and start her own foundation.

Sculpture of Hildegard of Bingen by Karlheinz Oswald, 1998, in front of Eibingen Abbey near Rüdesheim in Hesse, Germany

Clearly, something happened during those decades that allowed her curiosity to be fostered, her intellect to develop, and her creativity to flourish. There is no reliable record of her early life beyond the few basic facts of her provenance and enclosure, and that is what inspired me to imagine what that life may have been like.

The Greenest Branch is a fictionalized account of the early life of Hildegard of Bingen, but it is rooted in what we know about her and the world she inhabited. It is a world, needless to say, that is not conducive to female empowerment. That she managed to accomplish so much is a testament to her fierce intelligence, strength, and determination.

The second book in the series, titled The Column of Burning Spices, traces the second half of Hildegard’s long and eventful life. It will be released in early 2019.

The Greenest Branch is available on pre-order on Amazon US  and Amazon UK  and will be released on June 18, 2018.

 

P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time).

 

Please check out her website: p.k.adams that includes history, writing and guest blogs, and more information about her and The Greenest Branch.

Thank you to Patrycja for this fascinating look into Hildegard of Bingen and for bringing this extraordinary woman to life in The Greenest Branch. I have pre-ordered my copy and I hope you will do the same!

I also thank her for hosting me on her blog to promote my latest publications.

Please note: I would like to open my blog to more guest posts (at least one per month) by but not limited to authors of quality historical and literary fiction, as well as poetry anthologies. Perhaps you are an avid reader who has a blog, does reviews, or has thoughts on literary or historical persons, periods, or events. Not necessary, but I would appreciate if I could do a guest post on your blog in exchange. I reserve the right to refuse anything I deem not in keeping with the intent, spirit, ethics, and quality of this blog and my own work.

If you are interested in guest posting, please contact me.

 

Historical Fiction & Meaning with DM (Diane) Denton

Thank you to Stephanie Hopkins for hosting me on Layered Pages and allowing me to take part in her Historical Fiction and Meaning series! It certainly challenged me to be more conscious about writing in this genre. I hope you will read the entire interview, which will only take five minutes or so. As always, I am grateful for those who visit here and hope I offer posts for your enjoyment, but also give you something to think about, and, perhaps, open up new vistas for your reading and reflection.

Here’s an excerpt:

Why Historical Fiction?

In hindsight, my journey towards writing historical fiction began in my early teens when I developed an insatiable appetite for classic literature, period films and plays, and Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and traditional music. I’ve long had a fascination with the clothes, customs, social and political issues of the past, and I’m attracted to the lives of writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, and innovators, but, also, ‘ordinary’ folk like gardeners and domestics. All in all, it’s more comfortable for me to write within a historical context; I feel I can reveal myself and still remain hidden. I can indulge my old-fashioned sensibilities yet still oblige my progressive tendencies, because history isn’t static, somewhere dead in time, but a life force for the present and future.

Marriage Brokering 17th Century Style

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering?

To find out “Ms Stuart Requests … the pleasure of your company” – and so do I – at my guest post on “history with a heart” author Alison Stuart’s lovely blog.

This image from Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress is a little teaser …

Marriage Image - from William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress

And here’s another: Marriage broker – someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

To see what Alessandro Stradella was up to

a ‘few’ years before A House Near Luccoli

please read on …

Alison and I thank you for the pleasure of your company!

And while you’re over there, please check out
Alison’s novels on her Bookshelf Page

 

 

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? Guest Post

Thank you to Alison Stuart and all at Hoydens and Firebrands – “Roaring Ladies Who Write About The Seventeenth Century” – for hosting me on their fascinating blog!

Hoyden is a boisterous girl.

Firebrand is a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? by DM Denton

Music was such an integral part of 17th century life and Hoydens and Firebrands are delighted to welcome DM Denton with a fascinating post on women and music in the seventeenth century. Diane is the author of two books set in the 17th century in which the central protagonists are musicians.  

Woman playing viol par traverso_pe_pe

In the 17th century a refined young woman might want and even be encouraged to cultivate her musical ability and prove some accomplishment through singing and accompanying herself instrumentally—as recreation not occupation, of course. Considering her need to impress a suitor, show her figure off in the best possible way, express the sweetest tones of her personality and gentle capability of her character, which instrument should she play?

I graciously encourage you to read on ….

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.