Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sargentology Conference in York, England

The University of York is hosting a "Sargentology" conference at the end of April -- and my paper on "John Singer Sargent as a Character in Historical Fiction" has been accepted! The conference will be held at the King's Manor conference center (seen here) which looks old and beautiful! 
I'm going to be on a panel with other presenters for the "Sargent and Literature" section, and I'll also be chairing a panel on "Sargent and the Zeitgeist". You can see more about the conference at

My initial research has turned up several children's and YA stories or short novels featuring Sargent, some of which are really interesting. Of course I'll be talking about my own novel, and the new mystery series I've started with Sargent and his friend Violet Paget as the amateur sleuths. There was another mystery with Sargent in it written in 2002 titled "A Weekend at Blenheim" which portrays Sargent as a fairly racy, adulterous and randy sort who gets busy with Consuelo, the wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough (Winston Churchill's uncle) in 1905. A very interesting short story by Allan Gurganus (author of The Last Living Confederate Widow) is included in his collection, The Practical Heart. It's intriguing and wonderful to see how writers depict this famous painter, who was, by all accounts, a very private person and hard to pin down in many areas of his life--so much room for imagination!

And of course I'm looking forward to a first-ever trip to the famous city of York, with its incredibly beautiful cathedral church, or York Minster.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy Birthday, John!

John Singer Sargent was born on this day 160 years ago, in Florence, Italy -- 12 January 1856. Over the course of the next 75 years until his death in 1925, he drew, sketched, coloured and painted some
900 oil paintings and 2,000 watercolours! He was a prodigious, fast and exceptionally skilled artistic genius, and over the last two decades or so, his star has been rising again -- thanks for the most part to his great-great-nephew Richard Ormond, who has been instrumental in providing the world with the Catalog Raisonne of Sargent's works. Ormond was also the leading light behind the magnificent exhibition "Sargent and His Friends" that recently showed at the NY Met Museum, and previous to that, in London at the National Gallery.

I have been in love with Sargent and his work since 1999, when I saw my first exhibition of his work at the Washington D.C. National Gallery.  It was there and then that I vowed I would write a novel about this artist, and in particular, his amazing "Portraits d'Enfants", also known as the Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. 

Much later, I was to learn that my very favorite author, Henry James, was an intimate friend and patron of Sargent, and my literary sights were set -- my novel Portraits of an Artist -- has three scenes with Henry James in them! (N.B. Henry James died in 1916, so this year is a huge year for all sorts of Jamesian gatherings around the world.)

Happy Birthday, John Singer Sargent!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Historical Novel Society Conference -- I'm on Two Panels

The last weekend in June will see scores of devoted historical fiction fans and authors (some are both!) descend upon Denver, Colorado to enjoy three days of talks, dinners, costume pageants, and special workshops--all about Historical Fiction!

I will be a member of a very special panel about Art & Artists in Historical Fiction, led by Stephanie Renee dos Santos, and featuring Alana White, Donna Russo Morin and Stephanie Cowell -- all of us have written books about famous artists or art pieces, and we are eager to share our love of art in historical fiction and our experiences writing about it.

In addition, I am the moderator for a second panel on the subject of The Historical Mystery Series, with Anna Lee Huber, Samuel Thomas, Lauren Willig, and Lindsey Davis. Mysteries are tricky enough to write, but add in the historical element and the fun gets even more intense! Hear all about it at our Saturday morning panel.

More information about the Historical Novel Society North American Conference can be found here:  Check it out today!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Visual Delights of Sargent's Watercolors

Here's a link to a video I put together of the many lovely watercolors displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibit of John Singer Sargent's paintings -- plus a few of his very famous portraits in oils that the MFA also has. I think you'll enjoy it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fabulous Watercolors Exhibit

Visiting Boston earlier this week, I spent several hours at the MFA's spectacular exhibit of Sargent's watercolors--and of course, paid my obeisance to the Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (more on that soon). Here are some of the exciting paintings on view. Get there if you can do it!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Re-Creating Sargent's Glorious Watercolors

Serendipity strikes again! The Historical Novel Society Conference in June in St. Petersburg, Florida, has yielded up a great new connection and resource from the extensive network of the historical fiction sister-and-brother-hood! Bruce Macbain, author of Roman Games and The Bull Slayer, and his wife Carol, purchased my Sargent book and lent it to a friend, Wendy Soneson, who happens to be a terrific artist and great fan of Sargent's. Wendy is currently scheduled to give demonstrations of Sargent's watercolor  technique at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in October, in conjunction with the huge exhibit of Sargent's watercolors there. Her websites are well worth looking at: and for both the Sargent paintings and her own portraits and landscapes.

In the meantime, here is a wonderful version by Wendy of that infamous Amelie Gautreau (Madame X) in one of the gazillion poses Sargent tried before he found the right one. And a few more of his paintings, a la Wendy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Living Madame X

A few weeks ago, I attended (and helped plan and run) the 5th North American Historical Novel Society, held at the Hotel Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Florida. Three hundred-some historical fiction authors, editors, agents and just plain fans had a great time over the long weekend of sessions and parties and gatherings. At our 'dress-up' Saturday night dinner banquet, including a Costume pageant, one of our author-attendees, Leslie Carroll (her nom de plume is Juliet Gray), showed up dressed very much like the infamous Virginie Amelie Gautreau, Sargent's scandalous "Madame X". Of course, I had to take a picture of her in the proper pose, although there wasn't an appropriate little table nearby.  Thanks, Leslie!