Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

I hope everyone is having a good Memorial Day weekend! I have to make some brownies and some deviled eggs for a cook-out this evening, but in the meantime I'm thinking about my grandparents and other friends who have gone (the pic is my grandfather, who served in WWII! Isn't he handsome?), and am on my way to put flowers on their resting places.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Historical Etsy Find

Today's find--a lovely Regency-looking necklace from Vintagechickdesigns! This would look gorgeous with a Regency evening gown...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend One

Our heroine this weekend is La Grande Mademoiselle, born on May 29, 1627!

Anne Marie Louise d'Orleans, petite-fille de France, duchess of Montpensier (plus a slew of other titles), was called just "Mademoiselle" until the birth of Mademoiselle d'Orleans, daughter of Louis XIV's brother, after which she became "La Grande Mademoiselle," was born in the Louvre to Gaston duc d'Orleans, brother of Louis XIII, and Marie de Bourbon, duchess of Montpensier, who was daughter and only heiress of Henri de Bourbon, and who passed on her title to her daughter. She died soon after her daughter's birth, and she had little contact with her father as he was always in trouble with schemes to seize the throne of France. As a child, she was told she would probably be married to Louis XIV (11 years her junior) and thus gain the throne herself, but that never worked out (nor did other schemes to marry her to foreign royalty, including Charles II of England), and she was known for her temper and willfulness.

When she was 21, the rebellion of the nobility against the child king known as the Fronde broke out. Since she bore great enmity to the Queen Mother's advisor Cardinal Mazarin, she sympathized with the rebels and joined their cause. She herself took the city of Orleans on March 27, 1652. She wrote the tale in her memoirs of how, having failed to gain entry through the gates of the city, some boatmen on the banks of the Loire outside the city offered to break open a gate on the quay and passed her through the hole into the city, which surrendered to her. Soon after she had to retreat to Paris, where she commanded the Bastille and the adjoining part of the city walls. On July 2, 1652 there was the battle of the Faubourg Saint Antoine, between the Frondeurs commanded by Conde and the royal troops. Mademoiselle saved Conde and his troops by giving orders for the gates under her command to be opened and for the cannons of the Bastille turned on the royalists. After the battle she stayed at the Hotel de Ville and played mediator between the two opponents.

But her moment of military glory came at a high price. From 1652 to 1657 she was exiled from Court, as was her father, who installed himself at the Chateau de Blois, and they were always mistrusted by Louis XIV. During her exile she lived on her many estates, especailly at the Chateau de Saint-Fargeau in Burgundy, an inheritence from her mother, and directed many renovations and extensions. In 1657, the king granted her a pardon and she returned to Court. There were more marriage schemes for her, but she was way past the age when most princesses are wed, so she concentrated on intellectual pursuits. Until she met a nobleman named Antoine Nompar de Caumont, duc de Lazun, and embarked on an affair with him.

In 1670, after many years as a couple, Mademoiselle asked the king's permission to marry Lazun. Permission was granted, but then later rescinded, and not long after the duc was imprisoned in Pignerol. 10 years would pass before she could buy his release in 1681. By then he was nearly 50, and she was 54. In 1684 she broke up with him and never saw him again, though the reason is not entirely known. After this, she retreated from public life and lived quietly at her Paris residence of the Luxembourg Palace, where she died on April 5, 1693. She was buried with other royals at Saint-Denis.

Vincent J. Pitts, La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France
Vita Sackville-West, Daughter of France: The Life of La Grande Mademoiselle
Francis Steegmuller, The Grande Mademoiselle

Friday, May 28, 2010

Portrait Friday

On May 27 in 1883, Tsar Alexander III of Russia was crowned! Read more about the event here...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Things I Love Thursday

What I love today--finding unexpected fun things on YouTube! I had read about a short, Elizabethan-set indie called "Maze" that Keira Knightley made (for free! Just because she thought it was interesting! I love that. You can read more about the project here). And I found a one-minute clip of it yesterday. It looks great, and I hope she'll decide to make a longer film set in the same period soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reviews and Giveaways

The Season (a fabulous site for historical romance lovers!) has posted reviews of To Deceive a Duke AND To Kiss a Count! Go there and comment for a chance to win

My fave review quote: "This book is perfect for reading on a sunny spring day, just be prepared to daydream about handsome Italian Counts and hot kisses in darkened hallways"

One More Cannes Dress

One more Cannes fashion pic before we say au revoir for another year! I love this, I want this...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Riskies Tuesday

I'm launching the last "Muses of Mayfair" book over at the Riskies today (and having a giveaway!). Come and join the fun...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hottie Monday

It's the finals of Dancing With the Stars tonight, yay! I confess it took me longer to get into this season than usual. The gap between the good dancers and the, well, not so good was so wide it didn't seem quite fair, and I still don't like Brooke and her wooden questions and ugly dresses. But now the 3 finalists are SO good I don't know who to cheer for the most (though I'm leaning toward Evan, thanks to that rockin' paso doble last week!). Let's enjoy some Dancing hotness this Monday...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Historical Etsy Find

This week's find--an Anne Boleyn hair clip, only $8 from funckyhairclips! (They have all the other wives, too...)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Our heroine this weekend is artist Mary Cassatt, born on this day in 1844! She was actually my first introduction to Impressionist art--on a school trip to a museum when I was in the third grade, I was totally captured by two of her paintings there and did a report on her life for the class. I've loved her work ever since!

Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania, one of 7 children in a well-to-do family (her father, Robert Simpson Cassatt, was a stockbroker and land speculator, and her mother Katherine Johnson came from a banking family). She began her formal schooling in Philadelphia at age 6, and grew up in a household that valued travel as a part of education. The family spent 5 years in Europe where Mary saw London, Paris, and Berlin, learned German and French, and had her first lessons in drawing and music. She saw the work of French artists Courbet, Ingres, Delacroix, and Corot at the Paris World's Fair in 1855.

For females of the time, art was considered a very nice skill to have, an "accomplishment" that showed how refined and ladylike they were and increased their worth on the marriage market. Mary began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at the age of 15, but her family never considered that she would (gasp!) want to become a professional artist. She herself was impatient with the lessons and the attitude of the male teachers and students toward their female counterparts. She declared "There was no teaching" there; the female students couldn't use live, nude models and mostly worked from plaster casts and did copy work.

In 1866, she moved to Paris with her mother as chaperone. Women could not attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at this time, so she studied privately with artists, including Jean-Leon Gerome, Charles Chaplin, and Thomas Couture, and augmented her studies with daily copy work in the Louvre. In 1868 her painting A Mandoline Player, (one of only 2 paintings from these early years that can now be documented as hers) was accepted at the Paris Salon. This was a time of radical change on the Paris art scene, as artists like Courbet and Manet tried to break away from the rigidly mandated style of the Salon, and the Impressionist movement was forming.

Cassatt would be a part of this, but when the Franco-Prussian War threatened she went back to Pennsylvania to live at her family's country home at Altoona. Her father was appalled at her ambitions and refused to pay for her art supplies. Frustrated, in July 1871 she wrote to a friend, "I have given up my studio...and have not touched a brush for six weeks nor ever will again until I see some prospect of getting back to Europe." Shortly after, her work gained the attention of the Archbishop of Pittsburgh, who comissioned her to copy some Correggio paintings in Parma, giving her an advance she could travel to Europe and cover her stay in the Italian city. She then wrote in a change of tone, "O how wild I am to get to work, my fingers fairly itch and my eyes water to see a fine picture again."

Soon after her return to Europe her life brightened. Her painting Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was accepted in the Salon of 1872 and got good reviews, and was even purchased. When she moved on to Parma to finish her commission she was well-received there and quite popular with the local community of artists. She then traveled to Madrid and Seville to work on a series of Spanish subjects, including the famous Spanish Dancer Wearing a Lace Mantilla, and then took up permanent residence in Paris. She was soon joined there by her sister Lydia, a semi-invalid who was a frequent subject of Mary's paintings.

But she quickly saw that the Salon was not particularly friendly to female artists, and she was outspoken in her criticism. In 1877, after both her entries were rejected, she was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists, who had begun their own independent shows in 1874 (to much notoriety and loud criticism). She admired Degas's work, which she first saw in a gallery window in 1875, very much. She wrote, "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it." The Impressionists also had one female member already, Bertha Morisot, who became Cassatt's friend. She showed her work with them first on April 10, 1879.

In 1877, her parents joined Mary and her sister in Paris, which provided her with a household and companionship, as she had long decided to devote herself to her work and not marry. When Lydia died in 1882, Mary was bereft and unable to work for a time. Her father, though, still insisted her studio and supply expenses be covered by her sales alone, and the Impressionist shows enabled her to gain a wider audience and make a name for herself in the art world. Revue des Deux Mondes declared "M. Degas and Mlle. Cassatt are nevertheless the only artists who distinguish themselves..." in the Impressionist show. She displayed 11 works, and used part of her profits to purchase works by Degas and Monet.

Cassatt showed in every Impressionist exhibit between 1879 and 1881, and was an active member of their circle until 1886, when she started to branch out and experiment with different techniques and styles. In 1886 she displayed 2 works in the first American exhibit of the Impressionists by the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. She also became an advisor to wealthy American collectors, like her friend Louisine Elder, who married Harry Havemeyer in 1883 and with him set about amassing a great Impressionist collection (most of which is now in the Met). As she grew older she also became a friend and mentor to young American artists who came to Europe to study.

Her popularity was mostly built on her well-known scenes of tender domesticity between women and children, but in 1891 she displayed a series of colored drypoint and aquatint prints inspired by Japanese works shown in Paris the year before, which caused a sensation. She was also commissioned to paint a mural about "Modern Women" for the Women's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (which took place in 1893). The mural was lost when the building was torn down, but gained Cassatt excellent reviews.

She was awarded the Legion d'honneur in 1904, but her fame was slower to grow in her native country. In 1911 she was diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatism, and cataracts, but didn't slow down in her work until she became almost completely blind in 1914. She took up the cause of women's suffrage, and in 1915 showed 18 paintings in an exhibit benefiting the movement. She died June 14, 1926 at the Chateau de Beaufresne outside Paris, and was buried at Le Mesnil-Theribus.

Some sources on Cassatt's life and work:
Nancy Mowell Mathews, Mary Cassatt: A Life (1998)
Robin McKown, The World of Mary Cassatt (1972)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Portrait Friday

This week on May 19 in 1536 Anne Boleyn was executed in the Tower of London

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I Love Thursday

"But the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend" --DH Lawrence

What I love this week--Santa Fe! Here are a few pics of a trip I took there last month. I try to get there at least a couple times a year, it's like nowhere else. The light and fresh air, the beautiful buildings and scenery, the food, the art galleries and museums, it's very inspiring and helps me fill up my "creative well." Wish I was there right now, having a margarita on a sunny patio...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Cannes Dresses

Still struggling toward The End with this bleeping WIP, still tearing my hair out! But here's some more Cannes fashion to look at in the meantime...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Risky Tuesday

I'm over at the Riskies today, talking about pretty dresses! Nothing like frivolity when there's a deadline going on...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hottie Monday

Deadline, deadline! No time to think, can't come up with a whole Hottie Monday post. But in honor of last week's wonderfully over-the-top, bonkers-crazy Vampire Diaries season finale (how fabulous was that?? I need to write a post about what a writer can learn from that series...), here's one Hottie pic. See you on the other side of deadline!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fashionista Weekend

Hard on the heels of the Met gala we have the Cannes Film Festival! It's like Christmas in May, y'all. :) I do love Cannes, because it has two of my favorite things in life--film and fashion. I have to wait a while to see any intriguing-sounding films, but the fashion is instant gratification. These pics are from the opening night premiere of Robin Hood. We have Kate Beckinsale and Eva Longoria looking like wedding wanna-bes (as they so often do), very pretty but totally blown away by the fabulous Helen Mirren and (especially) Cate Blanchett. Cate looks awesome. I would give my right arm to be able to carry off a McQueen gown like that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend's heroine is astronomer Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming, born on this day in 1857 in Dundee Scotland! She was sent to public schools there in Dundee until the age of 14, when she became a pupil-teacher until her marriage to James Fleming in 1877. Soon after the marriage they moved to Boston, though her scummy husband abandoned her a year later while she was pregnant with their son Edward (boo!).

Forced to support herself and her infant, she found a job as housekeeper to Edward Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory. An ambitious and driven man, he was often frustrated with his employees and assistants, and one day in a fit declared even his maid could do a better job than them! Fleming soon proved he was quite right. In 1881, she left housework to help Pickering with his clerical work and mathematical calculations at the Observatory. While working there she devised a system of assigning stars a letter according to how much hydrogen could be observed in their spectra (a distinctive pattern produced by each star when its light is passed through a prism). Stars classified A had the most hydrogen, B the next, and so on. This system was later named in her honor, and she used it to catalog over 10,000 stars in 9 years. (Later scientist Annie Cannon improved on this method by developing a simpler classification system using temperature).

This was only the beginning of Fleming's work. She went on to discover 59 gaseous nebula, over 310 variable stars, and q0 novae. In 1888 she discovered the Horsehead nebula, though at first she and Pickering were denied their rightful credit (not corrected until the publication of the second Index Catalog in 1908). She was soon placed in charge of dozens of women hired to do mathematical computations (they were called "compuiters," and did work similar to a human computer!). She also edited the observatory's publications, and in 1899 was given the title Curator of Astronomical Photographs, the first such appointment granted to a female. In 1906 she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society in London (the first American woman to hold that title), and was appointed honorary fellow in astronomy at Wellesley College. At the end of her life, the Astronomical Society of Mexico awarded her the Guadalupe Almendaro medal for her discovery of new stars. In 1910 she published a work on her most famous discovery, "white dwarfs." She died in Boston on May 21, 1911.

Some sources on Fleming's life:
Mabel Armstrong, Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars (actually a young readers' book, but fascinating! This is where I first heard of Fleming)
G. Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes, ed. Women of Science
Veronica Stolte-Heiskanen, Women in Science

Friday, May 14, 2010

Poetry Friday

Tomorrow, May 15, marks the anniversary of the death of Emily Dickinson (in 1886). I love Dickinson's poetry, and her fascinatingly strange life story (one bio of her I like is Alfred Habegger's My Wars are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson). It's hard to choose just one for Poetry Friday. What's your favorite Dickinson poem?

Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, --
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another review!

A particularly lovely review for To Catch a Rogue came in today! "Sparkling with wicked humor, fantastic period detail, engaging drama and heartwarming romance, you will be enchanted with To Catch a Rogue..." (right when I needed an ego boost, too! I'm nearing the end of a WIP, and it's at that point where I am sick of the characters and feel like it's all dreck. Good times)

Things I DON'T Love Thursday

What I definitely don't love today--tornadoes! We had some bad ones on Tuesday night, and I've had several emails from wonderful concerned friends, but we are fine here. The storms went around my town, though the storm sirens went off and I had to huddle in the closet with my pets for a while! Luckily we did not end up in Oz, and the winds only wreaked a little havoc with my newly-planted vegetables. May is so much fun around here. Not...

What is a tornado exactly? Look here for more info!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New review!

A new review for To Deceive a Duke (on shelves now!!)

What I'm Reading Today

Since I'm on deadline right now my "fun reading" time is restricted at the moment (ack!!!), but I've been making my way through a new historical mystery, Her Highness's First Murder. A very young Elizabeth I (she's about 14 in this story) joins forces with a young doctor's son and the captain of her father's guard to find a serial killer. So far I'm really enjoying it! The characters are well-drawn and the story twisty...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RIP Lena Horne

Her beauty, class, and talent will never be forgotten!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hottie Monday

For Hottie Monday today, something a little different! With the moving of RWA's conference in July to Disney World (and yay to RWA for making such a complicated change so quickly! Bravo!), I am very excited. I LOVE Disney movies. So we have Disney Hottie Couples. (I know Beauty and the Beast is there twice, but it's my favorite. I mean, how can you not love a man with a library like that??)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

This pic is of me, my mother, my aunt (my mom's oldest sister), and my grandmother--don't we look nice in our Easter clothes??? Every Mother's Day I think of all the wonderful women who influenced my life when I was young and I'm deeply grateful to them. Especially to my mother, who bought me however many books I wanted when I was a kid (Barbies were another story...) and spent hours reading them with me! She gave me the gift of books and all the astounding places they can take us, and the gift of believing I could even write one myself one day. Thank you so much, Mom, I love you!