I found Katherine and Anna (of Dangerous Neighbors) at The Barnes Foundation, in a Renoir painting

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My husband and I have returned from a magical 24 hours away from construction boxes and dust, from a sinkless and unusable kitchen, from ceilings finally painted and repaired, only to be ruined by the rain that leaked through the roof that we've been waiting (for several months now) to be fixed.

We needed to get away.

And so we went to Philadelphia, stayed at glorious, expansive Loews (seventeenth floor! corner room!), had lunch at the Reading Terminal Market among thousands of soccer coaches, and ate dinner at the magnificent Fork Restaurant (where we had the chance to tell Ellen Yin just had perfect the entire meal had been, and when I say perfect, I mean perfectly perfect, perfectly considered, perfectly surprising and comforting, perfectly served). Between lunch and dinner, in the cold heart of the afternoon, we went to The Barnes Foundation for the first time. Something every Philadelphian should do at least once.

I have never seen so many Renoir paintings in one place. I fell in love, again, Modigliani. I encountered a local watercolorist—Demuth—whose work I had not known before, or, at least, anchored with a name.

And then, at near the end of our tour through those many rooms, I gasped. For there on the wall was this painting by Renoir. Titled La Sortie du conservatoire, it was painted in 1876, the year of my Centennial story, Dangerous Neighbors. It was as if I'd seen this image before, as if I'd worked from it, as if I'd lifted those two girls from this canvas. My Katherine and Anna, the ginger-haired twins that live on the pages of my slender novel, are Renoir's two girls. They look and stand precisely like this—the color of their hair, Anna's vivacious pose, Katherine's steady watchfulness.

We are back home now, with leaking and unfinished things, and with way too much work for the week ahead. But Katherine and Anna are in the house. They are alive again.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I once saw two guys on the train who looked like two of my imaginary characters from a story I'd written years before. It was very strange!

Hope the dust settles (literally and figuratively) soon at home.

Serena said...

Wow! I had no idea that you worked from a Renoir, but I can see what you mean! Perhaps the Renoir was in your subconscious!

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