Research is one of the great joys of writing an historical novel.
When I worked on my debut novel, Paris Kiss, I didn’t confine myself to reading dusty tomes on 19th century Paris.
Art from the period helped fire my imagination about what life was like for my two heroines, Camille Claudel and Jessie Lipscomb, who were protégées of the great sculptor Rodin.
As well as poring over history books, biographies, fashion plates and memoirs, I looked closely at the work of Camille Claudel, Rodin, Seurat, Renoir, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.
Artists at the time were working en plein air, capturing the every day lives of Parisians.
Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbeinspired a scene in the Bois de Boulogne where Jessie and Camille go to sketch on a hot summer’s day and meet the colourful cross-dressing artist Rosa Bonheur.
And it was Seurat’s La Grande Jatte and Renoir’s Dance at Bougival that I had in my mind when I wrote about an eventful boat trip down the Seine that culminated with a visit to a café dansant.
When Jessie and Camille sneaked out at night to the bohemian Le Chat Noir in Montmartre, I was able to transport myself there thanks to Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings of dancers, singers and a motley crowd of high society gentlemen and good time girls.
I didn’t confine myself to famous artists and iconic paintings: Vernissage au Salon was a simple line drawing but it showed how the most prestigious exhibition of art in the world was crammed to the ceiling and how artists had to clamber up enormous ladders to add the finishing touches to their works on opening night.
The sculptures of Rodin and Claudel gave me fascinating insights into their world. I was lucky enough to be able to see both their work in the Rodin Museum in Paris, while various museums in Glasgow, where I live, have pieces by the great man, including The Thinker.
It was Rodin’s The Kiss that not only inspired the novel’s title but spoke eloquently about the passionate affair between the sculpture’s creator and his muse and lover, Camille Claudel.
- Paris Kiss by Maggie Ritchie is published by Saraband (£8.99).