Welcome to Artful Fiction. Click here and I’ll send you my FREE historical fiction short story, “Collioure Shall Always Be Collioure” about the tragic story of Olga Meerson, model to Henri Matisse. I’ll also send you periodic updates and fun content.
“The Arts are sisters to the senses.” Victorine by Drēma Drudge.
Want more art in fiction? I’ve got you! Victorine, the novel, coming soon! (By the end of 2019.) Scroll down to learn more about my historical fiction novel based on Manet’s favorite model.
Drēma Drudge is a novelist, freelance writer, and educator who lives in Indiana with her husband, writer and musician Barry Drudge.
Victorine was first depicted as the young girl she was by Manet in 1862, but his paintings of her quickly escalated into more and more exciting and scandalous art: a street singer. A bullfighter. Most famously as the prostitute Olympia, a painting that had many a patron of the Paris Salon attempting to do it harm with canes and sticks until it was moved out of reach.
Maybe we should be grateful for the paintings (she was painted not only by Manet but also extensively by Alfred Stevens and on occasional by other painters such as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec) because we know so little else about her.
How did I become acquainted with Victorine?
I was sitting in a college class watching a slideshow which featured Olympia. I had never seen the painting before. The professor’s point was soon made and he moved on to the next slide, but I couldn’t quit thinking about the painting. More specifically, something about the woman said she had more to say, more than Manet had allowed her to say. Her personality refused to be confined to his brushstrokes.
Fast forward a few months and my husband and I jetted off to Paris to see Olympia. Of course it was a dream vacation, but at its heart was investigating this painting. I thought if I saw her in person I would know what it was I couldn’t figure out. I refused to even Google the painting before we went. It felt as if she were calling me personally to talk to her, not to listen to rumors and innuendo.
And what was with her nose? Something wasn’t right there.
I’m convinced paintings have lives of their own, regardless of how artists attempt to arrange and compose them.
I couldn’t sleep the night before we were due to visit Musée d’Orsay.
Standing before her, I had more questions than answers. I cried with frustration because it was like listening to exquisite music with plugged ears. Then a tour guide came by with her group and she said something I never could verify, but it felt so true to who I discovered Victorine to be that I ran with it: she said the reason the nose looked funny in the painting was because a boxer boyfriend of Victorine’s had broken it. (No one else has ever mentioned to me that her nose does look odd, but I think it does, just a little.)
I cried as I realized this was what I was looking for. Or I thought it was. A placard upstairs before The Picnic told me something else, something even more valuable: Victorine hadn’t been just a model. She had become a respected painter, though few now remembered that about her.
Ah. Now I knew why she had chosen me. I had just written a short story about Olga Meerson, a model for Matisse who was also a painter. Word must have gotten around that I could sympathetically handle painters whose own work were overshadowed by paintings of themselves.
When I did search the Internet after that trip, it only yielded one of Victorine’s paintings, recovered in 2004: Palm Sunday. The tenderness of her rendering of the young girl riveted me.
So I took the few facts we know about Victorine, paired them with some investigative work and a deep dive into Parisian culture of the mid 19th century, and wrote a novel with boxing, catacombs, love, loss, sex, art and more art. This all featuring some of the most well-known characters of Paris of the time, filtered through the eyes of Victorine, wild, soulful, passionate Victorine.
Want to know when my book is out (due out by the end of 2019!)? All you need to do is click here. I’ll also send you fun updates and more. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here and I’ll send you my FREE historical fiction short story, “Collioure Shall Always Be Collioure” about Olga Meerson, model to Henri Matisse. I’ll also send you periodic updates and fun content.