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23.8.12

Misia at the Musée d'Orsay

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A. Gold and R. Fizdale, Misia: The Life of Misia Sert
(1980)
Misia Godebska (1872-1950) knew everyone in Paris, and everyone knew her. Her life, told in an entertaining book by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, placed her at nearly every significant event in art and music history, near to creative artists of all kinds. A talented pianist, who studied as a young person with Gabriel Fauré, she did not pursue a concert career. She was the subject of many portraits by great artists, and she helped fund the Ballets Russes. Raphaël de Gubernatis wrote an article (Misia Sert, reine de Paris, August 9) for Le Nouvel Observateur about an exhibition at the Musee d'Orsay on Misia's life (my translation):
Having had a wealthy press magnate for her second husband -- Alfred Edwards, founder of the Le Matin -- she used her fortune to finance some famous productions of the Ballets russes. She filled the treasury of Sergei Diaghilev, always at the edge of bankruptcy, and received at her home or on her yacht Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Picasso, Laurencin, Massine, Nijinska, Lifar, and many others who contributed to the glory of the Ballet russes, evoked by the costumes created by Picasso for Parade.

One of the best parts of this exposition was to bring life back to a woman who even in the last photographs taken of her in Venice in 1947 was always elegant, with hard features. We also see her as a young woman in a canvas by Bonnard and even better on location at the Théâtre du Châtelet, drawn by Toulouse-Lautrec seated in a box with Satie, Diaghilev, and Cocteau. Coco Chanel, who was very close to her, said that she had a taste for her more than real friendship. Chanel nicknamed her friend "Madame Verdurinska," an appropriate name, even if Proust took Misia as the model for the Princesse Yourbeletieff in Sodome et Gomorrhe, while Cocteau would evoke her as the Princesse de Bormes in Thomas l'Imposteur.
The exhibition Misia, Queen of Paris continues at the Musée d'Orsay through September 9. It includes portraits by Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Toulouse Lautrec, and Félix Vallotton, as well as photographs.

1 comment:

Mark Barry said...

I knew nothing of Misia before seeing this exhibit a few days ago. This list of artists that she in some way supported is quite long indeed.

Many Bonnard works, new to me, and Piccaso - but he always found the money.

Going back next week before it ends.