Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mother and Daughter



Wishing you all a fabulous weekend

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A World Without Books

Books seem to be a very hot topic of conversation at the moment in the blogosphere and round the dinner table, the main issue seems to be books versus kindle or other forms of E books, personally I am definitely in the book camp however I do see the benefits of kindles and E books.  Let's face it carrying around one smallish piece of technology, with downloadable access to thousands of titles is preferable to lugging round heavy books, E Books are also beneficial to the environment cutting down on paper and distribution, I recently saw a news report regarding Africa, where for the first time children in remote villages, are now able to access text books and titles, previously unavailable to them, thanks to the internet, E Books and kindles, thus radically improving their education and ensuring a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Despite all this I still cannot bring myself to even think about purchasing a Kindle, I love books, not just the words contained between the pages but the books themselves, new books, old books, ancient books, paperbacks, hardbacks and coffee table books, I love the way they smell, I love reading the covers and leafing through the pages, I lovingly slot them onto shelves or place them on tables, desks and sideboards, I even have a small library in the loo!  After reading, they will often be revisited, consulted for reference and shared with family and friends.

And what about the high-street bookshops and library's? apparently bookshops both independents and chains are struggling to compete with the might of Amazon and their ilk and library memberships are in decline, library's across the globe are closing.  Living in deepest France, with no immediate access to English books, I rely on Amazon for my book hit, and despite,'wish lists, access to reviews, people who purchased this title also bought that title, you may also like this, personal profiling and recommendations', there is still nothing to equal browsing round a really good bookshop or library.

Are we really the last generation, who will clamour after tangible books?  Will future generations regard paper books as antiquated dust gatherers? Watching news coverage of children who queued overnight outside bookshops to get their hands on the latest Harry Potter book, I would like to think not, I saw the delight on their faces, when they got their hands on those books, would a downloadable E book create the same excitement?

And what about the authors themselves? Will self publishing and E Books cut out the need for publishers and herald the demise of the professional writer?  I hope not.
Progress cannot be stopped, the digital age is here to stay and even though there are many practical benefits for the Kindle and E books, I hope books as we know them, will be around for centuries to come, I would like to think that the world has room for both.

I dedicate this post to my friend Kathy who sent me a link this morning, which triggered this post.  It's a fascinating article and a little scary, if you have a few moments follow the link and read it, I would love to hear your thoughts: click here

Shakespeare and Co

Nigella Lawsons Library

Karl Lagerfelds Library

Rudyard Kipling, Sir Philip Burne-Jones, 1899

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lartigue's Ladies

Florette, Paris 1943

There is no doubt that Jacques Henri Lartigue had an excellent eye, he also had an eye for the ladies and I think perhaps a hand and nail fixation...

On December 17th 1919, Lartigue married his first wife Madeleine Messager, he called her Bibi, they had two children together Dani born in 1921 and Veronique born in 1924, sadly she died at only a few months old.  Madeleine and Jacques parted in 1930.
Bibi Paris 1921

Bibi at the Hotel des Alpes, Chamonix, 1920

Bibi on their honeymoon, 1919

From Lartigue's Personal diaries...

January 1920 –

“What am I ? And what am I doing here ? I am a married man – on my honeymoon. I think it must be the funniest thing in the world, me, a married man, on his honeymoon.
Bibi and I go everywhere together … arm in arm. We look at everything; we discover everything”.

“On her loving days Bibi is intelligent, charming and terribly funny. I will cherish forever the first photograph I took of her on our honeymoon.”
“We have a good life …”

“To keep in good shape Bibi exercises every morning with her teacher. I sometimes exercise with her, but that apparently, is disastrous for her concentration. We laugh too much. I don’t understand why Bibi is so concerned about her figure. She tells me she does it for me and that I ought to be flattered. Life is full of excitement, surprises … and best of all, Bibi.”

Bibi, Cannes 1923

1921 –

“I have a son ! He was born on August 23. His name is Dani, and he cries, he screams, he howls … and when Dani finally consents to give his public a vague, resigned smile of concession, everyone is ecstatic: he smiles like an angel”

“Yvonne (Printemps) is one month younger than I, Bibi two years. They are both flowers on the point of opening up to their moment of greatest beauty … so why do I still look like a bunch of green raisins ?” 

1924 –

“Bibi in the last month of her pregnancy evokes an enormous tenderness in me. We are very close … in all senses. It seems to me, strangely enough, that I am waiting with more nervous expectation for this second child than I waited for our first. Bibi is not nervous. Quietly she prepares the room for the baby, irons the curtains, plays with Dani. She is tired … but happy.” 

February 1929 -

“Bibi is near to fainting in my arms.”

“To die on a Sunday. Messager, the always active man. I think about that. I think about a lot of things. My eyes are dry. Don’t I feel any grief ? Bibi weeps over her father … isn’t that enough to make my heart melt ?”

Bibi, Hotel des Alpes, Chamonix 1930

June 1929 -

“I am alone in the studio, my cluttered garret, high up in our house in Neuilly. It’s four o clock in the morning. Through the skylight I can see the whole city (Paris) bathed in the first glow of sunrise. I wonder how many unhappy people there are living in all the thousands of houses ? Am I one of those unhappy people ? 
In a little while, I will go downstairs and lie beside Bibi. But first I must clarify my thoughts. I haven’t been very successful so far. It has been said so many, many times that a betrayed husband is the last person to know and to understand. A betrayed husband ? Me ?
Bibi ! My little Bibi ! Bibi of our happy years ! Would she really betray me ? I realize, of course, that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in a lifetime; that the most improbable crises are always plausible. But this ? Bibi and that poseur ! Bibi, with her lack of patience, her knife-sharp judgments ! Bibi, the daughter of Messager ! But I shouldn’t have forgotten that Bibi is also the daughter of that Louis XV mother with her lace furbelows ! Does Bibi really love this man ? He loves her. Yes ! To him she is the Rolls-Royce he always wanted to have, when all the idiot can afford is a Renault ! I talk, I write, I think. But inside me the chaos continues ! I tell myself lies, and then I try to convince myself that what I just told to myself is the truth. I think: I love Bibi, she is mine. I don’t want to be concerned about anything else. There is a certain kind of suffering you can refuse. I am very sleepy, and I realize that I don’t know anything more than I did a few hours ago.”

Bibi, Megeve, January 1930

July 1929 -

“When I talk feverishly about the need to produce and to create, it really means that I’m in the midst of a crisis. Again I’ve become a spectator, an outsider, which, apparently is the only way I can live through these dramas. I have learned one thing: I should never have trusted our silences. I shouldn’t even have trusted the affectionate conversations we have had, Bibi and I. Our happiness has been assassinated ! We remain friends, we talk without anger, but the words – my words – are artificial. My second self, that cold, phlegmatic creature – my self-appointed referee – chuckles in a corner about my performance in real life.

Bibi arranging flowers, Nice 1920

Bibi and their son Dani, Nice February 1928

1930 -

“I live alone with my fantasies. Perhaps they are the best company a man can have?”
“Paris is almost deserted. The smell of the hot asphalt evokes memories of other summers. And all those memories together form one great big, enormous chaos: love. There are old, marvellous, tender, indescribable memories that I never did, and never could, invite Bibi to share.” 

In 1930 Jacques meets the beautiful Renee Perle, the lady that went on to become his most famous muse, she became his mistress, Renee and Jacques were together for two years.

Paris, March 7, 1930 -
“Half past five at the Embassy. I wait for my “parasol” from last night. I need a whisky. I’m very shy deep down, and ready to be furious if she doesn’t show up. It’s my curiosity that would be most disappointed…
Five thirty-five. There she is! Can it really be her? Ravishing, tall, slim, with a small mouth and full lips, and dark porcelain eyes. She casts aside her fur coat in a gust of warm perfume. We’re going to dance. Mexican? Cuban? Her very small head sits on a very long neck. She is tall; her mouth is at the level of my chin. When we dance my mouth is not far from her mouth. Her hair brushes against both.
“Romanian. My name is Renée P… I was a model at Doeuillet…” Delicious. She takes off her gloves. Long, little girl’s hands. Something in my mind starts dancing at the thought that one day perhaps she would agree to paint the nails of those hands…”

 To see a previous post all about Renee go here

On March 12th 1934 he marries Marcelle Paolucci or 'Coco' as she was known, they divorced in 1942
Coco 1934

Coco in the garden

Coco on the beach, Hendaye 1934

In January 1942 he meets twenty one year old Florette Ormea in Monte Carlo, Jacques was twenty seven years her senior.  They married on August 28th 1945, They remained happily together until Jacques death in 1986, aged 92.
Florette, 1947

Florette, Paris 1944

Florette Paris 1944

Florette, Paris 1944

Florette Paris 1944
Florette Paris, 1944

Florette, Monte Carlo, 1953

Florette Paris 1944

Florette with JFK and a friend, Le Cap d'Antibes 1953

 Florette at Picasso's studio, Cannes, 1955
"I have never taken a picture for any other reason than that at that moment it made me happy to do so"
Jacques Henri Lartigue

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not quite ready to relinquish Summer

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Bibi at the New Eden Roc Restaurant, Cap d'Antibes, 1920.

When I lived in England as soon as the August Bank holiday approached it was time to pretty much give up on Summer, thoughts of crisp, autumnal days, boot and wellie clad bracing country walks, cocooning in cashmere, holing up in country pubs and cosy evening's in on comfy sofas, warmed by the heat of a roaring open fire with a good film or book and a good bottle of red, abounded.

No, No, No I am not in England and despite all the September issue glossies showing off autumn/winter fashions I am not giving up on summer just yet, as I sit typing this the temperature outside is 36 degrees Celsius, The Pyrenees is one of hottest areas in France at the present time. The heat is stifling, stepping outside, is like walking into an oven, thank heaven for the thick walled, tiled floored, shuttered, coolness of the old farmhouse in which we live, we are just about managing to keep cool.

After a long summer of looking after others holiday needs, next weekend we are off to La Cote d'Azur for two, long weeks, the first time in ages we have had a two week holiday, I can't wait to swap the late summer humidity of the Pyrenees for the drier heat of The Mediterranean and the breezes coming in off the coast.  The season is long in the East and Autumn does not really start to kick in until mid October, early September is one of the best times to be there, the holiday hoards will have gone so there will be more space on the beaches and the sea will be lovely and warm... Autumn will just have to wait.

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Bibi in Cannes, 1927.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Party of the Century

 On September 3rd 1951 Don Carlos de Beistegui y de Tturbe or Charlie de Beistegui to his acquaintances  threw a lavishly extravagant, decadent, masked, costume ball, which he called 'Le Bal oriental'.  The venue was his newly restored Palazzo Labia in Venice.  The ball was the first grand ball to be held after the second world war, quite a bold move considering Europe was still picking up the pieces and rationing was still in place in many countries, (food rationing in Britain ended in 1954).

Charles Beistegui on the balcony of the Palazzo Labia

 Palazzo Labia

 Palazzo Labia, John Singer Sargent

Charlie was of Mexican and Spanish origin, he was the heir to a Mexican Silver fortune although he only went to Mexico twice, he was born in France and educated in England.  Charlie was an eccentric, multimillionaire, art collector and interior decorator and one of the most flamboyant characters of the 20th century.  Despite all this he was not the most popular person, he was often described as being personally aloof and shadowy with a reputation of treating his friends and mistresses poorly.

 Charles de Beistegui

  Cecil Beaton wrote in his diary:

 "Beistegui is utterly ruthless. Such qualities as sympathy, pity or even gratitude are sadly lacking. He has become the most self-engrossed and pleasure-seeking person I have met."

 'His personal aloofness' did not stop people wishing to attend his party, his guest list was high profile and everybody who was anybody during that period expected an invitation. Guests took months preparing, choosing costumes and rehearsing grand entrances.  The ball helped launch Pierre Cardins career, he designed thirty costumes.  Today, 'Le Bal oriental' has achieved legendary status and is indeed referred to as 'The party of the century'

 Excert from 'Wait For me!' Memoires of the youngest Mitford Sister, Deborah Devonshire:

The extravaganza gave rise to green-eyed jealousy over invitations and was the talk of London, Paris and New York for months.  Andrew and I were lucky enough to be invited.  He went in eighteenth century costume and I wore a simple, white muslin dress with a pale blue satin jacket, copied from a portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, by John Downman.

The ball was an unforgettable theatrical performance with entrees of men and women in exquisite costumes. M. de Beistegui, in a vast wig of cascading golden curls and a lavishly embroidered brocade coat, stood on stilts as to be easily recognised.  Daisy Fellowes regularly voted the best dressed woman in France and America, portrayed the Queen of Africa from the Tiepolo frescoes in Wurzburg.  She wore a dress trimmmed with leopard print, the first time we had seen such a thing (still fashionable today, sixty years on), and was attended by four young men painted the colour of mahogany.  So many women threatened to be Cleopatra that the host decided to settle it himself and named Diana Cooper for the roll.

 Daisy Fellowes

Lady Diana Cooper as Cleopatra

One memorable entree was Jaques Fath, the Paris couturier, who came as Louis XIV in a headdress of white ostrich feathers as tall as himself, and a shimmering white satin jacket and skirt - like a doublet and hose - embroidered with gold.  Cecil Beaton, dressed as a French Cure and dancing with Babara Hutton, was worth watching. 

 Jacques and Genevieve Fath

 Jacques Fath

Cecil Beaton and friends

Wine, food and entertainment were provided on the public square outside the palazzo for the citizens of Venice.  At least one Frenchman of noble birth, who thought he should have been asked to the ball, enjoyed himself among the crowd who were climbing up greasy poles for chicken and hams, and he was visited every now and again by the glamourous figures from the palazzo.  As this extraordinary night turned into dawn, we splashed our way down the Grand Canal back to our hotel, having had the time of our lives.

 Orson Welles

 Jean Tierney

Photographs sourced from: