Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breakfast With Madame X

I have long been fascinated by Madame X, the stunning portrait by John Singer Sargent, so I really enjoyed reading Strapless, a book that explores the life of the mode, Amélie Gautreau, and her relationship with the painter - the painting caused a scandal in Paris, causing socialite Amélie's downfall and, of course, a falling out with Sargent.
I wish there were more books about the relationships between artists and their models.
I read a few pages of this volume over breakfast at Smooch, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where everything is fresh, organic and simply delicious. Last weekend, I had their wonderful granola with vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit before dashing off to their nearby flea market.
The book has led me to rediscover Sargent's oeuvre. Even more than Madame X, the painting I find the most magical is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, below.

13 comments:

Kwana said...

Thanks for this post. Now I have a new book to pick up.

Giulia said...

We are same path, you et moi. I put the book on my bday wishlist. Also I nearly posted "Carnation" today. Life intruded so it's nice to see here. Had 2 cats, named, yes Carnation & Lily Rose.

Hazel at Clever Pup has much knowledge of artists & models...some books & has written about them. You've probably seen, but just in case. Also her cards made from her femme fatale paintings are terrific.

If I have wine with dinner tomorrow evening, I might be persuaded to write up my modelling (nekkid!) in France. Maybe. Ahem. Also here, once. Then I hung up my clothes (or rather, put them on:)

xoxo

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

This book has been sitting on my shelf unread. Now I'm inspired to read it.

Mary-Laure said...

GIULIA - yes, I'd love to rename Benjy Carnation or Lily Rose but he's so dark and evil it doesn't seem quite right...

Laura in Paris said...

The painting is indeed magical!

Gabbi said...

The book sounds fascinating Mary-Laure! I have a thing for muses... also, your meal sounds and looks yummy. Though I haven't been able to take any holiday's this summer your travels are an excellent consolation prize...

Mary-Laure said...

GABBI - I am fascinated by muses too. I just read a bio of Nancy Cunard and it's amazing to see all the first rate artists she inspired - TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, Cecil Beaton, Brancusi...

carina said...

I have the Madame X poster on my bedroom wall! I love it - love all of Singer Sargent's work. I wrote my MA thesis on Henry James, and the relationship between James and Sargent is fascinating! Must put the book on my to-read-list.

Mary-Laure said...

CARINA - ah, yes, the book mentions Henry James repeatedly and his relationship with Sargent. They had so much in common!
Your thesis sounds fascinating and I am sure you would enjoy this book.

Giulia said...

Mary-Laure (or anyone else on list)--I recommend also, for a bit of balance, Francine Prose's book The Lives of the Muses. There is a decidedly downer side to 'musing.'

I don't mean to be negative because it is interesting...but I always tell people to be careful what they wish for in this regard. So reading about people (esp. we are speaking of women, here,non?) is one thing; to be used as a muse can be very demeaning. I speak from experience. I allowed it to happen, so I'm not going to whinge on about it. But it turned into a bad thing--no one wants to hear what you've done...only what you may have (partly) inspired. (And you're never quite sure if these people are interested in you or if they want to meet the Great One.)

On that note, have a cheery weekend. xo

BENJY said...

GIULIA - as always, you are most insightful. I am a muse myself, albeit of the canine kind, but I see what you mean. I must make sure to get that Francine Prose book. Some muses, like Alma Mahler were nothing short of creatively castrated.
At the same time, I think that in days when biped ladies could not just go into the arts, being a muse was a good way to sneak into that field and maybe become artists in their own right (I am thinking of Lee Miller, for instance)...

Vintage Simple said...

Oh, and Benjy comments..!

I was just going to say I love that second painting... but I love Giulia's point. Although I guess Benjy has one, too. A really interesting topic I hadn't thought about before... Thanks for giving me something to think about while I have my breakfast....

xoox,
-maria

Giulia said...

Ah, yes good point, Benjy. Giulia zee cat agrees with you. Susan, the muse, is confused. (as usual) There is a chapter on Miller. Susan gets really steamed when people don't give Miller her due. (She knows some photographers who diss Miller--still.)

She's muttering now about stuff happening here in town, some guy who is restoring our honor. She's really mad & I think she might crack another tooth. I'm hopping on to her lap to calm her down. I am about to suggest she buy us a nice bottle of Provence rosé. I can't drink it, being a cat, but of course I only want maman's happiness.

ciao Benjy (& everyone else, too)