posted on 23/05/22
This series focuses on the influence of five women on several of the most important artists of the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries: Marthe de Méligny for Pierre Bonnard, Bella Rosenfeld for Marc Chagall, Marie-Thérèse Walter for Pablo Picasso, Lydia Delectorskaya for Henri Matisse and Misia Godebska Sert, the ultimate muse, who held Edouard Vuillard, Felix Vallotton, and numerous others in her spell.
They take place every Thursday from 6th October to 3rd November at 4.30pm (GMT +1) and, including Q&A, will probably last an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (29th December 2022).
Polish pianist, Misia Godebska Sert, came to France at the age of 15 where she studied with Gabriel Fauré. After marrying Thadée Nathanson, the editor of La Révue Blanche, she became the hostess of one of the most important Parisian salons of the 1890s. Painters, writers, and musicians flocked around her. Charming and charismatic, she was equally manipulative and cruel. Renoir, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, and Vallotton immortalized her in a multitude of paintings, drawings, prints and photos. We will look at her extraordinary life via the extraordinary works she inspired.
In 1893, Pierre Bonnard prevented a young woman from stepping into the path of a Parisian street car. This chance encounter with the woman who called herself Marthe de Méligny proved decisive for Bonnard and the direction his work would take thereafter. Marthe became a constant presence in Bonnard’s painting: the surprisingly intimate and erotic bedroom interiors, the vibrantly coloured domestic scenes fraught with underlying tension, and finally in the ethereal nudes in the bathtub. Her face continued to float in his canvases even after her death.
Marc Chagall never ceased to marvel at the fact that the beautiful Bella Rosenfeld, daughter of a wealthy jeweler, consented to be the bride of a poor painter, son of a herring merchant. Bella is everywhere in Chagall’s work: flying hand in hand with the artist over Russian villages, towering over him as a protector, whispering words of inspiration into his ear. She is the cherished bride seen so often in Chagall’s highly personal iconography. We will follow these visions of Bella from life in Vitebsk, through exile in the United States, to images of her in the late magical canvases done in the south of France.
Pablo Picasso’s life and work can be traced through the faces of his many lovers. He indeed had multiple muses. This talk will concentrate on one muse who had a particularly important impact on him at a crucial point in his career: Marie-Thérèse Walter, who became Picasso’s mistress and model when she was only 17 years old. Her youth and her generous but athletic forms inspired an explosion of creative energy in the 45 year old painter at the height of his powers. Marie-Thérèse inspired many of Picasso’s most sensual, colourful, and inventive works.
Lydia Delectorskaya, a young Russian immigrant, was first hired by Henri Matisse as a temporary studio assistant in 1932. Given her desperate financial situation, Matisse subsequently took her on as a domestic helper for his invalid wife. One day the artist saw her leaning against the back of a chair, her head resting on her crossed arms. Matisse exclaimed, “Don’t move!” and he began to draw her in his sketchbook. This was the beginning of Lydia’s unique 22 year career as Matisse’s most cherished model, studio manager, and indispensable creative assistant.
Resident on the Côte d’Azur and a specialist in 19th- and 20th-century modern and contemporary art. She designs and teaches art courses and art appreciation workshops for adults at the Musée Bonnard in Le Cannet and lectures at other area museums. She completed her Master of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, USA and previously worked at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
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