Paris 1907

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn

In my early 20’s, I imagined traveling to Paris to enroll in an art history course.  Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal in the 1954 film, Sabrina may have had a strong influence given her astonishing transformation when she studied at a prestigious culinary school in Paris.  From heartbreak to elegance and grace (which of course, was always within her), Paris imbued Sabrina with an exuberant sophistication.

I experienced Paris in spring, albeit a couple of decades past my 20’s, and can reaffirm, that Paris is indeed a good idea.

I have gone back to Paris again, but in a different way.  I am seeing the world of Gertrude Stein through the eyes of Alice Babette Toklas, her closest friend and life partner.  I imagined that the “Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” would be a rather easy read, something that I could get through in a couple of sittings.  Instead, I have become enrolled in the art history course that I longed for in my early 20’s.

Gertrude Stein has a marvelous talent for dropping names, without the snobbishness that usually accompanies that type of behaviour. This could be that Gertrude is speaking as if she were Alice; or perhaps it is because the names are familiar and I am seeing them in the light of a conversation rather than as a list of dates and accomplishments.   What is even more interesting is that every name has a personal story, as well as a place in an encyclopedia.

Gertrude Stein By Pablo Picasso – http://www.metmuseum.org

Alice arrives in Paris in the year 1907.

“Picasso had just finished his portrait of her which nobody at that time liked except the painter and the painted and which is so famous, and he had just begun his strange complicated picture of three women, Matisse had just finished his Bonheur de Vivre, his first big composition which gave him the name of fauve or a zoo.” Gertrude Stein “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”

Gertrude and Alice created a vibrant environment where literary and artistic endeavours flourished. I am savouring the pages of this autobiography as if I were attending one of Gertrude’s soirees where art came alive in the scintillating chatter of a crowded Parisian atelier.  Paintings have taken on a personal narrative, which adds dynamics and a deeper understanding for the artwork.

“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”  Gertrude Stein

 

Bonheur by matisse
Bonheur by Matisse

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Ms Frances

    Interesting city, interesting people, interesting special tower, interesting art, interesting time, now we see all this with admiration. There were those in that time, I suppose, that missed it all for some reason or another. It brings to my mind our time, so bulging with so much of the extraordinary. Let us not miss it. Thinking now of the recent tragedy in this wonderful, historic place. There are always those who want to destroy the beautiful. Paris has survived such things before, they are a people of courage.

    1. Clanmother

      I agree wholeheartedly. It is interesting how Gertrude and Alice were able to engage the artistic community. It seems that when we open ourselves to possibilities, special things happen. And if we engage within a compassionate community that thrives on creativity, we experience something new. In fact, my quote for today was from Picasso,

      “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
      Pablo Picasso

  2. ernstblumenstein

    Ich liebe dieses Gemälde sehr, finde deinen Rückblick auf Paris, Gertrude Stein und Audrey Hepburn sehr informativ und reizend. Ich war 1968 mit 16 Jahren erstmals mit Kollegen in Paris. Danke für den Bericht.
    Wünsche dir einen schönen Sonntag und sende liebe Grüsse. Ernst

    1. Clanmother

      Was für eine außergewöhnliche Zeit in Paris zu besuchen. So viel passiert im Jahr 1968. Ich denke, es ist sehr wichtig für junge Menschen, zu reisen und über die Geschichte eines anderen Landes zu lernen. Reisen ist eine Menge Spaß !! Wäre es nicht erstaunlich, wenn wir in der Zeit zurück reisen konnte. Hab ein wundervolles Wochenende!!

  3. Resa

    I can see why the painting was not popular at the time. Now, it’s a masterpiece.
    Then, as today, mankind is drawn to an obvious, defined at the time beauty. Today’s mankind marketing has added features, that go beyond a person’s apparently earthly beauty. People worry about who has the most fabulous kitchen, bathroom, car, dog, cat, perambulator, internet package, career ad infinitum. Who knows what the next gem of a lasting true beauty is? Maybe it will be a soap. My point is, keep open minded. Hindsight is 20/20.
    So much more to talk about in this post! I picked 1 thing.
    Well, Thank you Rebecca!

    1. Clanmother

      Your comments resonate with me, especially the need to keep open minded, to look beyond our stereotypes, to seek a deeper meaning. My first thought when I started to read this book was that Gertrude and Alice knew they lived in a special time, that building a place where dialogue was welcomed and viewpoints encouraged was absolutely necessary. As you said, hindsight is 20/20. When will we realize that we live in a special time, where technology and communication gives us even more opportunity to develop creativity?

      “You are extraordinary within your limits, but your limits are extraordinary!” Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography

    1. Clanmother

      I agree wholeheartedly. Audrey was truly amazing. Her humanitarian efforts for UNICEF were truly inspiring and certainly brought focus to the need to work as a global community. I love when she said, “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” Have a great weekend!

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