P U B L I C A T I O N S > F
R A N C E S S T I L L M A N ' S E
U R O P E D I A R Y
I..........Going from Here to There
XII..........Paris in the Fall
Sunday, September 7th
How strange not to be awakened by church bells on Sunday! During
the past weeks we have listened to bells of all varieties, ringing
hour after hour, day after day, but with particular insistence
early Sunday morning.
We got up late, breakfasted and read the papers at the Coupole
and had lunch at the Corbeille. Then to the Louvre for a couple
of hours. There is a certain atmosphere about the Louvre what
fits in well with the calm of a Sunday afternoon. A distinct personality
projects itself, which is unmistakably French. Perhaps it is partly
due to the frescoed ceilings and the marble and gold ornamentation;
partly to the historical significance of the building as the home
of kings and the repository for art treasures of all ages. But
beyond all this there is an indefinable aura of the aesthetic,
of the French "bon gout".
Today we looked mostly at French paintings. Ary gave me a fine
explanation of the classicism of Poussin and, of David —
the basic abstraction underlying their work, also the perfection
of draftsmanship in Ingres. We looked at romantic landscapes by
Claude Lorrain, others by Courbet, the master realist, and huge
Delacroix canvases — romance and drama in his scenes, and
such vigor and emotional fire. And Chardin — my first love
among French painters. I was entranced by a little Chardin still
life, with a silver goblet and red and green apples reflected
in the goblet — and another superb still life with fruit
and meat and a gleaming blue figured bowl...
Monday, September 8th
A cold and damp day, and now and then a drizzle of rain. The cold
here is piercing and gives one a feeling of great discomfort.
In the afternoon we paid a visit to the Bardons. Monsieur Bardon
is a friend of Ary's from the "old days." He and Madame
Bardon own their own studio, in a big, loft-like building near
the Gare Montparnasse. The entrance is in an alleyway. We had
to fumble for the lights — the French in their frugality
seldom keep the hallways lighted. In these old buildings there
is a button on the wall of the entryway, which you find only after
much searching. When you press it, the light goes on for a minute
or two at most, then is automatically shut off.
The Bardons' place is a typical studio of the more comfortable
kind. It is small in floor space, but tremendously high, with
tall windows. A narrow stairway from the studio proper leads to
a balcony, which serves as their bedroom. They have installed
a bathroom next to the bedroom and are extremely proud of it.
Bathrooms are still a luxury in France.
We had tea in a little alcove which the Bardons have decorated
very charmingly, with old Spanish ornamental pieces of bronze
and wrought iron, candlesticks, figures of angels, urns and vases.
They spent every summer on the coast of Spain and sublet their
studio for that period. Sublets are high in Paris and the rent
they get for three months pays their entire expenses in a little
pension on the Costa Brava.
Friday, September 12th
I have been spending several mornings a week in one of the "conversation
classes" at the Alliance Francaise. The teacher is a dark
haired, attractive French girl with a beautiful speaking voice.
There are fourteen or fifteen in the class, all nationalities,
Greek, Norwegian, Spanish, Danish, English, Egyptian, Brazilian,
and two Americans including myself. Mostly young people who are
in Paris pursuing some special studies. I enjoy them, particularly
the bright young chap from Brazil and the Egyptian, who admits
that he doesn't follow anything that is going on, but who sits
there with an enigmatic expression worthy of the Sphinx itself.
Feeling himself quite lost in the maze of conversation, he smiles
remotely at everyone and everything, with a little nod now and
then to show his approval of the situation in general, even though
he doesn't understand it.
Sunday, September 14th
To the Musee Guimet, but it was so icy cold there that after a
short while Ary took me to a cafe to warm up with hot tea. One
impression I carried away. After seeing the early Italian and
mere especially the Catalan primitives, the Oriental art appears
to me so terribly sophisticated. The figures of Buddha and the
various gods — their mysterious smile — it is as if
they have tasted every experience in life, both of the senses
and the intellect, and after plumbing the very depth of all human
experience, they have discarded everything, retaining only the
essence of being. I said to Ary that their art is like frozen
thought and frozen movement, but he said no, that in the really
fine Oriental art there is a continuous spiritual movement.
Monday, September 15th
I must have caught cold at the museum yesterday, and today I ached
in every bone. Ary bought a little alcohol stove and made me some
tea, and in the evening brought some dinner for me from the restaurant.
Thursday, September l8th
The sun came out this afternoon and Ary and I walked for a couple
of hours in the Luxembourg Gardens. How gentle and mellow it all
appeared in the autumn sunlight, and how beautiful the big beds
of flowers — some in soft pinks and lavender and brown,
others in brilliant shades of red and purple, bordered with silvery
leaves which make the bright colors stand out against the green
grass with startling effect. We walked past the fountains and
sat for awhile at the little lake where children were sailing
their boats. I believe these are my favorite gardens of all I
Isadora Duncan's brother, Raymond, strode past us, in Greek toga
and sandals, accompanied by a woman disciple, similarly dressed...
Sunday, September 21st
To the Theatre of the Champs Elysees this afternoon,
and managed to get "strapontin"*
tickets for an orchestra concert with Robert Casadesus as soloist.
He played the Beethoven Fourth. Casadesus, always one of our favorite
pianists, was more than ever effective, in his native land, playing
with an orchestra imbued with his own special type of sensitivity.
Too often there have been empty seats when he has played in Carnegie
Hall, so we were happy at the ovation he received from today's
seats at the end of each row, which fold up out of sight when
not in use.
Friday, September 20th
In spite of bad weather we went to the Musee Moderne this afternoon,
to see the Rouault exhibition. It was a very comprehensive one
— room after room of oils, gouaches, drawings, lithographs,
also ceramics, stained glass windows and tapestries.
Two rooms of oil paintings I liked especially; one hung with large
canvases, many of which I had previously seen, mostly religious
subjects, in wonderful reds, greens and blacks. The other room
contained smaller canvases, heads, flowers, landscapes, skillfully
integrated in color and form, and very expressive.
The black and white drawings were for the most part very strong
and effective. It seems to me that Rouault is most natural and
therefore most forceful when he speaks in terms of black, and
so in these drawings and lithographs, where he uses black not
to pull other colors together, but rather just for itself, he
is truly dynamic.
The ceramics were very beautiful; his colors are wonderfully suited
to this medium. The two tapestries were lovely too, one especially,
the head of a young girl. The texture of the material seemed to
mute the colors just enough to give them a subdued richness. The
stained glass windows, however, were a disappointment to me. It
seems strange that Rouault, who in his paintings is the master
of the "stained glass style", didn't succeed in getting
the real stained glass quality in his windows. They didn't seem
to function as a unit, nor were the colors rich and glowing as
in his paintings.
Sunday, September 28th
After lunch today we strolled past the Place de St. Michel, through
the Latin Quarter, and over the Seine for a visit to the little
church of Sainte-Chapelle. Beautiful as it had appeared to me
when I first saw it in May, it was even more lovely now. It is
so perfect in form, in line, and in spirit. I think that my pleasure
in it was heightened by the memory of the many grand cathedrals
we have seen, which achieved their strength and power through
their massive size and grandiose conception. The Sainte-Chapelle
is exquisite in its very compactness; it is like a single rare
gem. Although very different indeed from the Pantheon in Rome,
this purity of conception and execution and the compactness recalled
the Pantheon to me.
Sunday, October 5th
We have been hoping for a mild day, so that we could visit the
Museum of French Monuments, at the Trocadere. None of the museums
here are ever heated, and this one is cold even in summer, I understand.
But I didn't want to miss it, and it proved to be well worth a
few hours of discomfort.
It is a vastly interesting place. For the person who hasn't the
time or opportunity to tour France to see the famous cathedrals
and palaces, from the twelfth century on, this provides a sampling
of them all. Here are gathered under one roof the faithfully executed
replicas of these architectural masterpieces. In some instances
whole sections of the structure have been reproduced, showing
the architecture and the detailed sculpture decorating the doors
and columns. Sometimes a single piece was displayed, an especially
fine example of Romanesque or Gothic sculpture, or a mural of
the twelfth or thirteenth century or perhaps a later period.
One could spend days here — but it is so icy cold! I hope
to come again.
Friday, October 10th
Conversation class in the morning. Some of the youngsters made
slurring remarks about the United States, and I was terribly indignant.
After class a young English girl, a calm, phlegmatic type, came
up to me. "You Americans are always so sensitive about criticism"
she said "and I can't understand it. Why do you care if other
people like you? We English know that people in general don't
like us, but it doesn't bother us. We know we are right!"
Saturday, October 11th
A red letter day — the heat has been turned on in the hotel:
I could weep for joy! I have been so miserable on account of the
cold and penetrating dampness. Of course it isn't terribly warm
in our room even now, but your insides don't congeal every time
you sit there for an hour. I don't know what we would have done
without the little alcohol stove, and our nightly cup of tea.
Sunday, October 12th
This morning we set out on a sentimental quest. Ary has had no
word from his old friends the Drozes since he left Paris many
years ago. He has had a presentiment that they fared badly in
the war years, and has feared to learn what their fate might have
been. Today he declared that he couldn't put it off any longer.
So we took the Metro to the Stalingrad Station and boarded a bus
bound for Senlis, the centuries-old town where the Drozes had
Arrived at Senlis we made out way to the street where the Droz
home had been. We found the house easily enough, and stood for
a minute half afraid to enter for fear the Drozes were no longer
there. As we hesitated, the door of the house was flung open.
Two figures appeared, and two voices cried in unison: "Monsieur
Ary! Monsieur Ary!"
It seems that the Drozes were at lunch when suddenly Mrs. Droz
looked up and saw us standing there. She gazed at us unbelievingly
for a moment, then cried out to her husband:
"C'est Monsieur Ary! Il est revenu!"
It was like a miracle to them, Ary's return, after an absence
of almost twenty years. They embraced him, they plied him with
questions. They have thought of Ary so often during these years,
they said. They have talked of him, have wondered about him. And
now what a joy to see him with his wife "la charmante Francoise".
They made us eat and drink; Mrs. Droz rushed out to buy a special
kind of white wine, as befitting the occasion. They took us through
the house. Here was the bedroom which had been reserved for Ary's
weekend visits; here the kitchen, where the old wood stove still
stands, despite the modern one by its side. (One of Ary's early
paintings is from those days; such a French looking scene, warm
and intimate in spirit — the old-fashioned, high-ceilinged
kitchen, all in tones of pearly gray, with the big black stove
and its tall chimney making a striking accent against the gray.
Toinette, the cook, at the stove; the cat curled up on the floor
by the doorway.
Of course the Drozes told me in detail the story I have heard
so often from Ary — their Sunday excursion to the Senlis
forest, with the children and the dog and the cat and the big
basket of cold meats and cheese and bread and wine for a picnic
lunch. At the entrance of the forest they discovered Ary, paint
brush in hand, in front of his easel. With an impulsiveness rare
to the French, who are slow to friendship, they invited him to
join them. From that time on the rambling old house where the
Droz family lived was Ary's home whenever he came to Senlis.
They touched lightly on the horrors and misery of the war years,
dwelling only on major tragedies, such as the death of their oldest
son. They had moved to Paris before the war. Now their daughter
Vivianne and her family occupy their apartment on Rue de Rennes
(not far from our hotel) and they themselves have returned to
the old home in Senlis, which holds so many memories dear to them.
It was late in the afternoon before we could break away. They
put us on the bus, our arms full of apples and flowers from the
garden. And they made us promise to come back soon for a reunion
with the rest of the family.
Tuesday, October 14th
This evening we had dinner at Wadjas, the restaurant next to the
Grande Chaumiere. Ary had been there before, but it was the first
time for me. A small room, with long tables crowded so closely
together that one could scarcely wend one's way through the room.
The menu written in chalk on a black-board. Prints and fancy china
dishes decorating the walls; sliced loaves of bread piled in a
great heap at the counter at the back of the room, together with
fruit, various cheeses and a large plate of pastries. Two young
men waiting on the crowd and handling them with amazing speed.
At seven, when we came in, it was half filled. Five minutes later
it was jammed to capacity and a waiting line had formed. Mostly
young students, with a sprinkling of old-timers, all very Bohemian.
Much conversation, and a lively atmosphere. Later on a young chap
with an accordion came in. He played jazz with a wonderful rhythm
— French sounding jazz. You had a very warm feeling toward
these young people. They seemed a bit pathetic, shabby and ill-nourished,
so many of them. They ordered their meal only after much consultation
of the prices on the blackboard. But they have so much —
youth, a wide open door to the future, and the incomparable adventure
of spending student days in Paris.
Overheard at the cafe later in the evening — the speaker
being a frowsy young girl, who has been traveling around with
a blond young artist — "Gee, he's so poor he can't
even buy turpentine, and how can an artist work without turpentine?
He can't paint, hasn't painted for a month." And again —
"Oh, his color is beautiful. He paints something like that
guy Cezanne, with a little of Van Gogh."
Sunday, October 19th
The reunion of the Droz family in our honor was scheduled for
today. Earlier in the week we had found a bouquet of flowers and
a note from Mrs. Droz at the hotel desk. "Bonjour, chers
amis" the note began. "Mes fleurs vous diront mon passage".
She went on to tell us they were all gathering to have dinner
with us, the following Sunday (today), not in Senlis, but in the
apartment on Rue de Rennes.
When we stepped into the doorway at Rue de Rennes we could understand
why the idea of gathering at Senlis had been abandoned. The apartment
was a large one, but it seemed to be full of papas and mammas
and little ones, all eager to see Monsieur Ary, who was to the
older ones a cherished memory from childhood days, and to the
youngsters, a family legend. They surrounded Ary. Did he remember
the drawing he had made Serge for his birthday. Did he remember
the Christmas festivities; did he recall the little tree they
had planted in the front lawn and named Ary, in his honor.
I thought Vivianne particularly lovely; intelligent, straightforward,
talented (she makes beautiful ceramics). Her husband, who is an
engineer engaged in some kind of atomic research, served in the
underground during the war, was denounced by a comrade and taken
to Buchenwald, where he was a prisoner for two years. He was tortured
unmercifully. As a result his right leg had to be amputated. Evidently
there are mental and emotional scars, too — a hardness and
a materialism that had not shown themselves previously.
Dinner was in the Droz tradition — the famous chicken soup
with noodles, then the chicken itself, roasted brown and tender
and juicy, with wonderful gravy (how will I ever keep from mopping
my plate with a piece of bread, when I am back home!). Salad and
fruit and cheese and dessert, red wine and Cointreau, and later
in the afternoon Mrs. Droz brought out a bottle of the most fragrant
and deliciously sweet white wine —"from my country"
she said (near Bordeaux.) It was 1947 vintage, a particularly
good wine year, and it really was superlative.
After dinner, when the children were playing in another room,
conversation became more serious, and Mr. and Mrs. Droz told us
something of their activities during the days of the Occupation.
They were both in the Resistance Movement, and Mrs. Droz helped
many French patriots to escape to neighboring countries. Finally
she came under suspicion and was arrested. She was not at home
at the time of the arrest, and she asked to be allowed to return
home to see her family before being taken off to prison. The officers
refused. Then she begged to be allowed to kiss her soldier son
goodbye. This they acceded to. As she embraced him, she whispered
to him where she kept her records. She instructed him to remove
all the papers and to locate the men and tell them of her capture,
so that they wouldn't try to get in touch with her and thus betray
themselves. The boy succeeded in finding the papers and hiding
them under his uniform; the necessary information was noted and
the papers burned, so that when the apartment was searched, no
incriminating evidence was found. After a month in prison Mrs.
Droz was freed. Meanwhile her husband had been imprisoned for
two weeks, but he too was released.
Another story moved us both very much. For some time during the
war, Jews were not allowed to purchase food except at the end
of the day, when stocks were depleted. The Droz family, incensed
at this inhumanity, bought a grocery store in the Jewish quarter.
In this way they managed stealthily to supply the Jewish families
with enough food to sustain them. I shall never forget these tales,
nor the expression in Vivianne's eyes as she talked of the monstruous
brutality of the Germans toward the Jews, "Why, they were
branded like animals — they had to suffer every indignity!"
Tuesday, October 21st
The real thrill of opera going here is the opera house itself.
It represents all the elegances and ornamentations and sophistications
that made Paris of the "fin de siecle" so glamorous.
The lobby is dominated by huge marble statues of Rameau, Lully,
Haendel and Gluck. The orchestra and logos are rich with gold
and red velvet and brocade; the promenade outside the loges is
fabulous, lavishly decorated with gold pillars and figures of
the same gold, and brilliantly lighted by magnificent crystal
chandeliers. And through the tall windows one looks out at the
Cafe do la Paix across the way, and the sparkle and movement of
the Place de l'Opera, gay with theater crowds.
We have attended performances of Tosca and Manon, Aida and La
Traviata, L'Enlevement du Serail by Mozart and Les Indes Galant,
an opera-ballet by Rameau. The performances have been delightful
-- light voices, but very lovely; beautifully trained ballet;
superb staging and costumes. It seems to me that opera here is
more intimate than at the "Met" at home; it is warmer
and more of a living thing. And each time I have felt like Cinderella
at the ball, as we promenaded the length of the lounge outside
the loges, under the long row of glittering chandeliers....
The Odeon, where we have seen several performances by the Comedie
Francaise, isn't elaborate like the Opera, but it has its share
of red velvet and gold, and crystal chandeliers, more modest in
size but quite impressive. Ary has wanted me to get a taste of
French classic theater, and he chose Moliere's L'Avarre"
for comedy and Racine's Britannicus for tragedy, with Le Dindon,
a typical French farce -- fast moving, sophisticated, risque',
as lighter fare. For all that it is a bedroom farce, it was presented
with such finesse that even the scenes were delightfully amusing.
L'Avarre, Moliere's seventeenth century comedy, was played at
a very fast tempo, often too rapid for me to follow. Nevertheless
it was beautifully acted, with all the grace, the wit and the
dashing spirit which characterize the French.
Racine's Britannicus, of the same period, was more interesting
to me. One inevitably compares Racine with Shakespeare. I find
Racine more poet than dramatist. Whereas Shakespeare's characters
enact their drama before one's eyes, Racine's give a dramatic
recital of the events which have happened off-stage. But there
is great beauty in the dialogue, and it was admirably played --
all within the limitations of the classic tradition, of course.
As with the plastic arts, the opera, and the ballet, I am all
admiration at the beauty, the finesse and above all the bon gout
with which the French invest both their creative and their interpretive
Wednesday, October 22nd
This was our day to visit Tina Horne and her husband, Jo LaForge.
They had written us an urgent invitation to spend a few days with
them. They had plenty of room to put us up, only we should bring
warm clothes with us. We wrote back that we could only spend the
We left the hotel early, took the metro to the bus station, and
were in the bus and on our way by 9:30. Arrived at our stop, N--,
we looked around for Jo. We had never met him; it was Tina whom
we knew. A bearded man in red sweater -came forward to greet us.
He looked at Ary's beret and sweater and my old woolen blouse
and skirt. Why, you don't look like Americans!" he said,
shaking hands with us. Their little three year old daughter, Nadya,
was with him -- a cute, red-cheeked friendly little thing. After
buying a bag of candy for Nadya in the village store we climbed
into Jos ramshackle old car. I got in the front with him
and Ary and Nadya were all doubled up in the back of the car,
in a contraption that looked like a tool chest.
A ride of two miles and we reached Tr--. It is a village out of
the sixteenth century, geese waddling across the road, ducks in
the stream which winds past the LaForge's house, a flock of sheep
in the distance, and ancient and decrepit houses, with here and
there a wrinkled face peering out of a high window.
It was just such an old house that Tina and Jo bought about a
year ago, and which they have been laboriously rebuilding themselves.
They have gathered together odd bits of material from demolition
companies. Their most ingenious piece of work is the wooden circular
stairway in the living room. They bought it at a demolition place,
sawed off a step or two, and fitted it into one side of the room
so as to provide access to the second story. A ladder had been
the only means of climbing up before.
The house is small and rather cramped, but there is a long stretch
of land back of it, with which they have worked miracles. Bare
clay when they came there, it now has lawnsthick with grass, charming
flower gardens, and a vegetable patch. Here and there they have
placed rustic seats, little metal tables, and pieces of sculpture.
A little brook trickles along one side, between their place and
the next neighbor's.
We duly admired the house, the grounds, and their new baby, five
weeks old. Tina served us a big meal, with rabbit, rice, salad,
cheese, etc. Afterwards they took us for a walk up the road. The
scenery was beautiful, but Ary and I both felt happy not to have
to live in such an isolated spot. Nor are we pioneer spirits,
to build a home with our own hands, such as they are doing, or
to suffer the inconveniences they have to undergo. And they haven't
been able to paint for months, although that was their primary
reason for choosing to live in this detachment.
One rather disturbing phase of our visit was Tina's tale of poverty.
At dinner I said "Oh, Tina, there is so much to eat!"
and Tina answered "Well, this is in your honor-- we were
so happy you were coming." Then she added "But don't
think we eat this way every day. We never have meat -- oh, maybe
once a week. The rest of the time we have -- oh, soup and potatoes
and maybe carrots, and during the summer we have vegetables from
our garden, and I make jelly from our apples. But mostly we just
have soup and potatoes." At this the food I was eating ceased
to have any pleasure for me. I wondered what they would have done
if we had accepted their invitation to spend a few days with them.
What would they have used for food? And where in the world would
we have slept in that tiny house. In the room off the living room,
in the bed they said they had found in the woods? Or did they
have other beds in the house.
In any event, when they mentioned that they expected to drive
to town the following Monday, we immediately suggested their having
lunch with us, feeling glad to have a chance to play host to them.
Saturday, October 25th
To the Marche de Puce (Flea Market) this afternoon, after all
these weeks of waiting for a good week end. It is amusing to browse
through the long rows of stands, but tiring also. We did have
some success however, and came home with a few odd pieces -- a
small ebony box with ivory top, decorated with a lovely miniature,
a Chinese copper bowl, some handsome cut steel buttons and a Morrocan
brooch of filagree silver work. Also some big paint brushes, which
are so expensive in the States.
Monday, October 27th
This morning we took the metro to St. German-des-Pres, and visited
the old atelier of Delacroix, now a museum, maintained by "Des
Amis de Delacroix". There has been a great deal in the papers
about the possible loss of this museum. It was put up for sale
because of default of taxes and was purchased for a low figure
by "Des Amis de Delacroix". However, according to the
law, the purchase doesn't become legal before ten days, and if
another bidder offers a higher price during those ten days, it
goes to him. The story is that a wealthy lawyer bid a higher price,
thinking it would be nice to give the place to his wife, a dancing
teacher, for a studio. The art world was horrified; a technicality
was found which nullified the lawyer's purchase, and this week
the property will once again be put up for auction. It is hoped
of course that "Des Amis de Delacroix" will be able
to buy the property and to maintain it as it is at present, with
Delacroix paintings, sketches, photographs and portraits of the
artist, letters in his handwriting, vases and other decorative
The place had a strong sentimental appeal for me, particularly
the garden and the separate studio in the garden. It is a big
room with lofty ceilings and huge windows. Large enough for the
enormous canvasses on which Delacroix expended so much emotional
fervor. I had enjoyed Virginia Hersch's book on Delacroix, and
thanks to her, I could feel the studio and garden filled with
shadowy figures -- Alfred de Musset, Georges Sand -- the other
lovely women who played a part in Delacroix' life -- and I seemed
to sense also the excitement, the exaltation, and the torment
which the artist experienced in the process of creating those
dramatic and romantic conceptions which were so shocking to those
of his period who were bound by the classic tradition.
My sentimental mood persisted even after we had returned to the
hotel, but it was dispelled when our luncheon guests arrived.
Tina and Jo LaForge had said that they were coming into the city
to go to the American Express today, so we had invited them to
have lunch with us. Jo came up alone, announcing that Tina was
in the car, feeding the baby. When we inquired who was taking
care of the little girl, Nadya, he said "Oh, she is with
Tina and the baby in the car. We couldn't leave her at home."
It was a strange looking party that burst into the Corbeille about
one-thirty. Jo, dirty and messy from fussing with the car; Tina,
with the baby in her arms; Nadya, her face all broken out with
an infection, and covered with some kind of powder, so that she
looked as if she were wearing a grotesque mask, or worse still,
as if she had escaped from the contagion ward of a hospital. The
people lunching at the restaurant were startled, especially when
Nadya, in between courses, ran in and out the tables, crouched
low, executing some weird kind of dance steps, for all the world
like an Indian stalking the enemy. Her woolen panties had slipped
way down, her dress was all awry, her hair wild looking, and with
her chalky white face, all broken out and with red spots showing
here and there, she really was something out of a nightmare.
The whole lunch was a confused affair, especially since R.E. came
in and sat at our table and the Hs at the next one, and
there were introductions and talking back and forth between the
tables. Jo entertained Ary with the tale of his adventures with
the car, which had broken down this morning, and which he hoped
would carry them at least to the American Express, where he expected
to find a check from America. He was completely "broke"
otherwise. Tina found it difficult to eat with the baby in her
arms, so I offered to hold him, which proved disastrous, for the
minute I took him he began to howl, and nothing would pacify him.
By this time the people at the other tables were visibly annoyed,
and the proprietor's wife was eyeing us most unhappily from her
desk at the back of the room. Finally, about three o'clock, lunch
was over, Tina and Jo bundled the children and themselves into
the car, goodbyes were said all around, and after a few anxious
minutes while the car wheezed and sputtered, it started up and
they rolled away. Ary and I breathed a sigh of relief, and then
we went back to the hotel and took a nap.
I couldn't face the thought of returning to the Corbeille this
evening. So we walked over to the Cafe Royale, on St. Germain-des-Pres,
and had sandwiches and coffee, while we watched a young fellow
at the next table practice his lines in a play script, reading
aloud and gesticulating dramatically.
Tuesday, October 28th
What a perfect day! The air was warm and soft, the sky was fantastically
beautiful, and Paris was irresistibly charming. The sky continually
changed throughout the day. In the morning it was softly gray,
with delicate grayish white clouds, and the gray buildings of
Paris blended with the sky in true Pisarro style. By noon, and
during the early afternoon, it became bright blue -- an unusually
clear blue for this city of grayish hue -- and the big white clouds
floated with feathery softness through the blue background. Then
later in the afternoon it was gray again, with dramatic accents
of blackish gray clouds. Wherever we walked, and we roamed around
both morning and afternoon, there were wonderful views of the
city and the river and the sky above. Ary kept saying "Now,
that is Paris!" whenever we would come upon a particularly
breath-taking vista. It made Paris seem more feminine than ever,
as if she was parading all her charms, exerting all her wiles,
so that her beauty would remain enshrined in our memory.
I thought of the letter which we had received earlier in the week
from our Spanish painter friend Soler. "I am really with
envy" he wrote "at your long sojourn in the city I like
so much. Recall me a moment, please, not when visiting museums,
but going from here to there on the streets"...
In the evening, at the cafe, Ary met his friend D., whom he hasn't
seen since the spring. D. is still perplexed about abstract art,
and he plied Ary with questions. I want to record their conversation,
as far as I can remember it.
D. commenced, "I have thought a great deal about our discussion,
and have even gone to see some exhibitions of abstract art. So
far I have not been convinced of the value of these paintings.
Now, since I remember your former painting so well, I want to
ask you this: "You used to set up a still life, or choose
a scene for a landscape. Now that you are painting abstractions,
how do you start a composition without that impetus -- without
a point of departure from nature? How do you proceed when you
have a clean canvas in front of you? What is it you look for?"
Ary shook his head ruefully. "You have given me a tall order"
he said. "I don't know if I can boil it down to a few words,
but I'll try. But remember I am not speaking for abstract artists
as a whole, I am speaking for myself, speaking of the personal
approach I have evolved during the past years.
"Well, then, in the past fifty or sixty years we have learned
a great deal about the working of the mind. We have learned that
our subconscious mind contains visions of all sorts from various
places and various times. Sometimes our life is dry on the surface,
but if we could bring out these accumulated experiences from the
subconscious we should be able to create works of great impact.
"Give a child a pencil and paper and he will have no difficulty
in bringing his inner reality to the surface. And even if his
drawing is crude and child-like it will be very expressive."
D. burst out laughing. "Do you expect us to work like children?
And why don't they develop further? I have seen an exhibition
of children's paintings and even of monkey's paintings. Can you
honestly say this is a road which leads to art?"
Ary shook his head. "The child has no accumulation of experiences
to draw upon; he has only a child's vision. What he does have,
but what he loses as soon as he develops inhibitions, is the ability
to express what is within him --whatever exists in the child's
world of fantasy in which he lives.
"We adults encounter great difficulty in drawing our inner
visions out to the surface because we find no link between the
conscious and the subconscious. We have to dig down deep, just
as a diver goes down to look for pearls in the bottom of the sea.
And just as the diver must practice, sometimes for many years,
so the artist must lose himself in a dream-world -- detach himself
completely from the exterior world -- concentrate completely on
finding what lies deep within him.
"Then comes the problem of bringing to the surface that which
he has found. First of all he must acquire a technique whereby
his hands respond rapidly to his impulses of imagery. Once he
has worked out such a technique he will find that when he is working
impulsively he will feel intuitively where to put this and that.
The checks and balances he has mastered through long practice
respond without conscious planning. It is a matter of intuitive
imagination. The whole thing is the result of an inner intuitive
logic and the mood of the artist creates that impact which is
so important for a work of art..."
The conversation went on for hours, but I believe I have the essential
Wednesday, October 29th
Today we felt as if our homeward trek had already begun. There
were goodbyes to be said, particularly to Mrs. Droz and Vivianne,
who came to meet us this afternoon at the Cafe Dusmenil, opposite
the Gare Montparnasse. After they left us I went with Ary to buy
a few more paint brushes, then back to the hotel to finish our
packing. Dinner at Wadjas, with accordian music as we ate. Such
a nice young French couple shared the table with us. We had sat
with them before. They are quiet and sensitive young people. One
takes it for granted that the patrons at Wadjas aren't of the
wealthy class, but these youngsters must be having an especially
hard struggle, for they always eat very sparingly -- some vegetables,
no meat. This evening the girl pretended not to want her dessert
and insisted that the boy eat it.
I didn't want to go to our usual haunt, the Select, for after
dinner coffee, and suggested the Coupole. So we sat there a couple
of hours, watching an enormously fat woman consume great quantities
of food, climaxed by a fancy cake heaped high with whipped cream.
I felt a great moral indignation when I thought of the poor little
couple at Wadjas.
Back to the hotel to find the Hs phoning us to stop in at their
room for a farewell drink, which we did.
Thursday, October 30th
I slept a troubled sleep, running to catch trains all night. When
the alarm clock rang I opened my eyes to find Ary already dressed,
and lighting the alcohol stove to prepare tea. The cafes aren't
open that early in the morning, so we had bought oranges and brioches,
to eat for breakfast with our tea.
Breakfast finished, we wrapped up the alcohol stove, to leave
for the H-s, who don't have one. The sky was overcast and there
was a drizzle of rain, which became heavy by the time Ary went
out to get a taxi. He had some difficulty, but finally managed
to hail a dilapidated looking cab which was passing by on Boulevard
Montparnasse. Our bags piled in, we rode away, through the streets
now so familiar to me. I was still half asleep and quite dazed,
but I remember feeling a pang as we rode down the Quai Voltaire
and saw through the rain the buildings of the Louvre on the other
side of the Seine. And I remember turning to Ary and saying sadly:
"Paris is weeping at our departure."
And now it has come to an end, this six months holiday of ours.
It has been a dream come true, and I found it more wonderful by
far than I had ever imagined, I am going back home with a rich
store of memories, with a wider horizon, a broader vision, which
will enrich all my future experiences. Wherever we went I saw
the country, the people and the art not only with my own eyes,
but also through Ary's vision. Consequently, since Ary's viewpoint
is extremely individualistic, I believe no other person has seen
the places we visited from the same angle as he and I did. May
we have many more such holidays together. And even in our more
routine life may it continue to be the adventure it has been all
these years. For during our wanderings I have learned anew that
a sense of adventure comes not from outward things, but from within.