Early in the l930s Ary met the Droz family. He
was a Swiss, she was a French woman. They lived in Senlis, a
charming and historic town not far from Paris. Ary was in the
forest of Senlis, with paints and easel, when the Drozes and
their three children, and the dog came along with picnic hampers,
bound for a day's outing. They stopped to talk to Ary, and invited
him to join them.
This was the beginning of a very happy friendship.
The Drozes insisted that Ary visit them every possible weekend;
the guest bedroom was set aside for him and from one visit to
another, his favorite books and magazines were on the table
by the bed, and everything in readiness for him. On one occasion
when he had been ill, they came to Paris and took him back to
Senlis, to recuperate. The cook fussed over him and prepared
special dishes for him, especially a savory soup which he was
very fond of. Ary painted "The Kitchen," which he
retained through the years, in spite of many requests to buy
The Drozes were a very cultured couple, and the
fine French which Ary spoke was greatly due to their influence.
Mrs. Droz' letters to Ary, a number of which the Foundation
has, seem to me to be so beautifully expressed, almost poetic
and they radiate such warmth and affection that one can realize
what this friendship meant to Ary. I think the glow of this
friendship must have had something to do with the luminosity
of "The Kitchen."
An unhappy facet of the relationship developed
in 1932 or early 1933. The question of religion had never been
discussed but one weekend when Ary was in Senlis the radio broadcast
a Hitler harangue. Ary was furious, of course, and spoke his
mind very freely, including his loyalty to his fellow Jews.
Immediately he felt coolness in the air, so much so that he
departed, with the idea of never returning to visit Senlis.
But before long Mrs. Droz went to Ary's studio, begging him
to come back. After some per-suasion he did so, and found everyone
cordial as always. (He felt that it was Mr. Droz who had seemed
unfriendly after the broadcast, rather than Mrs. Droz.) But
now he found Mr. Droz most cordial.
There is an interesting and happy sequel to this
story, which occurred during our visit to Paris in 1952, Ary's
first return in 19 years.
Ary had had no word from the Drozes since he left
Paris, and he had a presentiment that they had fared badly in
the war years. He was eager to find out about them; so one Sunday
morning we took a bus bound for Senlis. Arrived at the town
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!
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, and then cried to her husband:
"C'st Monsieur Ary! Il est revenue!"
It was like a miracle to them, Ary's return after
nearly 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 it was to see him with his wife "la
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 was the kitchen,
where the old wood stove still stood, despite the modern one
by its side.
Of course the Drozes told me in detail the story
I had 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. Their meeting with Ary — the
beginning of a warm friendship…
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 occupied
the apartment on Rue de Rennes, and they returned to the old
home in Senlis, which held 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.
A few days later we found a bouquet of flowers
and a note from Mrs. Droz at the hotel desk. "Bonjour,
chers amis" she wrote. "Mes fleurs vous diront mon
passage." She went on to say that they were all gathering
to have dinner with us the following Sunday, 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, and it seemed
to be full of papas and mamas 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
for Serge on 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, an engineer engaged in some kind of atomic research,
served in the underground during the war, and 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 were mental and
emotional scars too — hardness and a materialism which
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. 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 delicious sweet white wine -- "from my country"
she said (near Bordeaux.)
After dinner, when the children were playing in
another room, conversation became more serious, 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 a 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
Another story moved us both very much. For some
time during the Occupation Jews were not allowed to purchase
food except at the end of the day, when stocks were depleted.
The Droz Family incensed by 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 monstrous brutality of the Germans
toward the Jews— “Why, they were branded like animals
— they had to suffer every indignity!"
When Ary and I returned to Paris in 1955 with
the intention of living there, Mr. Droz was ill and shortly
afterwards died. Mrs. Droz wanted us to come and live with her,
but we felt it would not be a good idea. However, we saw her
and Vivianne frequently during out stay.