Monday, April 12, 2021

Picasso in Nashville, the weather and Paducah, KY

Let's start with the weather. My return trip to Nashville from Atlanta was planned for March 25, 2021, but storms started accumulating that day followed by tornadoes. One touched down in a small town west of us. I stayed up till 2:00 am on the 26th under tornado watch. On the morning of the 26th a violent tornado devastated the city of Newnan, GA, south of Atlanta, destroying several historic homes. I still left my house in Atlanta for Nashville on the 26th of March as it was my birthday and I had bought a cake at the French bakery. Because of all this I did not realize that it had rained so heavily in Nashville that part of the town had been flooded, including the basement in my Nashville house. When I looked a couple of days later, I saw water one foot high on the basement ground (as the sump pump lever had malfunctioned.) The water had entered my new water heater. It had to be replaced with a tank-less water heater (cost $3,500 - so was not very happy about that!) Below photos of the Georgia tornadoes and Nashville flood.
On the 27th we did celebrate my birthday at my daughter's, ending with the French chocolate birthday cake. She gave me a pretty hyacinth planter that has a lovely fragrance.
The Frist Art Museum in Nashville celebrated its 20th anniversary with a unique exhibition from France called "Picasso - Figures" on loan from the Musée national Picasso-Paris. The Nashville Picasso exhibit is the one and only appearing in the U.S. in 2021. It will end here on May 9th. Advance timed tickets are required as well as social distancing in the museum. When I attended the show few people were there. The exhibition features 75 paintings, sculptures and works on paper that are exploring the artist's lifelong fascination with the body as a means of conveying his deep feelings. Famous and lesser-known works ranging from his early years to his late period are shown with accompanying explanation. There were informative panels on the wall and a short history of Picasso's life. If you click on the photos below it will enlarge and be easier to read his biography.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, on 25 April 1881. As early as seven years old, he was trained by his father, a professor of art at a local university. At 13 years of age Picasso took lessons with his father who was then working at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Picasso studied also in Madrid and took frequent trips to Paris where he moved in 1904. In 1940 Picasso applied for French citizenship but was refused. With General Franco in power in Spain, the French government could not decide whether Picasso was a communist or anarchist, so they ruled out his request. But after he died, France honored him and his work with a museum in a historic Paris building. There were photos of Picasso in the exhibit.
It felt strange in a way to see these famous paintings here in Nashville. I knew so many of them from having seen them in magazines, newspapers, postcards and so on, but here were the authentic paintings, the real thing. I guess it felt as someone who might have seen many renderings of the Eiffel Tower or the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, then see them "in the flesh" if you will. Awe inspiring. The exhibition started with a painting Pablo executed when he was not 14 years old "La Fillette aux Pieds Nus" (The Barefoot Girl.)
Picasso had numerous romantic relationships - he loved women and they fueled his art. Picasso was married twice, from 1918 to 1955 (although they lived separately from 1938 on) with Olga Khokhlova, a Ukraining ballet dancer of noble descent and the mother of his son, Paulo (Olga slowly drank herself to death after he left her for another woman, Marie-Therese Walker.) From 1961 to his death in 1973 he was married to Jacqueline Roque who he had met when he was 72 and she 26. Pablo had hundreds of affairs, and six significant mistresses, such as Marie-Therese Walker, who gave him a child, Maya (Marie-Therese hang herself later.) Then Francoise Gilot (between 1943 and 1953) with whom he had two children, Claude and Paloma. Francoise is the only woman who left him, and Picasso resented this tremendously. He disinherited their two children. Francoise subsequently married the American physician and researcher, Jonas Salk, who created the first vaccine against polio. Jacqueline Roque, his second wife, was the most featured woman across his artwork - he painted 400 portraits of her. (Jacqueline could not live without Picasso and in 1986 she committed suicide.) I took a side view of many of the paintings to avoid the glare from the lights above.
On June 3, 1964, Picasso painted Jacqueline Roque, his future second wife, and titled it "Jacqueline aux mains croisées" (Jacqueline with crossed hands.) She looks like a 20th century long-necked sphinx with the vacant gaze of a Mona Lisa. It is quite a famous work of art. I was surprised to see it in Nashville.
I took several views of it.
There was a short video showing Picasso painting a flower. Below is the sculpture "La femme à la poussette" (Woman with a baby carriage.) In 1950, while walking around in Vallauris (southeast France) Picasso would pick up random thrown away pieces and gather them for his work. For the bronze sculpture below Picasso combined pieces from a real baby buggy with the base of a frying pan and a handful of tart molds, then completed the sculpture with plaster such as the woman's head and arms.
Interspersed on the walls were some of Picasso's quotations.
There were also descriptions of Picasso's creative phases, labeled "periods." The "Blue Period" started in 1901 until 1904. The "Rose Period" lasted until 1906. Then from 1906 to 1909 Picasso was inspired by African art knwon as the "African Period" to be followed by his "Cubism Period" that was at first influenced by Cezanne. Picasso is known for breaking down basic forms then reconstructing them in an abstract way. Picasso took inspiration from everything in his life, his emotions, events, women, and work from his fellow artists. And in turn he has inspired millions of people.
From his academic years in Barcelona until his death, Picasso was inspired by paintings from Masters of the past. He redid them in his revolutionary style. He produced series from Delacroix, Velasquez, Manet, and more. Picasso was very stimulated by Edouard Manet's (French, 1832-1883)"Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" (Luncheon on the Grass.) Picasso recreated this painting his own way in 40 works of various disciplines such as paintings, printing, drawings and ceramics. Below is Manet's original 1863 oil painting (at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris) and Picasso's 1960 interpretation.
Below is one of the last paintings of Picasso one year from his death. The Musician was painted in 1972 in his house in Mougins, in the south of France.
Picasso is a pillar of modern art and one of the most influential artists of his generation. He is one of the most prolific in history with close to 50,000 known works. To be able to see some of his works in Nashville was a real treat. It was like a little piece of Paris. My mother lived for many years in the Marais district of Paris where the Musée national Picasso is now located. But in those years (the 1970s) the museum was just another dark historic building that was less than half a mile (750 meters) from her flat. The Hôtel Salé ( “salé” meaning “salty” in French) where is the Picasso museum now, was built in 1659 for Pierre Aubert de Fontenay, a collector of the salt tax. Along the years it saw many owners, including the Embassy of the Republic of Venice (before 1728) then more prestigious owners, a school, etc. Below an old photo of the building (pretty much as I used to see it) and now as a museum for over 5,000 works of Picasso and tens of thousands of archived pieces. (The museum is temporarily closed due to the Covid virus.)
After my father died my mother sold the big house and moved to the Marais district of Paris. Then, it was not touristy or even prestigious - it was just another old quartier of Paris, which is why she was able to purchase two flats there (to connect into one larger flat.) Although when she moved years later, the area was starting to be gentrified. Now of course Paris has changed a lot. The last time I visited the area wishing to go the the neighborhood restaurant we used to visit, it is now a Starbucks coffee shop, really. Of course I love my home town of Paris but at the same time when I go back I'm always afraid to be unable to find the places I knew. About two million people live in Paris now - 50 million tourists went there in 2019. Actually it is not easy to have your home town be Paris, who everyone else loves, too. I was thinking it might be nice to be from a small town, where things do not change much and local people are there, not herds of tourists. So I placed my finger on the U.S. map to see where I could be from,and what it would be like to be from there. My finger landed on Paducah, Kentucky.
Paducah? I had not heard of it, but it looks close to Nashville. Then it starts with the letters Pa - like Paris; Pa - Paducah. It is also a river town, since it is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. I found out that it is one of the world's UNESCO Creative Cities. This year is the 30th anniversary of the National Quilt Museum that was established in Paducah in 1991 (a must see for me.) There is also a famous African American museum located in the former 1908 Hotel Metropolitan where guests included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Tina Turner and more. I read that restaurants are also abundant there, with Tasting Table naming Paducah among the best small town for food in the U.S. River boat cruises stop in the Paducah port. (Photos courtesy the Paducah Tourist Bureau.)
On the Paducah travel site I also read: "Historic Downtown Paducah, Kentucky, has been consistently recognized as one of America's best and most beautiful Main Streets by Architectural Digest, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and many others. Preserved 19th century architecture frames contemporary cultural experiences. A certified Kentucky Cultural District with twenty square blocks listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Downtown is incredibly walkable with creativity at every turn." Well, I might not be able to fly back to Paris because of the virus, but there is a good chance I can manage the two or three hour drive north from Nashville to Paducah, Kentucky, this summer. I'm pleased my finger fell on Paducah on the U.S. map - must be a nice home town, too.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens in the spring

Last Tuesday, March 16, 2021, I drove to the Georgia house. On Wednesday I drove to the accountant in Woodstock, GA., in Cherokee County, north of my house, and gave her all my receipts to prepare my income taxes. The next day I read the filing date had been moved to May 17 instead of April 15. At least I won't be late. Then I went back to clearing out the study that I had started last month. There were 4 large cartons on top of each other I had been reluctant (or afraid) to check. As I thought, they contained old magazines, bills, receipts, letters, children drawings and so forth. I started placing the magazines in recycling bags but then realized that some were quite old. The library told me they are not accepting donations at this time and Goodwill does not take magazines.
When I saw the two magazines above I thought to check on eBay to find a price - the 1989 Time magazine Trump issue is selling up to $55 and the Ronald Reagan November 17, 1980 up to $25. I guess I'll keep them. There was also an August 1981 issue of the French magazine Paris Match featuring Princess Diana on her honeymoon. In the magazine I had placed 3 postcards of her 29 July 1981 wedding to Prince Charles. I remember I had flown to Paris to visit my mother that summer and stopped first in London for several days - where I picked up the postcards.
In two days I was able to fill 10 large plastic bags as I did throw away a large number of magazines and assorted papers. It felt liberating to bring them to the high school recycling bin.
Yesterday morning, March 20, 2021, was a bit cool and windy but very sunny, a good day for the start of spring. After going through all these old cartons and dust of ages getting some fresh air sounded quite enticing. I remembered the Smith-Gilbert Gardens my late husband and I visited often in the past. In 2011 I had found out that these gardens were only 4.5 miles from our house. I wrote 6 blog posts on them. You may like to read the history of the gardens in my first post dated August 31, 2011, "A Secret Garden in Cobb County, GA, part 1." I showed more of the gardens in part 2 and part 3. Subsequent posts were written to show the gardens in summer "End of Summer at the Smith-Gilbert Gardens" in the fall "Return to Smith-Gilbert Gardens" and finally "Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Winter." I had not written a post for spring and needed to remedy that. I arrived at the gardens before 10 am on Saturday. Unfortunately I had left my good Nikon and Canon cameras in Nashville, but still had my pocket camera and cell phone.
Being the first day of spring I was not sure there would be many blooms to see. But daffodils were plentiful. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
I had forgotten how many sculptures were placed among the plants and paths. The "untitled" sphere by Grace Knowlton (American 1932-2020) looked happy surrounded by a brilliant carpet of daffodils.
There were only two other visitors - two young ladies in their spring outfits taking photographs of themselves.
It had been at least five years since I visited the gardens and noticed some changes. The wood benches had been replaced by metal benches. There was now a small children play area. The rock garden had grown and grey pebbles/stones had been placed on pathways - making it a bit difficult to walk.
The little stream running into the waterfall was there, lovely still, with many birds flying around.
When we had come to the gardens in winter I had seen some camellias blooming, but nothing like the blooms I saw yesterday. Along the path I'd see one bush covered with blooms, take pictures, then there was another one, with more blooms, then another one. Some of them blooming profusely, all of them exquisite. I could not stop taking pictures and wished I had my good cameras with me.
There were a couple of attractive early spring blooming magnolia trees - a tall pink one covered with large petals,
and a white magnolia tree with star-like flowers, a Loebner Magnolia "Spring Snow." I was able to reach a bloom to smell it. It had a lovely scent.
It was a bit early for azalea bushes but some were starting to flower.
I walked back to the central part of the gardens to sit under blooming trees.
Looking up, it was lovely to only see blooms and blue sky.
After a while I walked back to some other paths and found ... more camellias! One camellia bush was covered with coral-pink blooms - I mean covered. This camellia is named "Rev. John Drayton" - (in extreme top right corner below.) I checked on the reverend on the Net - and was pleased I did! It turns out that the Drayton family founded Magnolia Plantation by the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina in 1676. It was a rice plantation at first then it passed later to Rev. John Drayton who planted camellias japonica and created romantic gardens on the plantation. He also introduced azaleas to the United States and opened the gardens to the public in 1870. Magnolia Plantation is now operated as a house museum and gardens (and still in the same family.) They advertize 1,000 camellia cultivars (some historic) on display from mid-November to April. Goodness, I need to drive there someday. You can read about these gardens here - Magnolia Plantation gardens.
Another tree with delicate pink blossoms was called a Prunus Cyclamin Cherry.
Going back to my car I walked by a blooming bonsai tree, a large tree covered with red berries and a plant with leaves of such a vivid green that they almost looked artificial - it all looked of the new spring.
Winter has finally turned into spring. Now with more vaccines and more people vaccinated maybe life with turn back to normal as well. That reminded me of an old song (1965) the group The Byrds used to sing, called "Turn, turn, turn."

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Books ... almost given away

Over a year ago I wrote a blog-post showing all the books left in my Georgia house. Because of Covid not much has been done with these books last year. I did give away at least a couple of thousands. I have to go through them carefully as my late husband used to insert many items inside the books. I usually place the books in bags and give them to the Library, Goodwill or have the Kidney Foundation come and pick them up.
My late husband read at least 3 or 4 books a week, and I read many as well. Toward the end of his illness he loved to count the books, look at them,reshelf them wherever, and so forth. I cleared up all the books in the two bookshelves in the den and also a big one in the study, but ther are still many books left, as you can see from the bookshelves below.
The little yellow sticky notes show the numbers of books my husband counted. By the look of this bookshelf and on the sides, countaining 500+ books, I can tell that I still have at least 5000 more to go through. My husband had told me that some of his books were valuable, but I don't know exactly where to find their value, and it is time consuming. I usually pile them up in bags keeping only those that I may read later, look interesting, old, or that I like. Of course I have to clear out more than books in the house.
Last month while in Georgia I had several bags ready to go out then remembered that I had placed a couple of old green books in them - had not really checked them. I went back and retrieved them. One was "Russian People" by Princess Cantacuzene. I certainly did not want to give that book away! The first time I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005, I bought several old books on that country, and three books by this author. Julia Dent Grant Speransky, Princess Cantacuzene (1876-1975) was the second grandchild of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. She had married a Russian prince. Here she is below.
She was the eldest child of Frederick Dent Grant and his wife Ida Marie Honoré (of French ancestry.) Julia was born at the White House in 1876. In the 1890s Julia and her aunt traveled to Europe to promote the Chicago World's Fair "World's Columbia Exposition." While in France she met Prince Mikhail Cantacuzene of Odessa, Russia. (Михаи́л Миха́йлович Кантаку́зин, граф) who was the Russian attaché to the Russian Embassy in Rome. After a courtship of two days they became engaged in Cannes. Below vintage postcards of Cannes, France (Cannes is about 18.5 miles (30 km) from Nice, France on the French Riviera.) (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Julia's aunt had leased the Villa Beaulieu for the summer season, a "cottage" owned by the Astor's in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple had a lavish wedding there, in two ceremonies - on September 24 1899 in a private Russian Orthodox ceremony and the following day at All Saint's Memorial Chapel in Newport.
Because I enjoy visiting old historic architecture, I had planned a trip to Newport, RI, in the fall of 2017 with my husband, but unfortunately he was not well enough to travel. I saw that the villa Beaulieu is one of Newport's oldest historic mansions. It was built in 1859 and had several owners, including John Jacob Astor III and Cornelius Vanderbilt III. It was designed to resemble a French chateau, Second Empire style. Here it is below.
The villa has 14,500 square feet, sixteen bedrooms, library, billiard room, a large veranda, etc. Some of the interiors were shown in a real estate magazine last year when it changed ownership. (Photos courtesy Sotheby's.)
The city of Newport, RI, has a long history. It was founded in 1639. It is about 75 miles (119 km) south of Boston. In the mid 19th century southern planters built summer cottages there to escape the heat from the South. By the turn of the 20th century wealthy families from the Gilded Age had built several "summer cottages" (mansions) there.
After their wedding in Newport, the Prince and Princess Cantacuzene went to live in St. Petersburg or at the large (80,000 acres) family estate of Bouromka, in the province of Poltava, in the central Ukraine, on the Vorskla River. In the book that I retrieved from the bag, "Russian People," Julia described in details her life at the estate. It was dominated by her mother-in-law Elizabeth Sicard, who was from a French Huguenot family in Odessa. At the estate everyone spoke French mostly, not Russian. Below is Bouromka.
During her years in Russia she was a witness to the imperial life as well as the Bolshevik Revolution. She wrote 2 other books, Revolutionary Days: Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914-1917, published in 1919, and My Life Here and There, published in 1922. I have all three books (the other two somewhere still on the bookshelves hopefully.) I had forgotten that my book "Russian People" had an autograph by the Princess. I am not sure how valuable this copy is, but it is valuable to me. (Be sure to click on collage to enlarge.)
Princess Cantacuzene's books are lively, giving a close, first witness account on the Russian royal family (she was critical of the unpopular Empress and also of the weak Tsar.) Her reports of the Revolution are spellbinding. She was in St. Petersburg during the bloody "July Crisis" and managed to have her three children (aged 8, 12 and 16) escape with a party of Americans on the Trans-Siberian. Her books are written in an old style - but I read so many old books that I am used to the style.
Usually I read three or four books at the same time. I rarely read on my Kindle or ebooks, I prefer paper. Because of my husband's Alzheimer's disease I try to be careful with my brain. I read several articles on neuroscience that show the way the brain reads on Kindle is different than the way the brain processes reading books (different part of the brains.) (See one article here.) The books below are those I am reading right now.
"I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time." - Viriginia Woolf, British writer (1882-1941.)
My house is not as full of books as the one above, thankfully ... but I'd love to visit it. Then I looked at the second green book from the bag of discards. It was one of my husband's, a copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797-1851.) She had published her novel anonymously in 1818. It was translated into French and published in 1821. Finally the first popular British edition, under her name, was published in 1831. It became very popular and was published many many times. I thought I'd place this green book back in the bag. But, just in case, I researched it on the Web; it was good that I did. Below some editions of Frankenstein and my late husband's copy.
It turned out that his 1932 first edition of Frankenstein illustrated by Nino Carbe was the first illustrated edition of the novel published since the 1831 edition. It is a collector's item now. I found a copy, now out of stock, in an antiquarian shop online that was sold, I don't know when, for $500. I found another copy for $950! I guess this green book won't go back in the giveaway bag either. The illustrator, Nino Carbe (1909-1993) was born in Avola, Sicily, and came with his mother three years later to join his dad in America. In his twenties he sent some illustrations to a publishing company that wanted to publish a new illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's book. They accepted all his illustrations. Here are some from my green book.
Nino Carbe was talented in various mediums. In addition to book illustrations, he was a noted artist and worked many years for Walt Disney. From 1938 to 1946 he worked on animated classics, such as Bambi, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia and more. He also illustrated some of the classic children Golden Books and did costume designing. Below he is shown in his car, and some of his work. (Courtesy Nino Carbe Art.)
So I kept those two precious green books, they won't be given away. Have you ever almost thrown out something that turned out to be valuable? Below is a painting by Bessie Davidson, an Australian-French artist (1879-1965) entitled "Le Livre Vert" (The Green Book.)
"What a blessing it is to love books as I love them, to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal!" - Thomas Babington Macaulay, British historian (1800-1859.)
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