Ile de la Cite where Paris began Blair Pessemier Acrylic on linen 18 x 21.5 inches
ARTNOTES: Over a Glass of Champagne
This was a week of French Heritage for us, interspersed with art workshops.
On Tuesday, we went to the Champagne country with two generous American friends who rented us a car and took us out to lunch (they threw in a couple bottles of bubbles for good measure) . We ate in Epernay, home to half the champagne houses, and tasted four types of champagne over lunch. We stopped at Dumensil, our favorite little vintner on the way to Reims. Blair and I have wanted, for some time, to visit the Foujita chapel at the Mumm’s champagne house. Foujita, the painter, Japanese born and educated, came to Paris in the 1920s. He hung around with Man Ray, Matisse, Picasso and others. He was quite a successful artist in Paris. He eventually went back to Japan during the war, and was a military artist there. Ultimately, he returned to Paris.
He had a religious vision and was baptised in Reims cathedral in 1959, with René Lalou (the head of the Mumm champagne house) as his godfather and Françoise Taittinger as his godmother. Mumms donated the land for this chapel, designed entirely by Foujita. In his signature drawing/painting style he captured a rather lascivious interpretation of the seven deadly sins; he places Mary and a collection of women around the apse of the church, where one usually finds apostles. Most remarkable is that Foujita himself executed these frescoes when he was nearly 80 years of age.
On Thursday night, a French American friend invited us to an art show/book signing. It was in a part of town we rarely frequent, not far from Opera and the big auction house, Drouot. On the street was a spice shop: a very expensive spice shop, but the fragrance slipped through the door and dragged us in by the nose. The spices they had were quite impressive – maybe the largest selection of vanilla beans I’d ever seen. The store itself had dark wood shelves laden with jars of spice – a large ship model made of cloves in the center of the store was also enchanting. We left with two cans of sardines in impressive packages, of the sort we could age over time to enhance their flavor. I took a list of spices and costs, www.epices-roellinger.com
We went on to the art show, on the second floor of classic 19th century artist studio. It was a place we would never have found on our own, and we were grateful to have an introduction. We drank two glasses of Pol Roger champagne and talked about art. A few wasabi-coated nuts put us in the mood for Japanese food, and we went to Higuma, an inexpensive, fun, fast dinner on rue St. Anne.
Last night we went to the closing of the Village Voice Bookstore in Paris. Famous figures from dust jackets, dressed in arts-and-letters natty, were shoulder to shoulder crying “isn’t it a shame” over glasses of champagne. Of course, it is a shame, but at the same time I felt we are on the brink of a new era, “living in interesting times” (which, of course, aren’t always pleasant, but stimulating). We wandered home through the poetry fair at St. Sulpice, where one could buy beautiful handmade books of letterpress-printed poetry for very little money. “Do you think the French government subsides this?” I asked Blair. “Probably.”
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Painting at Giverny Laurie Fox Pessemier Acrylic on linen 18 x 13
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