Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lady of a Portrait

Louisa Dusinberre can devote herself to painting much more full-time now that her twenty year career in the British Embassy in Paris ended Friday. She plans to show with me next spring if all goes well. I saw her work most recently at her studio in the 18th and before that at a show in June at Artstarté in the 7th. Her site is http://www.louisart.net

I met Louisa, who is English and speaks in a kind of English accent that I think is described as "plummy," through an old friend who is English-Swedish, and both, like me, have been around Paris for over twenty years. Our mutual friend, Elisa, who has worked in journalism and public relations, struck out on her own two years ago to found a dinner-debate club whose mission is "bonding cultures," and goes by Elisa's last name, "The Kitson." I have been the lucky witness to many, many a high-level discussion there, now held at the very gracious Hotel Regina. Next up on November 19th is a debate about Sovereign Wealth Funds, and on January 30th non-governmental agencies, titled "NGO's - Enemies or Allies?" But you'll have to go to Switzerland for that one, because it will take place in a chateau in Geneva! www.thekitson.com

I digress.

I asked Louisa to paint my portrait. She will come here today to talk it over. Just as the artist must face himself (herself!) every day and ask the questions "Who am I?" "What do I see/feel/what is inside?" so also must the sitter ask "Who am I?" "How do I want to be seen?" "What will I reveal and what will people see that I want to hide?"

I found this out yesterday on my own in contemplating her visit.

The idea behind my request (besides the fact that I like her work and trust her)(and appreciate her stark honesty - see her self-portrait here) was so over-arching and pretentious I hate to admit it. But I will. It is in the grand tradition of art dealers to have their portraits painted by their artists. When I mentioned this to Louisa, she quipped, "Oh, so you see yourself as Ambroise Vollard?"

I googled him. He was dealer and friend to Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Paul CĂ©zanne, Auguste Renoir (whose portrait of him illustrates the Wikipedia entry), Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and the icing on the cake, the first exhibit of Pablo Picasso!

I myself was thinking more along the lines of Joseph Duveen, who (Wikipedia again) husbanded the tastes of the great U.S. robber barons of the turn of the century to put together collections that are now in museums like the Frick in NYC and the Mellon collection of the National Gallery in Washington D.C. He was knighted and eventually made a baron for his philanthropy.

I was thinking also of Peggy Guggenheim, whose portrait by Alfred Courmes, shows a lovely flapper that hints of her great taste but not of her generosity!

We're thinking big here.

Louisa told me it all depended on what I want. (Yet another question to add to the list above: "What do I want?") To prioritize choices and get guidance in making decisions, I write the choices down on little pieces of paper and choose each, one by one. I wrote down "big art dealer honcho," "nude" (quel horreur!), and simply "Grace."

The choice that came up was simply "Grace."

So here I am today yet again asking that age-old question!

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