My soul is wanderlust and full of the need to roam, to find fulfillment as a painter. After a difficult divorce, I sailed for France. In France, I became a bohemian. There I had $150 and a job as a part-time maid.
Following six weeks in Paris, I took a train to Fontainebleau to study art in the royal chateau where Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated. The first morning I met Henri Goetz, a Parisian painter who drove out to Fontainebleau twice a week in his Citroen car. How thrilling it was because, in reality, I felt at home immediately with oil paint. I knew by instinct how to put it down on canvas and how to mix and match colors and textures. My draftsmanship was good. And I think my first painting of nude models were successful.
The life of an art student was wonderful. Equally wonderful was to get to know Henri Goetz. One Thursday after class, he invited me to ride into the forest near Barbizon with him and some French students he brought out that day to gather rocks for his patio garden in Paris. We all piled into his Citroen and off to the forest we went. I felt special and this was my life, my place in this earth, and I wanted to stay in France forever.
During the wonderful two months of July and August at Fontainebleau I became friends with some of the music students. One young cellist invited me one night to sit in on a rehearsal of Ravel’s Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello. The music wafted from the conservatory into the street as I approached in total enchantment. So I sat in a white wicker chair, placed a drawing pad on my lap and went into a spell of enchantment when music joins drawing.
After Fontainebleau, I begged my father to continue to support me until I could find a bilingual secretarial job. I even enrolled in a Gregg shorthand class in French. I went on job interviews and considered getting a paper route for the Paris Herald Tribune. But my father cut off my money supply as I struggled hand-to-mouth to earn a living.
One day I pawned my jewelry in order to eat. I received about $10. I dressed in a worn black suit and coat with a ruffed up black fur collar. On my feet were black suede boots with the heels worn to a nub. My hair hung unevenly straight because of my own cutting job. My skin was pale with little color but a bright red lipstick. I had become a bohemian. Yet, I was full of the art life of Paris. So there I was full of the magic of all the elegance, art, literature, street life and feeling of living in Paris. My whole persona was no longer American; I had turned into a mademoiselle. My whole mannerism was much softer and sensitive to life and beauty. I was not alone in Paris. My boyfriend was an oboist who drove a motorcycle around Paris with me hanging on. As we wove in and out of traffic with cars chasing after us, I’d scream. My oboist would yell, “Just don’t look back.” Then, I’d squeeze my eyes closed. He was a student of Nadia Boulanger, a famous music teacher. At Christmas he asked me to paint a Christmas card for all of Nadia’s students to give to her. I drew Nadia dressed as Santa Claus driving her sleigh over the rooftops of Paris. Sheet music flew from her sacks. I was so fearful that such a famous person would not like the card but John reported she liked it. By that time, Nadia was near 90 years and still guiding so many famous composers and performers who came from all over the world to her doorstep.
By Christmas, I was barely hanging on with little money. I had not planned to be down and out in Paris. We ate cheese and noodle everyday except once a week when we splurged our precious Francs in a Chinese restaurant in the Left Bank. I continued to study with M. Goetz in his Paris studio which was heated by wood burning in a potbelly stove. I was so poor that I thought of becoming an artist’s model.
The end came when I had to decide whether to remain in Paris by cashing in my boat ticket or retrieved my jewelry from the pawn shop and sail to the United States.
New York looked like a foreign country. When I reached Indianapolis, I had one cent left in my purse.
I hope you enjoy looking through my French paintings, drawings and etchings.