All Fun at La Fontaine



It’s all fun and champagne at La Fontaine.
Tim Mackintosh-Smith will be doing his seminar in English November 1st.  I will be reading about Ibn Battutah’s trip to Sri Lanka while we are there.

Don’t forget.  Lot’s going on there over the next couple of weeks.






Before QEII there was Misia

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec cover for La revue blanche featuring Misia

Queen Elizabeth II may be the most photographed woman in world but my guess is Misia, the Queen of Paris from 1890-1920 was probably the most painted woman of her era.

So how did having dinner with the daughter of a Polish sculptor born in St. Petersburg become the sought after invitation by all Parisian society?

Misia literally became the muse for nearly every important artist, musician and writer during her life, a kind of pre-film Elizabeth Taylor of Culture.

As a young woman, Misia’s magnetic personality, piano playing and ample bosom caught the Nabi artists’ eyes.  Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Vallotton and Romain Coolus formed the core of avant garde painters who turned away from realism.  For inspiration they looked toward medieval art, Japanese prints, ancient Egypt and Misia.

As the number of painting featuring her grew, Misia figured out how to keep her circle of admirers without having to live with their melancholic poverty.  She possessed the ability to meet and marry the right men.

In 1893 Misia married Thadee Natanson who published La Revue Blanche with his brothers.  Revue Blanche was THE progressive magazine attracting the best writers and artists of the time.  The magazine provided the platform for every political, social and artistic issue during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century.  Misia became the embodiment of the magazine’s elegant Parisian readers.

The plot around her personal life thickened when millionaire Alfred Edwards, the publisher of La Matin newspaper, agreed to bail out her husband’s business in exchange for Misia becoming his fourth wife.  With Edwards’ money, yacht and newspaper, Misia became the friend to musicians Ravel, Stravinsky, and Debussy.

However that life was short lived.

Within a couple of years Edwards fell under the spell of true courtesan and actress Genevieve Lantelme.  Misia attempted to keep her husband by dressing and acting like her young rival.  Misia’s efforts failed and the actress became Edwards’ fifth wife.

Misia countered by becoming involved with Catalan artist Jose Maria Sert.

Through Sert she was introduced de Diaghilev, the director of the Ballet Russes.   Using her large monthly divorce allowance, Misia evolved into the Godmother to Diaghilev’s ballet company.  Her Bonnard decorated Qaui Voltaire drawing room became the center of Paris’ new artistic elite.

Misia (striped robe) with Coco Chanel (white pantsuit) 1923 in Venice

After WWI, Misia called Gabrielle, aka Coco, Chanel her BFF. Together they were a legendary duo of popularity.  As they partied, addicted to heroin and cocaine, Misia’s figure slimmed into the living model for Coco’s creations.

In 1920 Misia married Jose Maria Sert.  Having learned from her previous mistakes, instead of trying to compete against Sert’s young mistress, she too fell in love with “Roussy” and moved her into their house.  Seven years later, Misia tired of the ménage a trios and divorced Sert.  Interesting enough, like Misia’s previous rival, Roussy died young leaving Sert free to reconcile with Misia.

And the dramas continued.

Why my sudden interest in Misia?  She is currently the key subject of a temporary exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

Looking into Les Tuileries Garden from Musee d’Orsay

Misia was the center of a cultural universe that included the rich and the famous at the turn of the century.   Had I read about her before our visit, I could have added some interesting details to nearly half of the museum’s exhibits.

The Musee d’Orsay’s works are world famous.  An art neophyte would recognize many of the paintings.

The museum’s building, located in the Saint Germain dstrict on the left bank of the Seine, is an attraction in itself.  Orginally a train station, Victor Laloux designed the building in 1898.  After sitting empty when the trains stopped, the government transformed the interior.   It reopened in 1986 housing the French Republic’s painting, sculpture, furniture and photography from 1848-1914, D’Orsay acts as a link between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art .  D’Orsay provides an excellent tour through a diversity of trends: realism, impressionism, symbolism, Nabis and divisionism.

The Misia exhibit continues through 9 September 2012. 

Having read more about her, I think the exhibit is dull and does not do her life justice.  If you go, I suggest either reading Gold and Fizdale’s book Misia: The Life of Misia Sert or the blog It’s About Time which features more photos than the exhibit.

It’s About Time is a fantastic blog.  The art historian author has created a virtual art museum.

Camel Caravan on Block 338

فأكل الجمل وعلى كل ما قامت.

He ate the camel and all that carried.

 To eat someone out of house and home.

– From the delightful Apricots Tomorrow by Primrose Arnander and Ashkhain Skipwith

To compete with the donkeys and elephants in Washington DC and the Arabian horses of Dubai, Bahrain has created a caravan of camels to enliven Block 338 and the Seef Mall Entrance.

In a bid to encourage the local artists’ paints to beautify the community, the government sponsored a camel painting contest.  Personally I liked number 23.

If you have always wanted a camel but were put off by having to feed it, then these are the camels for you.  They are up for auction.

Although real Bedouins will wonder what is the use of such a camel, for the city dweller, they are a perfect reminder of their ancestral past.

tiny OM Opens His Shop

tiny Om came into being during our yoga training.  Our talented French artist Virginie began illustrating the asanas using a figure she named “tiny Om”.

tiny Om is a talented yogi.  While I was mastering TADASANA, tiny Om had quickly learned the 49 asanas taught in class and explained them in his own special way – bellybutton out.

Over the months as the yoga training sank in deeper, tiny Om inspired Virginie to create a line of rose and white gold, chakra necklaces and bracelets.  The first exhibition will take place June 20, 2012.

If an ocean or two prevents you from attending this opening, you can visit tiny Om’s e-shop.

Virginie’s talent and time all goes towards her favorite charity in France.  The profits support Presence, a home for developmentally disabled children.

This is the soft compassionate heart of a true yogi.

Namaste Virginie and tiny Om.

Culture, Expat Style

One great aspect of expat living in the Middle East is the number of opportunities to indulge in our  personal interests.

Unlike being in Paris, London, New York or Los Angeles where there are a lot of professional operas, ballet companies, museums and theaters, here the competition is less.   As we pursue our high-end hobbies, we find ourselves given opportunities to exhibit and perform nationally.

The expats’ summer exodus will begin this month so the various groups are packing in their culture before the year’s end.

The America Women’s Association’s Visions exhibit runs from June 13-18 at the Bahrain Arts Centre.  As is the local tradition, the ladies only morning is June 14th.  Since we are traveling to Paris and London to meet some friends, I will miss the exhibit.  Artist and teacher to many of the painters, Seana Mallen, sent me some pre-opening photos.  I hope the Louvre will make up for it.

Visions formally opened last night under the Patronage of the Ministry of Culture.  Although I got an invitation, I didn’t go as I was attending the Philip King’s 1943 farce See How They Run at the British Club.

This traditional British play made me giggle with its mistaken identities, lot’s of running in and out of doors, an old lady stuffed in a closet, a naked vicar and the 1940s villain, a Nazi POW.  The cast members are traditional expat actors – primarily British who have lived abroad for many years and are lawyers, teachers, engineers, university professors, business owners or students by day.  They ensured the show was performed despite a public scuffle within the club’s board of directors, six date changes and an entire turnover of the cast.

The program said when the original West End production opened in January 1945, the audience did not leave despite three “doodle-bugs”, V-1 Flying Bombers, exploding nearby.

The Brits are still unflappable.  Neither the actors nor the audience were fazed when a chair leg collapsed and with a loud BANG, a lady dropped on the ground.  Leaving the auditorium, assailed by tear gas, I started coughing while the men continued sitting around the pool drinking their pints.

See How They Run runs two more nights – Thursday the 14th and Friday the 15th and includes dinner.  Tickets are available at the British Club.

The boy’s piano teacher will be singing in The Manama Singers Happy Together concert.  The Gilgamesh Ballroom will echo with Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Otis Redding and Michael Jackson.

Their piano teacher will also be playing in MASK’s Circle of Life, “inspired” by the Lion King.  It’s good to see MASK survived despite last year’s front page news that the conductor and the director scuttled off the island together leaving their families behind.

Such is the circle of expat life.

Reception Hands to Year 6 Batiks

St Christopher’s Art

To Erin for Writing Her Name

St Christopher’s School ends the year highlighting the children’s achievements.  Although academics are stressed, every child is encouraged to explore and pursue another talent whether in music, art, drama or sports.

This year’s Junior School Art Exhibit is outstanding.  I was impressed by the innovative projects which still allowed the children to do the work themselves.  The work is displayed so every child made a contribution.  And the pieces are hung with a professional eye.

It is a wonderful exhibit.  If you are in Sar, it is worth it to stop in and see it.

The Junior School’s production of Oliver is coming up June 25 and 26.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries


Tales by Chapter

%d bloggers like this: