Nov 142017
 

Manet

Today is coincidence day – again. My title is deliberately misleading because I am not going to deal with Édouard Manet nor Felix Mendelssohn. Today is the birthday of Julie Manet (1878-1966), Édouard’s niece, and of Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847), Felix’s sister. Both worked in areas similar to their more well-known kin, but tended to be pushed aside in their lifetimes in favor of the men in their lives. I am not in a position to do much to redress the balance, but I can set you on the right path.

Julie Manet was a painter, but is better known as a model for the likes of Manet, Berthe Morisot (her mother), and Renoir. She also kept a detailed diary documenting the life and times of a variety of Impressionist artists, and held an extensive collection of late 19th and early 20th century art, in large part because of her association with active artists in Paris.

Julie Manet was born in Paris, the daughter and only child of artist Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet, younger brother of Édouard Manet. Both of her parents by the time she was 16, and so she came under the guardianship of the poet/critic Stéphane Mallarmé and went to live with her cousins. She also received support from the family’s artist friends, Renoir in particular.

Throughout her life Julie posed frequently for her mother and other Impressionist artists, including Renoir and her uncle Édouard. Here’s a small gallery:

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Manet

 

Renoir

Manet began a diary as a teenager; not the usual diary of a well-off girl bound in leather, but a series of memories jotted down in notebooks and on scraps of paper, published in English in 1987 as Growing up with the Impressionists. Of particular importance are her reminiscences of the effect that the Dreyfus Affair of the late 19th/early 20th century had on the art community. The Affair began in December 1894 with the treason conviction of captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent, sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. Dreyfus was later proven innocent, and a combination of military corruption and anti-Semitism were shown to be to blame for convicting him in the first place. But between 1894 and 1906 public opinion in Paris was deeply divided between those for and those against Dreyfus. Many Parisians simply could not believe that the military would fake evidence and falsely accuse an innocent man (which is exactly what they did), and anti-Semitism was rife. Dinner parties were notorious for descending into near brawls if the Dreyfus Affair were brought up.

The art community was as deeply divided and as passionate about their opinions as any other, stating them quite openly. But Renoir insisted on being neutral in public.  He claimed that he was neither pro- or anti-Dreyfus, but was, first and foremost, a Frenchman. Julie Manet’s diary tells a different story. According to her written accounts, Renoir was quite obviously anti-Semitic and argued vehemently in private that Dreyfus was guilty, even though the evidence suggested otherwise.

In May 1900 Julie Manet married Ernest Rouart, artist and nephew of the painter Henri Rouart. The wedding, which took place in Passy, was a double ceremony in which Julie’s cousin Jeannie Gobillard married Paul Valéry.

Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn, later Fanny [Cäcilie] Mendelssohn Bartholdy and, after her marriage, Fanny Hensel, was a pianist and composer, rivaling her brother Felix in both respects. She composed over 460 pieces of music in her short lifetime. Her compositions include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her compositions were originally published under her brother’s name in his opus 8 and 9 collections, because it was not considered appropriate at the time for a woman to be a composer (including by Felix himself). Many of Fanny’s works were not disentangled from Felix’s oeuvre for decades, and, some are still under debate.  Her Easter sonata, for example, was not shown to be hers, and not Felix’s until 2010, after years of painstaking research by a a doctoral candidate at Duke University, and performed for the first time with Fanny listed as composer in 2012.

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, the oldest of four children. She was descended on both sides from distinguished Jewish families. Her parents were Abraham Mendelssohn (who was the son of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and later changed the family surname to Mendelssohn Bartholdy), and Lea, née Salomon, a granddaughter of the entrepreneur Daniel Itzig. She was not however brought up as Jewish, and never practiced Judaism.

Mendelssohn received her first piano instruction from her mother, who had been trained in the Berliner-Bach tradition by Johann Kirnberger, who was himself a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. Thus, as a 13 year old, she could already play all 24 Preludes from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier by heart, and she did so in honor of her father’s birthday in 1818. She studied briefly with the pianist Marie Bigot in Paris, and finally with Ludwig Berger. In 1820 Fanny, along with her brother Felix, joined the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin which was led by Carl Friedrich Zelter. Zelter at one point favored Fanny over Felix. He wrote to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1816, introducing Abraham Mendelssohn to the poet: “He has adorable children and his oldest daughter could give you something of Sebastian Bach. This child is really something special.” Much later, in an 1831 letter to Goethe, Zelter described Fanny’s skill as a pianist with what he considered the highest praise for a woman at the time: “She plays like a man.” Both Fanny and Felix received instruction in composition with Zelter starting in 1819.

Fanny showed prodigious musical ability as a child and began to write music. Visitors to the Mendelssohn household in the early 1820s, including Ignaz Moscheles and Sir George Smart, were equally impressed by both siblings. However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Her father wrote to her in 1820 “Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.” Although Felix was privately broadly supportive of her as a composer and a performer, he was cautious (professedly for family reasons) of her publishing her works under her own name. He wrote:

From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it.

Felix did arrange with Fanny for some of her songs to be published under his name, which resulted in an embarrassing moment when Queen Victoria, receiving Felix at Buckingham Palace, expressed her intention of singing the composer her favorite of his songs, “Italien” (words by Franz Grillparzer), which Felix had to admit was by Fanny.

In 1829, after a courtship of several years, Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel and the following year she had her only child, Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel. Her husband was supportive of her composing. Subsequently, her works were often played alongside her brother’s at the family home in Berlin in a Sunday concert series (Sonntagskonzerte), which was originally organized by Fanny’s father, and after 1831 carried on by Fanny herself. Her public debut at the piano (and only known public performance) came in 1838, when she played her brother’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In 1846, she decided, without consulting Felix, to publish a collection of her songs (as her Op. 1).

Fanny died in Berlin in 1847 of complications from a stroke suffered while rehearsing one of her brother’s oratorios, The First Walpurgis Night. Felix himself died less than six months later from the same cause (which was also responsible for the deaths of both of their parents and of their grandfather Moses), but not before completing his String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, written in memory of his sister.

In recent years, Fanny Mendelssohn’s music has become better known thanks to concert performances and a number of CDs being released.  A sample:

Finding a recipe that celebrates the lives of two very different women who lived at different periods in the 19th century and were born into very different cultures is a real challenge. I figured that a recipe from Auguste Escoffier might be able to bridge the gap if I searched diligently enough. Early in his career Escoffier served in Metz as chef de cuisine of the Rhine Army after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War being one of the factors leading up to the Dreyfus Affair. Although Escoffier is indubitably the founder of classic French cuisine of the 19th and 20th centuries, he took ideas from a variety of cultures, including German, and wove them into his culinary world. So, here’s his recipe (modified) for côtes de porc à la flamande (Escoffier 2921), which would be equally at home in Hamburg as in Paris.

Côtes de Porc à la Flamande

Ingredients

4 pork chops
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
juice of ½ lemon
35g unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Place the apple slices in a bowl, squeeze lemon juice over them and toss them in the juice.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a pan over high heat, and quickly brown the pork chops on both sides. Remove them to an earthenware or ceramic baking pan in a single layer. Cover the chops with apple slices and drizzle them with the butter and pan juices from the searing.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Remove the dish from the oven, let the pork chops rest for a few minutes, then serve them with mashed or boiled new potatoes.

Feb 252016
 

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Today is the birthday (1841) of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renoir, a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, the child of a working-class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing talents led to his being chosen to paint designs on fine china. Before he enrolled in art school, he also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans. During those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

In 1862, he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. Renoir had his first success at the Salon of 1868 with his painting Lise with a Parasol (1867), which depicted Lise Tréhot, his lover at the time. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, recognition was slow in coming, partly as a result of the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

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In 1874, a ten-year friendship with Jules Le Cœur and his family ended, and Renoir lost not only the valuable support gained by the association, but also a generous welcome to stay on their property near Fontainebleau and its scenic forest. This loss of a favorite painting location resulted in a distinct change of subjects.

After a series of rejections by the Salon juries, Renoir joined forces with Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, and several other artists to mount the first Impressionist exhibition in April 1874, in which Renoir displayed six paintings. Although the critical response to the exhibition was largely unfavorable, Renoir’s work was comparatively well received. That same year, two of his works were shown with Durand-Ruel in London.

Hoping to secure a livelihood by attracting portrait commissions, Renoir displayed mostly portraits at the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876. He contributed a more diverse range of paintings the next year when the group presented its third exhibition; they included Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette and The Swing. Renoir did not exhibit in the fourth or fifth Impressionist exhibitions, and instead resumed submitting his works to the Salon. By the end of the 1870s, particularly after the success of his painting Mme Charpentier and her Children (1878) at the Salon of 1879, Renoir was a successful and fashionable painter.

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In 1881, he traveled to Algeria, a country he associated with Eugène Delacroix, then to Madrid, to see the work of Diego Velázquez. Following that, he traveled to Italy to see Titian’s masterpieces in Florence and the paintings of Raphael in Rome. On 15 January 1882 Renoir met the composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner’s portrait in just thirty-five minutes. In the same year, after contracting pneumonia which permanently damaged his respiratory system, Renoir convalesced for six weeks in Algeria.

In 1883, Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, one of the islands in the English Channel with a varied landscape of beaches, cliffs and bays, where he created fifteen paintings in little over a month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin’s, Guernsey. These paintings were the subject of a set of commemorative postage stamps issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983.

While living and working in Montmartre, Renoir employed Suzanne Valadon as a model, who posed for him (The Large Bathers, 1884–87; Dance at Bougival, 1883) and many of his fellow painters; during that time she studied their techniques and eventually became one of the leading painters of the day.

In 1890, he married Aline Victorine Charigot, who, along with a number of the artist’s friends, had already served as a model for Le Déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party) 1881, and with whom he had already had a child, Pierre, in 1885. After his marriage, Renoir painted many scenes of his wife and daily family life including their children and their nurse, Aline’s cousin Gabrielle Renard. The Renoirs had three sons: Jean Renoir, who became a filmmaker of note, Pierre Renoir, who became a stage and film actor, and Claude Renoir, who became a ceramic artist.

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Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of “Les Collettes,” a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to the Mediterranean coast. Renoir painted during the last twenty years of his life even after his arthritis severely limited his mobility. He developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to change his painting technique. It has often been reported that in the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by having a brush strapped to his paralyzed fingers, but this is erroneous; Renoir remained able to grasp a brush, although he required an assistant to place it in his hand. The wrapping of his hands with bandages, apparent in late photographs of the artist, served to prevent skin irritation.

In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with those of the old masters. During this period, he created sculptures by cooperating with a young artist, Richard Guino, who worked the clay. Due to his limited joint mobility, Renoir also used a moving canvas, or picture roll, to facilitate painting large works.

Renoir died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, on 3 December 1919.

Renoir is known to have had very little interest in fine food, and mostly ate very plain dishes. Some critics have, for example, pointed out that in Le Déjeuner des canotiers there’s no real representation of what the lunch is, or was, beyond a scattering of fruit. Renoir happily painted still lifes of fruit and vegetables (or a piece of meat), but not anything cooked.

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Apples in a Dish, 1883, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 25 5/8 in Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

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Renoir’s home town of Limoges has a few distinctive features. One of them is the dish boudin noir aux deux pommes, which can be made in several ways although the ingredients are basically the same: blood sausage, apples, and potatoes. The apple and potato mix (deux pommes) is a pun on “pommes” which can mean “apples” or “potatoes” (where “pommes” is short for “pommes de terre.”) The blood sausage (boudin noir) is a Limoges specialty with added chestnuts.

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© Boudin Noir aux Deux Pommes

Ingredients

250 g black pudding
500 g potatoes, peeled and mashed
500 g apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 onions, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp melting cheese grated
freshly grated nutmeg
salt
pepper

Instructions

Melt the butter over medium high heat in a heavy skillet and sauté the apple slices until they are soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, then add the black pudding and continue to sauté until it is warmed through.

Grease a baking dish. Put in a layer of mashed potato seasoned with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste, then the black pudding and onions, then another layer of seasoned potato, then the sliced apples, and top with grated cheese. Bake in a 150°C oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.