Here is the story of the picture and the painting. It gets a bit complicated, so stay with me.
As I was gathering photographs for my new website, I was especially drawn to this one of GAP. (on the left) and me. It was taken during an extended stay in Paris in the summer of 2009, an important month in my transition from teaching psychology in the university to fulltime painting. GAP. is an internationally recognized artist now working and living in Paris. Getting to know her and seeing her wonderful work and her studio were art experiences in Paris as important as all those visits to the Louvre. GAP. was a vital link to my new community.
In the photograph, GAP. and I are standing in front of one of her large paintings: Empreintes claustra & Claus/Le Balcon de Manet, Grand-Palais-Paris-Bruxelles, 1998/99. In the painting, right above our heads, you see the section of the painting that features an image of a young woman. That same image appears in a well-known painting by Manet, The Balcony (1868-1869). No question that GAP., who often uses the museum as her subject matter, is referring to the Manet (you can view the Manet painting that caused quite a stir in its day at www.musee-orsay.fr). Manet, in turn, is said to have been making reference to Goya. Although radical, Manet’s painting holds onto tradition as he refers to Goya’s Majas at the Balcony (see the Goya at www.metmuseum.org). So, we have at least 4 artists in this photograph – Goya, Manet, GAP., and Suzanne. But wait, there are more.
The model for the young woman in Manet’s painting (and thereby, the presence in GAP.’s painting) was Fanny Claus. Fanny Claus was a violinist; and a friend of Manet and his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, pianist. Fanny was also the wife of yet another painter, the impressionist Pierre Prins (1838-1913). Fanny and Pierre are GAP.'s great-grandparents. We are up to at least 7 artists, 5 of them painters, some with deep connections, in this photograph taken in a lovely sunny Paris living room
Certainly, not all painters have GAP.’s direct genetic link to the wonderful tradition of painting, but in many ways we all have the gift of many other painters – past and present -- working with us.