Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nadar's Marcel at 16.

A complete gallery of the characters from Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu would include more of the narrator’s family than his grandmother Berthilde, Mme Amèdée. Mamma, it goes without saying, would appear in a place of honor, and Father, and Aunt Léonie of the madeleines and the lime tisanes, and Uncle Adolphe with whom Marcel first meets Odette. François the family servant should join them of course; perhaps Eulalie. The walls would be crowded.

The actress Berma, the author Bergotte, the painter Elstir and the composer Vinteuil each deserve a portrait. Basin, Duc de Guermantes, and the Prince and Princess de Guermantes in their various incarnations must hang in the gallery. Monsieur Norpois and Mme de Villeparisis are necessary; the Princesses de Parme and Luxembourg; (or were they the same person?) perhaps not so much. Mme Verdurin needs M. Verdurin along with rest of the “little clan”: the Cottards, Brichot, Ski, Princess Sherbatoff and Saniette. The Bontemps and the Marsantes, the Cambremers and Mme de Saint–Euverte must round out society with the Arpajons, the Ambresacs and Gri-gri Agrigente. Forcheville must be there for Odette and Gilberte. Rachel the actress, Mme Stermaria, Andrée, of the “little band at Balbec”, and Bloch, Albert the nephew and even his uncle Saloman need a place. Jupien and Jupien’s niece (or is it his daughter?), and Charles Morel must surround and support the Baron de Charlus. And it would be pointless without portraits of the manager of the Grand Hotel, of the lift boy, and of Mme Putbus’s maid.

Except for Nadar’s photograph of Marcel and his mother, the 56 portraits here are of course imaginative. That they each share some resemblance is a measure of how much each is a facet of Marcel’s soul: In the end we must have faith in Marcel’s diligence and sincerity, (and sense of humor), as well as our own.
~4 July 2008

Oriane de Guermantes after winning a game of lawn tennis at la Raspelière.

Baron de Charlus returned to Paris, refreshed after a month at Balbec.

Charles Swann.

Odette de Crécy dressed as Oriane de Guermantes.

Gilberte Swann watching Marcel.

Albertine Simonet in her Fortuny gown.

Mme Verdurin somewhat amused by a non-sequiter.

Robert Saint-Loup the day before he fell in the trenches.

Grand-mère, Mme Amèdée watching Marcel as they listen to
the water-closet attendant on the Champs-Elysées.

~ The Hawthorns~

I found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom. The hedge resembled a series of chapels, whose walls were no longer visible under the mountains of flowers that were heaped upon their altars; while underneath, the sun cast a square of light upon the ground, as though it had shone in upon them through a window; the scent that swept out and over me from them was as rich, and as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been standing before the Lady-altar...

~Swann's Way, Combray, page 150.

Bergotte pleased to hear Marcel has read every word he's written.

Berma wearing her cowl in a performance of Racine’s Phèdre.

Vinteuil in retirement at Combray.

Elstir recalling his first drawing of Odette.

Françoise worried Marcel might marry Albertine.

Uncle Aldolphe.

Mme de Villeparisis resembling Drouais' Mme Pompadour at her tambor.

The marquis de Norpois.

Rachel recalling a comment about anti-Dreyfusard lesbianism.

Legrandin greeting Charlus at the Hôtel de Guermantes,
hoping Charlus does not recall their moment in the train station.

Aunt Léonie.

Théodore the grocer's boy taking Aunt Léonie's market order

with a swarm of angels around his head .

Albert Bloch about to recite Homeric verse in response
to a question on the weather.

Mme Bontemps worried that Marcel might not marry Albertine.

Jupien contemplating giving up his shirt maker's shop for the bordello.

Charles Morel no longer in need of his violin.

Basin de Guermantes eyeing carriage mares.

Andrée watching Marcel the last summer at Balbec.

~The Aeroplane~

...I had gone on horseback to call on the Verdurins and had taken an unfrequented path through the woods the beauty of which they had extolled to me. Hugging the contours of the cliff, it alternately climbed and then, hemmed in by dense woods on either side, dived into wild gorges. For a moment the barren rocks by which I was surrounded, and the sea that was visible through their jagged gaps, swam before my eyes like fragments of another universe: I had recognized the marine and mountainous landscape which Elstir had made of the scene of those two admirable watercolours, "Poet meeting a Muse" and "Young Man meeting a Centaur" which I had seen at the Duchesse de Guermantes's. The memory of them transported the place in which I now found myself so far outside the world of to-day that I should not have been surprised if, like the prehistoric age that Elstir painted, I had come upon a mythological personage in the course of my ride. Suddenly, my horse reared; he had heard a strange sound; then I raised my tear-filled eyes in the direction from which the sound seemed to come and saw, not two hundred feet above my head, against the sun, between two great wings of flashing metal which were bearing him aloft, a creature whose indistinct face appeared to me to resemble that of a man. I was as deeply moved as a Greek on seeing for the first time a demi-god. I wept - for I had been ready to weep the moment I realized that the sound came from above my head (aeroplanes were still rare in those days), at the thought that what I was going to see for the first time was an aeroplane. Then, just as when in a newspaper one senses that one is coming to a moving passage, the mere sight of the machine was enough to make me burst into tears. Meanwhile the airman seemed to be uncertain of his course; I felt that there lay open before him - before me, had not habit made me a prisoner - all the routes in space, in life itself; he flew on; let himself glide for a few moments over the sea, then quickly making up his mind, seemed to yield to some attraction that was the reverse of gravity, as though returning to his native element, with a slight adjustment of his golden wings he headed straight up into the sky.

~Cities of the Plain, Part Two: Chapter Three, page 1061-2.

Marquise, the water-closet attendant on the Champs-Elysées.

A chamber maid to Mme Swann.

Aimée, restauranteur par excellence.

Françoise's kitchen maid who Swann thought resembled

Giotto's figure of Charity in the intrado of the Cathedral at Padua.

~ The Martinville Steeples~

At a bend in the road I experienced, suddenly, that special pleasure which was unlike any other, on catching sight of the twin steeples of Martinville, bathed in the setting sun and constantly changing their position with the movement of the carriage and the windings of the road, and then of a third steeple, that of Vieuxvicq, which, although separated from them by a hill and a valley, and rising from rather higher ground in the distance, appeared nonetheless to be standing by their side.

In noticing and registering and the shape of their spires, their shifting lines, the sunny warmth of their surfaces, I felt that I was not penetrating to the core of my impression, that something more lay behind that mobility, that luminosity, something which they seemed at once to contain and to conceal.

~ Swann's Way, Combray, page 150.

Poullein, the footman denied his afternoon off and the chance to see his girlfriend by the Duchesse de Guermantes.

Mlle de Stermaria.

Doctor Cottard.


Mme de Saint-Euverte.

The boy who resembles the Angel on the Day of Atonement.

A chauffeur.

Mme Putbus' maid.

Mme de Saint-Euverte's pastry chef.

The footman recognizing the duc de Châtellerault on the reception hall steps.

The duc de Châtellerault telling the footman, "I don't speak French".

A parlour maid.

The lift boy at the Balbec Grand Hôtel.

~The Sea~

“… a band of red sky above the sea, compact and clear-cut as a layer of aspic over meat, then, a little later, over a sea already cold and steel-blue like a gray mullet, a sky of the same pink as the salmon that we should presently be ordering at Rivebelle, reawakened my pleasure in dressing to go out to dinner.”
~ Within A Budding Grove, Place-Names: The Place, page 861.

Swann's carriage driver.

The princesse de Parme.

Charlus' stable boy.

The milk-maid at the train station

~The matinée Guermantes: Four guests, wigged, with and without masks~

The former Prime-Minister.

Mme de Forcheville.

The prince de Guermantes.

Mme X

The former Prime-Minister, unmasked.

Mme de Forcheville, unmasked.

The prince de Guermantes, unmasked.

Mme X, unmasked.

The ruined Château de Guermantes.

Nadar's Jeanne Clémance Weil, Mme Proust.

~ ~ ~

My first reading of À la recherche du temps perdu, the Moncrieff-Kilmartin translation, began in the spring of 2006 and ended in the spring of 2008, (only to begin again).

The words at the beginning of this post, as well as the images seen here, were first posted to Nuukunui, a blog of my artwork and random notes. As some of the characters mentioned in those words have not been painted, and some not mentioned do, I expect the words to change. With the publication of Resemblances: The Portraits, Nuukunui can resume its own random trail.

The original portraits are acrylic on balsa, 3x4½ inches each, painted from 6 June to 16 November 2008.

I am grateful to my sister, Beth Richardson, who photographed the portraits with her Sony Cybershot H50 camera.

Two websites have been especially helpful: Mark Calkins' Temps Perdue.com , and the Google book on line, Who's Who in Proust by Patrick Alexander, (Xlibris, Booksurge, ISBN 978-1-4196-72507-7).

I am grateful to Rinaldo Alessandro Niccolo Notto for introducing me to the work of Wallace Fowlie, and for his unending encouragement to make art.

~DWR 7 January 2009