Friday, July 31, 2009


Head to Vallejo Street in San Francisco—and hope that Susie is in town and her shop is open! Marvel at her vintage jewels. Chanel! Ciner! Yves Saint aurent! And Barovier & Toso and Seguso Venetian glass. Susie Hoimes’ vases and elaborate bowls and urns dazzle in Technicolor dream hues of lollipop pink, zesty lemon and bright orange. Delicious candy!

Retro Ultra-Glam
Since she opened her chic vintage shop, MDVII, in Polk Gulch six years ago, San Francisco antiques dealer Susie Hoimes has attracted a devoted insider following of top California decorators and vintage jewelry connoisseurs.

Arrayed in her tiny and ultra-chic cabinet of curiosities are shelves of vintage Venetian glass, Chinese cloisonné, German porcelain, Venini chandeliers, and French and English furniture, as well as top-secret drawers of designer vintage jewelry from around the world.

Hoimes has become the source among San Francisco, Montecito, and Los Angeles fashion trendsetters for her superb collections of rare and elegant vintage jewelry. Among her recent treasures are early Chanel necklaces and cuff bracelets, Tony Duquette necklaces, Miriam Haskell pearl earrings and necklaces, and Elsa Schiapparelli necklaces.

“My clients love the fine craftsmanship, drama, rarity and character of really fine vintage jewelry,” said Hoimes, originally from London. “The pieces I sell are classic and glamorous, never trendy. California women today wear and mix vintage Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent with their favorite diamonds, just as the Duchess of Windsor wore Kenny Lane jewelry with her precious jewelry.”

Also in the velvet-lined display drawers at MDVII are sixties Christian Dior and Pierre Cardin dazzlers, early Lanvin and YSL pieces, and hard-to-find Coppola y Toppo forties to sixties beaded necklaces and bracelets.

“Everyone is collecting over-the-top Kenneth Kay Lane Egyptian-revival pieces, and they love Boucher, William de Lillo, Goossens, Schreiner, and Hobe,” said Hoimes, who has international sources and is ultra-discreet about her clientele. No name-dropping.

It’s not all costume. Hoimes also sells gorgeous antique Indian handcrafted gold and enamel jewelry in the Kundan style, along with exquisite rare pink conch pearl necklaces and earrings.

“After Hermes showed Indian-inspired fashions and jewelry in Paris, I’m expecting an increased interest in Indian styles,” said Homes. (Susie Homes collections priced at from $200 for a pair of sixties Cartier-style Ciner earrings.)

Hoimes started collecting antique Venetian glass vases and bowls when was growing up in London.

“I love the theatricality and ebullience of Venetian designs,” said Hoimes. “There’s a magical, ethereal quality that is very addictive. I’m mesmerized by the virtuoso techniques of the Venetian glassblowers.”

Graceful twenties Salviati Champagne flutes, glitter beside dramatic fifties Venini latticino glass lanterns, bravura contemporary designs by Carlo Moretti, and thirites Seguso gold-flecked columnar candlesticks.

Prices from $50 for pink Barbini glasses to $1,500 for glamorous Salviati ruby compote from the late nineteenth century.

1507 ½ Vallejo Street
San Francisco

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chasing Pablo Picasso

This has been my year for encounters with Picasso

Privileged to see several superbly curated and intelligent shows of his works, I step back and see that this is my year for re-evaluating and confronting Picasso, and learning more about his life and times.

I’ve always been enticed by Picasso—but this is the year to ponder, observe, study the context, and gain new appreciation.

“Pablo Picasso is still the cornerstone of the art marketplace,” said Guy Bennett, the former head of the Impressionist and Modern art department at Christie’s in London. And so this year proved, as prices held firm, and the rage for Picasso continued unabated.

In New York, I spent hours at the Gagosian Gallery viewing the stunning 'Mosqueteros’ show of his late paintings. The collection, mostly from the Picasso family's private stash, exhibited the power of works crafted in his later years. In Paris at the Grand Palais, Picasso was placed with art’s grand masters. And now, just in June at the stunning Picasso/Cezanne exhibit in Aix-en-Provence—the Musee Granet and the city of Aix-en-Provence had more Picasso surprises for me.

Picasso in Provence
Last fall, in a conversation with an in-the-know French friend, I heard that Picasso’s Chateau de Vauvenargues would be open for viewing from the end of May until September 27, 2009. It had never before thrown open its doors to the public—and would never again.

Aix-en-Provence is celebrating the artistic relationship between Cezanne (an Aix homeboy) and Picasso, I learned. And so Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin, on the 50th anniversary of his arrival in the area, was generously opening the doors of the Chateau de Vauvenargues, one of her residences, to the public.

The 15th-century chateau, situated on the slopes of Mont Sainte-Victoire in the sun-struck countryside a few miles east of Aix-en-Provence, had been Picasso’s studio and residence for just a few years—from 1959 until 1961, and has always been the family’s private sanctum.

I knew I had to visit. Chateau. Picasso. Provence. One time only. Chateau interiors. Calling Lufthansa!

Chateau de Vauvenargues stands on the edge of the forest on the slopes of Mt. Sainte-Victoire.

I learned that Picasso painted in its grand rooms, and came and went from the chateau—often paying visits to bullfights in Arles. But even the locals had never glimpsed inside the castle.

After the most prodigiously prolific life, Picasso died in 1973. He was buried in a very elegant circular plot on the chateau grounds. When Jacqueline died in 1986, she was buried alongside Picasso, with a bronze statue above, but no tombstone or marker.

Seeking the Chateau de Vauvenargues: A Tale of Optimism
I took the TGV from Paris to Aix, but by the time I reached the region I heard that all tickets for the Chateau de Vauvenargues were completely sold out through September 27, when the doors will be closed forever. Evidently locals and French art lovers had snapped them up within days of their being offered. A promised ticket sale through the Internet never happened. No phone sales!

Come with me on this trip! Sold out! I love a challenge. I was determined to visit the chateau.

In Aix, I went straight to the Musee Granet, and was directed from there to a ticket office, where I discovered that a few same-day and timed tickets might occasionally become available.

A helpful young woman there suggested that I return to the office the following morning before 8am to try my luck. I am not an early morning person, but I was there, fourth in line, at 7.30am. Eventually the office workers turned up, tallies were made, and I was ushered into the ticket office. One ticket for 1.30pm that day was available. As it happened, I had a booking to see the Picasso/Cezanne show at 10.30am. Then (at each step there seemed to be one more obstacle) I was told that it was obligatory (a favorite French expression) to go to the chateau by shuttle, and that I must arrive to catch the shuttle one hour prior. And, the shuttle stop was on the outside of town.

I arranged a taxi, got to the shuttle at 12.30pm, showed my ticket, and headed out to the chateau through the forests and hillsides. I was ecstatic.

After a sunny wander through the town of Vaugenargues, I arrived for my rendezvous at the castle. It was as if all the angst had never happened.

It’s a noble and dramatic site. The ramparted castle, with turrets and impenetrable stone walls, stands foursquare among pines, with the mountain rising up as canvas. It had been owned by the Counts of Provence and the Bishops of Aix, and had passed down from one noble family to another over the centuries until 1959 when Picasso acquired it.

We walked up the steep winding driveway, entered the domain, and with the grand portals ahead, were suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by the ivy-covered circular parterre that is Picasso’s grave. It’s a place to pause. There’s no marker. It seems oddly understated in this grandiloquent setting. God Bless Picasso.

The stone-floored entry, encircled with bronze sculptures by Picasso, still feels like a fortress, with massive doors. And in the enclosed central courtyard, flowers are still laid out in Picasso’s honor.

From the guardroom and first glance, it’s immediately apparent that Jacqueline Roque (who was said to have died of a broken heart after Picasso’s death) and her daughter, Catherine Hutin, made a point not to move anything from Picasso’s time. The same furniture is there. His studio is till intact, with his desks, his paints, easels and chairs arrayed around.

The experience here is that of a private visit. There are just a handful of people in the group, and as we walk through the silent chateau, all are involved, obsessed and observant. Hushed, we gaze at the rococo plasterwork, the tilting terra cotta tommette floors, the mismatched chairs placed here and there. An easel stands mute. Light filters in through iron-framed windows. A sense of history, of time passing, of the artist’s presence permeates the air.

It is as if the master might be painting in another room.

We walk up the massive baroque stairway. In the dining room is the boldly scaled Henri II black sideboard whose bulky façade served as a backdrop for many paintings of this period.

Picasso’s little double bed, with its red and yellow headboard (homage to the Spanish flag) is rather austere in the high-ceilinged room overlooking the forest. Adjacent, the bathroom has a mural of frolicking fauns, Picasso’s playful decoration.

The white-walled studio is the place of power, with its intact elaborate plaster cartouches and provocative nymphs. The baroque splendor seems at odds with Picasso’s communist sympathies. Sunlight pours in to illuminate the artist’s realm. Splashes of paint speckle the floor. Pots of industrial paint, boxes and tins of brushes, stacks of books and a clutter of spatulas are as he left them.

Toward the end of the visit, we enter a study and perch on old church pews to view a Picasso family home movie made in the sixties by Jacqueline. Paloma and Catherine, dressed in the style of a young Brigitte Bardot, pose on the lawn. Picasso mugs at the front door. Famous visitors arrive in flashy sportscars. Picasso the Great stomps around in an old bathrobe and slippers. Jacqueline looks coquettish. Picasso poses with clusters of paintings in progress. Life with the Picassos was sweet, and all about Picasso!

The visit lasts almost two hours. Knowing that a return visit would not be possible, I wanted to linger. Slowly I made my way down the great staircase recording everything. (No cameras allowed.) A rope dangles, its chandelier missing. A bronze sculpture of a pouncing cat stands unobtrusively in a corner.

This had been one of the more remarkable chateau visits, un-commercial, pensive, revealing, and privileged. It has been especially intense, thanks to the difficulty of gaining tickets and access. I walk into the garden.

I take another look at the burial parterre, and bid adieu to Picasso.

Picasso/Cezanne exhibit at the Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence
More than one hundred art works (70 by Picasso, 30 by Cezanne) are from private collections and galleries around the world. The concept was to demonstrate the major influence had on contemporary art, and particularly on Picasso.

As a visitor walks from room to room, the artists’ biographies and experimentation with new ideas are clearly revealed.

The most exciting aspects of the show are paintings (from the private collection of the Picasso family, and in particular Catherine Hutin) that have never been exhibited before. To walk into a gallery and to be confronted with the large-scale ‘Jacqueline assise dans un fauteuil’ (1964), in all its complexity and inventiveness, is to encounter for the first time Picasso’s mastery of color, line, form, the portrait. The charming ‘Jacqueline et ses fillettes' (1960), painted at the chateau, depicts the artist’s wife, her daughter, Catherine, and Picasso’s daughter, Paloma, in a pink checked dress.

How to visit Picasso’s chateau:

The Chateau de Vauvenargues is an inspiring adventure—for art lovers, castle collectors, and Picasso fans. Getting there for a private visit to viewing the interiors is a challenge—and I encourage optimism at every step!

For access to Chateau de Vauvenargues: Group visits only, no individual visits. Advance booking is essential. As detailed above, tickets to Picasso’s chateau are officially completely sold out through September 27. Tickets that may randomly be available are timed and for same-day use only.

I recommend first a visit to the check-in point at the Musee Granet at place Saint-Jean de Malte (which is showing the superb Cezanne Picasso exhibit). An assistant will give directions to the ‘billetterie’ (ticket office), which is about 2 blocks away on rue Cardinale. Those wishing to try their luck for a prized ticket are directed to return the following morning before 8am (I recommend 7.30am) in hopes that there may be one ticket (7.70 euro). Note that there is no on-line booking. It is strictly in-person.

It is then necessary to head to the Bons Dieux parking lot to catch the timed and obligatory shuttle to the chateau.

Once you are on the shuttle, the pleasure kicks in. Ten minutes drive through the Provencal countryside, and the shuttle arrives at the town of Vauvenargues, a sweet spot that seems to have been by-passed by tourists and the commercial world. A pleasant walk through the town—the noble chateau rears into view across the valley—takes visitors to the portals of the chateau where the timed 16-person group assembles.

For non-Francophones (the minority) audioguides in English are available. No cameras allowed. The tour, which lasts more than one-and-a-half hours, is exceptionally well organized and includes a 7-minute and charming ‘home movie’ made by Jacqueline Roque , never before shown.

Good luck! Let me know if you were lucky.

Photography and paintings: The black and white portrait of Picasso is the cover of Picasso: Mosqueteros by John Richardson (published by Rizzoli) , which focuses on the late works of Picasso. (Exhibit at Gagosian Gallery, New York, March-June 2009.) The portrait of Picasso at the chateau, with a rainbow, was shot by David Douglas Duncan. Interiors: Claude Germain/Imageart. Oil paintings by Picasso are copyright, Succession Picasso 2009.

For more information on Aix-en-Provence:

For more information on the Picasso/ Cezanne exhibit in Aix, and Picasso's life and work in Provence: and

For further travel information: and

Monday, July 20, 2009

DATELINE: Juan-les-Pins, Cote d'Azur

International art Dealer Martin Muller at the Legendary Hotel Belles-Rives

The Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins near Cannes was the location for the summer house of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This glorious thirties-style hotel, privately owned by Marianne Estène-Chauvin, and its private beach inspired locations for ‘Tender is the Night’.

Each summer for the last three decades, the Hotel Belles Rives ('beautiful shores') has been the private retreat for international art dealer, Martin Muller. Martin is the founder and owner of Modernism gallery in San Francisco and a longtime friend. Each year he sends me postcards, small works of art, all handmade and evocative of sea air and the timeless and ineffable beauty of Juan-les-Pins.

In his sea-view suite (the same one each year, with furniture, paintings and décor arranged precisely to his wishes) Martin paints and collages while below on the sheltered beach an international coterie of guests swim, lunch, sip rose, and snooze all along the sun-struck day.

Martin sends his postcards, all with personal notes and beautiful stamps, to his artists and pals around the world, who collect them avidly. At the heart of his art is always the Hotel Belles Rives.

“Les choses repetees, redemandees, plaisent”

“Favorite things, enjoyed, savored, experienced, and repeated, bring rare and special pleasure.”
Since the seventies, legendary international art dealer Martin Muller has gathered a stunning roster of artists to his San Francisco gallery, Modernism. He was the first West Coast gallery to exhibit Kasimir Malevich, and the first in Northern California to show Andy Warhol. More than 300 exhibitions have encompassed Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Vorticism, German Expressionism, and foremost, the Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930.

Muller has attracted a superbly curated list of artists (John Register, Peter Lodato, Valentin Popov, Charles Arnoldi, Gottfried Helnwein, Naomie Kremer and 50 more) as well as a passionate, curious, devoted and loyal clientele and fans around the world.

Martin has many qualities his friends adore and appreciate. He’s a romantic, he entertains generously, he is not pretentious, and he’s charming and witty. But best of all, if you are one of his artists or one of his inner circle, every August you receive a hand-painted and collaged post card, a miniature work of art to save in an album.

The Hotel Belles-Rives was built in the thirties around the residence where F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda swam and sunbathed and entertained friends in the twenties (Villa St-Louis)... Over many decades, the Estene family, which still owns the hotel, has protected the grace and legacy and today it is a shrine to Fitzgerald, the twenties and thirties, and a certain art-de-vivre and joie-de-vivre from that period.

“Already as a child, I used to spend part of the summer in Juan-les-Pins, a small Mediterranean town located between Nice and Cannes,” Muller told me by phone from Paris, in a conversation that we later continued in Venice. “By my mid-thirties, spending the end of the summer at the Belles-Rives became an annual ritual, an essential stop. I dream of it all year. It’s like going home. It is a magical place, infused with an elegant style and glamour reminiscent of the 1920s.”

Muller continued, “Unlike many nearby palaces that are now crowded with Russian oligarchs, Middle-Eastern oil barons, and international movie and rock stars, the Belles Rives has managed to retain a certain Proustian charm. It is a family place of another era, elegant but understated. It is as if time has stopped. It is far away from the otherwise omnipresent loudness of bling-bling”.

“Orgues, calme et volupte”

Muller always reserves the same room, #67, which has a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and the small cove in front of the hotel, protected by a breakwater.

“I am there for a sense of ‘times past’ and to take a step back,” said Muller. “I savor the privacy, the sense of being away from the crowd. I savor also the sweet sea breeze most of the day in my room, listening to music, reading, writing and making small artworks, most of the time in the form of postcards.”

With windows wide open, the light, Muller, the art dealer, senses the air and light loved so much by Matisse, bathing the space, the glorious and unobstructed view of the sea, the art deco furnishings, create a perfect and sensual stage conducive to restorative daydreaming.
“Noon dominated sea and sky—even the while line of Cannes five miles off, had faded to a mirage of what was fresh and cool. It seemed there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur.”—From ‘Tender is the Night’, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 1933.

Photographs above, by Jean-Michel Sordello, show Martin Muller wearing a bespoke seersucker suite in his favored Belles Rives suite, #67, with is favorite desk arranged with his books, watercolors, inks, brushes, pens and pencils—and post cards ready for collaging, painting, and stamping.

Remembrance of Times Passed
The Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins

In June, I had the good fortune to be researching Matisse and Picasso in the South of France (more of those delights in future blogs).

And through great luck and perhaps fate, I ended up at the Hotel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins near Cap d’Antibes. This is where my dear friend art dealer Martin Muller retreats each August—and from where I receive his postcards.

The hotel has great architectural significance and is a listed building, with many of the original murals, furniture, lighting, and fixtures designed in the thirties.

Recent discreet and artful restoration by designer Olivier Antoine spruced up the color scheme, adding new fresco in the thirties style, freshening the burled woods and figured velvets, and adding chandeliers in bronze and alabaster to illuminate the original cornices, and elegant wrought iron doors with brass handles to frame the entry.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda and their pals lingered on the beach, swam out into the Mediterranean, and gathered a cast of characters who inspired ‘Tender is the Night’.
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about halfway between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel. Deferential palms cool its flushed façade, and before it stretches a short-dazzling beach. Lately it has become a summer resort of notable and fashionable people; a decade it was almost deserted after its English clientele went north in April. Now, many bungalows cluster near it, but when this story begins only the cupolas of a dozen villas are visible among the massed pines.”—From ‘Tender is the Night’’, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1933.
A member of the third generation of this family, the charming and low-key Marianne Estène-Chauvin, is now the proprietor of the establishment. She told me more about what had happened at this villa, how her grandfather has acquired the Fitzgerald house and turned it into a hotel, enlarging it over the years.

During World War II, various marauders took over much of the Cote d'Azur, and the Belle Rives was grabbed from the Estène family. The place fell into disrepair during the war years. When he was able to return safely, Boma Estène came back to pick up the pieces and regain ownership.

The Estène family has taken great care to preserve the hotel's poetic 1930s style, with its original Art Deco furniture, a variety of Cubist paintings, and some decor dating from the hotel's days as Fitgerald's Villa St-Louis.

Each accomodation of the 43-room/suite hotel has its own character. The effect, however, is cohesive and charming. Room #78, on the top floor, has a light-hearted Art Deco feeling with a color scheme of pale blue and yellow. It is one of six suites with dramatic bay windows. Room #50, in palest apricot has a private terrace. Suite #95 has a graceful balcony.

All the rooms have marble bathrooms in a color that was described to me as ‘Cuisse de Nymphe Emue’ (Thigh of an aroused nymph). It’s a soft warm beige. Some rooms are in the Madeleine Castaing style, and others offer a wink to Christian Berard, lightly rendered.

I’ve already dropped the names of the Fitzgeralds, and the hotel was visited in the early days by everyone I'd love to meet—Pablo Picasso (and his mother), Paloma Picasso (and her mother, Francoise Gilot), and Hemingway. Let’s not stop there: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Cab Calloway, Helmut Newton and his wife Alice Springs (real name June), Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Miles Davis, Edith Piaf, and Charles Trenet (of course) have been guests.

The Hotel Belles Rives recently welcomed the highly acclaimed chef, Alain Llorca, who with great panache took over the kitchens. His virtuoso talent brings dazzle to the glamorous La Passagere restaurant.

Llorca’s refined and inventive cuisine is inspired by classic Mediterranean and Spanish culinary traditions. It is resolutely and creatively seasonal, presenting the best of the day’s catch and the most exquisite fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. His emphasis is always on the sea—it’s a blue vision just beyond the terrace—so he puts on the plate both a summer and a winter version of bouillabaisse, made with precision and a sense of modernity.

Imagine starting with his witty amuse-bouche, a foie-gras bonbon. It’s a one-bite wonder, a tiny lozenge of creamy foie-gras ‘wrapped’ in crisp spun sugar just like a candy.

A recent menu in Picasso’s honor included a deconstructed pizza (witty), saddle of lamb, and a chocolate confection with exquisite fruit, 90 euro, per person, drinks extra.

Selections might include John Dory cooked paella-style, or perhaps Pyrenees pigeon with roasted hazelnuts and a coffee sauce. A Brittany lobster spiked with verbena is served with ‘Grandma’s potatoes”. Llorca pays homage to French regional favorites, yet each feels of today, with a light touch.

Desserts, including an iced red berry cheesecake served in a shot glass, and dark chocolate shell with silver leaf, with exotic fruit, are a little frivolous and perfect for this seaside setting.

During dinner, as a summer storm and lighting raged far out to sea, I walked through to the Fizgerald piano bar and asked the pianist, Thierry Graziano, to play ‘La Mer’ (the Charles Trenet song, not the Debussy piece.) As the first slow and tender notes sounded from the old black Baldwin, I walked out onto the terrace and watched lights flickering across the sea.

Somewhere at a slight distance, I could hear the laughter of Scott and Zelda, Champagne corks popping, and even the piano music seemed to be coming from another time. That’s the magic of the Belles Rives.

In one corner of the foyer, near the entrance to the Bar Fitzgerald is a wall-mounted marble plaque with F. Scott Fitzgerald's name and quote (from a letter home) that reads: 

"With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I'm happier than I've been for years. It's one of those strange, precious and all too transitory moments when everything in one's life seems to be going well."—F. Scott Fitzgerald, March 15, 1926, Juan-les-Pins

Hotel Belles Rives, 33, blvd Edouard Baudoin, Juan-les-Pins/ Cap d’Antibes. Phone 33 (0)4 93 61 02 79 For more information on rates and reservations:

To find out more about the region, its museums and galleries, its architecture, and artists who lived and painted in the region:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

La Vie de Chateau

Over the last summers and winters, New York photographer Christopher Flach has been photographing French chateaux and their gardens. His black and white (and sometimes sepia) images are oneiric, original, classical, and elegant—and I have been collecting them for several years. Like me, Chris is a Francophile.

For many years, Chris Flach has been creating haunting and elegiac images of the gardens, statuary, trees, ponds and fountains of classic chateaux in the Ile-de-France, Versailles and south to Melun.

A restless artist, he has also recently been working on two self-published books: New York City neon and New York city trucks and ATM machines. Yes—from Vaux-le-Vicomte to bank machines.

On moody, cloudy, softly-lit days, he would spend his time alone (no assistant, ever) scouting topiaries and grottos and plinths and urns, and photographing hidden corners of Saint-Cloud, Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Versailles.

“I have always admired the photography of Eugene Atget, and so Saint-Cloud, which he shot many times, will be forever in my memory associated with Atget,” said Flach.

Saint-Cloud is a formal garden of the same vintage as Versailles, and superbly maintained, but bereft of its chateau.

“Without its grandeur and pomp it is rather unknown today—except for the Grande Cascade. Saint-Cloud for me was really about the woods, the terraced balustrades, the allees, and the pools,” said Flach. “I was drawn to its naiveté, its natural beauty, its childish intelligence.”

Flach said that photographing at Saint-Cloud, often with the sun behind him, he was very conscious of the dazzle of grand environs—a theme that continued to Versailles.

“I spent more many days at Versailles, where I spent less time on reflection and more time on intuition,” said Flach. A favorite location was the music pavilion (shown here, with a cherub fountain in the foreground.)

“Versailles was all about splendor—a feudal fortress built to withstand a siege, with its walls and moats,” he said. “I was always aware, even if I was shooting an urn or fountain, of the whole history of Louis XIV, the sun king, and the engineering genius Le Prestre de Vauban. My images were about simplicity of composition, tones, and subject.”

Flach noted that as he developed the images, he discovered that his images suggest a bittersweet melancholy.

“Inside the images and my work are more private, more complex and infinitely about the personal,” said the photographer. “My images are about my ideas, my determination and my sense of awe from the creative work that was done.”

Flach said that in his work he wanted to achieve atmosphere, resonance, and mystery, as well as a lush expression of a moment of time.

I’ve always loved these perfectly composed and quiet pictures—and private moments of reflection of gardens and objects that have been overly photographed and fetishized. They’re a walk in the park on a rainy fall afternoon. They invoke a sense of time passing, a meditation on life and death, and encourage a quiet review of the seasons and times of day. Without trying too hard, they are also very wonderfully French.

All photographs by Christopher Flach, Contact: 415-225-9476. He lives in New York, on the Upper East Side.

Atget Inspiration

New York photographer Christopher Flach was inspired by French photographer, Eugene Atget, as he photographed statuary at Versailles, trees in the Tuileries, a trianon or two, and the delights of Paris parks.

Atget (1857-1927) traipsed through Paris and the surrounding parks and palaces to craft sublime black and white images using glass plates, hand-coated emulsion, and bags of all the laborious accouterments and chemicals he needed to make just one image.

Working at a time when the handcrafted picture was his métier, Atget recorded corners of Paris that are lost—as well as Paris scenes I walk past every day when I am in Paris. He took a fabulously dramatic image of the wedge-shaped corner of rue de Seine and rue de l’Echaude that still looks basically the same almost 100 years later. The Notre-Dame scene, shown here, is precisely as it was in 1922. The Jardin de Tuileries is presented in an enigmatic image and the formal layout and statuary is all there today.

Atget was a commercial photographer—producing fine art, in fact—who spent more than thirty years finding and crafting more than 8,000 pictures of Paris before he died in 1927. He was unknown during his lifetime.

Like Atget, Flach is looking for a serene clarity in his work—the opposite of a glossy image. Working in black and white and carefully supervising each print, Flach, like Atget, seeks out hidden corners of Paris and Versailles, far from the obvious postcard pictures.

These are photographs that are quiet, timeless, and utterly beautiful.

Photographs by Eugene Atget include a stairway in the Hotel du Marquis de Lagrange, 1901; Notre-Dame and the Seine in winter, 1922; statuary and chairs in the Jardin des Tuileries, 1907; lines of trees in the Jardin de Luxembourg,1903; and the riverbank at the Porte des Tuileries, 1913. From Paris Style (Taschen).