These blog notes are basically my journal for preparation of my exhibition of artwork in St Petersburg in May, 2012.
I'm reading 4 books over the next few weeks before I start my planning for my artwork for my exhibition in St Petersburg in May. I was so excited when they arrived! I went to the beach today and read through half of the first one... Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun, beautiful portrait painter and woman. Her journey as an artist breathes an air of familiarity to my own life and inspires me greatly.
I was particularly enthused by her chapter on her initial journey and seven year stay in St Petersburg- a total surprise to me, as I intially wanted to read her memoirs to get a greater feel for the rococco time from a female artists' perspective. But I was surprised with more! She met with and painted Catherine II's portrait and many other members of the court and nobility and aristocracy see The Russian Portraits Of Madame Vigée Le Brun. While in Saint Petersburg, Vigée LeBrun was made a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Petersburg. She painted Catherine's granddaughters also:
Reading these memoirs has been wonderful in that much of what Madame Vigee-Lebrun experienced upon her journey to SPb and her stay there, paralleled many of my own experiences some 300 years later- this is a feeling I cannot convey through words, but I hope to express this in my artworks. She expresses the warmth of the Russian people upon her visit with fondness, expressing that you go to Russia in the winter to keep warm...and in particular that "you must go out into the street of St Petersburg to find out how cold it is," (Vigee-LeBrun in Strachey (trans) 1903:105). I can honestly say I experienced this warmth exactly the same with the artists whom I worked with, and the other friends I made also, who all made me feel very welcomed.
I described in another post about my wonderment of walking through the palace in the same rooms as Catherine II (similarly described by Vigee LeBrun 😉 ), but now to know that I have walked in both of these women's footsteps is a feeling beyond words.
While reading Vigee-Lebrun's experiences of visiting Tsarskoye Selo, I also retraced my steps through that palace and the garden, making my reflections of my time there even more special. She describes the gardens at Catherine's Palace as a "veritable little fairyland," (Vigee-LeBrun in Strachey (trans) 1903:86).
I suppose that much of my previous work as an academic in research and teaching history and philosophy is founded on the principle of understanding and walking through and with the past to understand our place in time now, in order to be more critically aware for the future. This understanding is also reflected in my artwork, where obviously one must research our masters of the past, but more so for me, to see, feel and connect, in order to reinterpret and understand myself and place now. The intertexuality of many of my works such as integrating classic shapes of porcelain and styles of my contemporaries and adding a modern flavour to them, inspires me greatly. So, I will breathe in all of the colour, life and light of the past deeply....
Vigee-Lebrun describes one of her adventures in SPb, attending a performance of Gluck's Iphigenia overture. My last experience with Gluck was learning parts of his Concerto in G for Flute many many years ago 😉 ...most if not all of my artwork is done to music as a direct muse, or as subliminal impression to commenicate and express feelings into the painting...let us see what I do with this.
It definitely has mellowed my mood at the moment toward the rococco style and ambiant and luxurious feel of the artwork at the time....
Vigee-LeBrun, Elisabeth Louise in Strachey, Lionel (trans) 1903. Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun, Illustrated Edition, Dodo Press, UK.