Tag Archives: Paris

Hortense de Beauharnais 4.10.13 Thought of the Day

[Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

[Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

Hortense E de Beauharnais was born on this day in Paris, France in 1783. Today is the 230th anniversary of her birth.

She was born to French aristocrats Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie. Both her parents were arrested during the French Revolution, and her father was guillotined at the Place de la Révolution on July 23, 1794. Josephine was released in August of that year. In 1796 she married Napoleon Bonaparte.

Hortense was a pretty child. She had long blond hair and blue eyes. She attended school Napoleon’s youngest sister, Caroline.

[Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

[Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

At 19 this “Flower of the Bonapartes” was married off to Napoleon’s brother Louis. It was not a marriage of love, but, rather, it was a marriage of convenience, arranged at Napoleon’s request. The couple never got along, but they did manage to have three children together: Napoléon Louis Charles Bonaparte, Napoleon Louis Bonaparte and Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. (Charles would later become Napoleon III, Emperor of France.)

The Royal Monogram of Hortense [Image Courtesy Wikipedia]

The Royal Monogram of Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland [Image Courtesy Wikipedia]

The Emperor appointed Louis King of Holland and Hortense had to leave her beloved Paris to follow her no-so-beloved husband to Holland. The Netherlands won her over and she learned to enjoy the people, customs and landscapes. But her relationship with Louis did not improve.

After the death of their first son Hortense was allowed to return to Paris because it would provide a more healthy environment for both the Queen and her remaining children. When Napoleon prepared to remarry he decided that it wouldn’t do to have the daughter of his first wife living at court, so he had her shuttled north again. Her stay in Holland was temporary and she left, again for “health” reasons, in 1810.

Now officially separated Hortense moved to Switzerland where she had a long-term affair with Colonel Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut. The couple had an illegitimate son together, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph.

[Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

[Image courtesy: Wikipedia]

She remained a loyal Bonapartist. When the Bourbon monarchy was restored in Paris, Hortense — like all the Bonapartes –went into exile. She, Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte and Charles Auguste Louis Joseph moved to Arenenberg Castle, near Lake Constance in Switzerland. While there she transformed…

The medieval castle and its gardens …. into an island of French culture amidst the rather provincial region of Lake Constance. The castle was surrounded by a 12 ha park with hermitage, fountains, waterfalls and nymphaeum, steep paths and viewpoints.  [www.bodensee-magazine]

The main house, which still stands, had living quarters and rooms for entertainment (including a theatre). She continued to expand the house and  revamp the estate, adding the latest in Parisian style almost until her death on October 5,  1837.

[Image courtesy: Kreuzlingen tourism]

Arenenberg Castle  [Image courtesy: Kreuzlingen tourism]

Victor Hugo 2.26.13 Thought of the Day

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” — Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros.

Victor Hugo, by Alphonse Legros. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Victor Marie Hugo was born on this day in Besançon, France in 1802. Today is the 211th anniversary of his birth.

He was the third son of Joseph and Sophie Hugo. He was  born during a time of national turmoil in France.  His father supported Napoleon, his mother was a royalist. The family traveled often when he was young because of his father’s military postings. His mother separated from his father in 1803 and took the boys to Paris. There she raised them as Catholic Royalist.

Though a committed conservative royalist when he was young, Hugo grew more liberal as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. [Sony ReaderStore]

He began to write as a teenager. He created “tragedies and poetry, and translated Virgil. Hugo’s first collection of poems, Odes Et Poesies Diverses gained him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. [The Literature Network.com]

Bug-Jargal (1818) by Victor Hugo (1840-1902)

Bug-Jargal (1818) by Victor Hugo (1840-1902) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His first novel, Han D’Islande, came out in 1823 followed by  Bug-Jargal  in 1826. The later book “describes the friendship between the enslaved African prince Bug-Jargal and Leopold D’Auverney, a French military officer, during the slave revolt in Santo Domingo of August, 1791.” [Amazon.com]

His reputation grew with the play Hernani in 1830 [Click here for the Project Gutenberg link] (The play later inspired Verdi to write his opera Ernani. )

Charles Laughton

Charles Laughton (Photo credit: twm1340)

Hugo’s literary breakthrough was with The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831.

The novel, set in 15th century Paris, tells a moving story of a gypsy girl Esmeralda and the deformed, deaf bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who loves her. Esmeralda aroses passion in Claude Frollo, an evil priest, who discovers that she favors Captain Phoebus. Frollo stabs the captain and Esmeralda is accused of the crime. Quasimodo attempts to shelter Esmeralda in the cathedral. Frollo finds her and when Frollo is rejected by Esmeralda, he leaves her to the executioners. In his despair Quasimodo catches the priest, throws him from the cathedral tower, and disappears. Later two skeletons are found in Esmeralda’s tomb – that of a hunchback embracing that of a woman. [books and writers]

For 20 more years Hugo continued to write lyrical poetry — he is considered France’s greatest poet — plays, novels and essays. He was a visual artist and statesman as well as a  human rights activist.

English: Woodburytype of Victor Hugo

English: Woodburytype of Victor Hugo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the political landscape shifted in 1851 and Louis Bonaparte began to gain power. Hugo opposed the man, coining the phrase “we have had Napoleon the Great, now we have to have Napoleon the Small” [VictorHugo.gg]. When Napoleon grabbed power by way of a coup d’etat in December of that year Hugo fled the country for Brussels. Eventually he wound up on the island of Guernsey.

There, he wrote at a fast pace. And he wrote standing up, at a pulpit, looking out across the water. He had strict minimums for himself: 100 lines of poetry or 20 pages of prose a day. It was during this time that he wrote his masterpiece, Les Misérables (1865), about a poor Parisian man who steals a loaf of bread, spends 19 years in jail for it, and after his release becomes a successful small businessman and small-town mayor — and then is imprisoned once again for a minor crime in his distant past. [WritersAlmanac]

After Louis Bonaparte’s fall in 1870 Hugo returned home to Paris. He resumed his interest in politics and was elected to the National Assembly.

Les Mis

Les Mis (Photo credit: mgstanton)

Hugo died in 1885 at the age of  83. Two million people attended his funeral procession.


Georges Seurat 12.2.12 Thought of the Day

“Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.”
Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat (1859-1891), photo

Georges Seurat (1859-1891), photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Seurat was born on this day in Paris, France in 1859. Today is the 153rd anniversary of his birth.

He was born to a wealthy family. His father was distant and taciturn.

At every available opportunity, Antoine-Christophe took leave of his family and disappeared to his villa in the suburbs to grow flowers and say mass in the company of his gardener; he was only at home on Tuesdays. Seurat’s mother was quiet and unassuming, but it was she who gave some warmth and continuity to his childhood. [Renoir Fine Art Inc.]

The family lived on the Boulevarde de Magenta near “Le Parc des Butte-Chaumont” and Georges and his mother often strolled through the park together. He revisited the park in his paintings. Seurat was a quite young man with a gentle voice. He always dressed in a dignified manner. Friends teased him that his tall handsome appearance made him look like a department store model. But he “was serious and intense ­ preferring to spend his money on books rather than on food or drink.” [Ibid]

He went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878. He preferred pointillism over the soft brushstrokes of impressionism. He took a scientific approach to painting, working “fixed hours and (using a) meticulous systematization of his technique.” [Ibid]

English: Bathers at Asnières, Georges Seurat, ...

English: Bathers at Asnières, Georges Seurat, 1884. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He painted six huge canvas paintings that represent the bulk of his artistic output. The first, painted in 1813 (and taking almost the entire year to complete) was Bathing at Asnieres.

Next came La Grande Jatte. He spent two years on La Grande Jatte, going to the same spot every day for months. There he would sketch in the morning, then in the afternoon he would return to his studio and paint on his giant canvas.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Le Grande Jatte “made” Seurat.  He took a studio next to fellow pointillist Signac in Montmartre.

Here he was surrounded by artists ranging from the conservative decorator Puvis de Chavannes, whom he greatly admired, to more progressive contempories ­ including Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. He was at the center of artistic debates, but he kept aloof from them. [Renoir Fine Art Inc.]

Likewise he keep aloof about pricing his paintings. He didn’t need to worry about money like some of his fellow artists.

He settled into an annual routine of painting large canvas s in his studio during the winter and doing smaller marine paintings at one of the Normandy Ports in the Summer.

Paris - Musée d'Orsay: Georges Seurat's Le Cirque

Paris – Musée d’Orsay: Georges Seurat’s Le Cirque (Photo credit: wallyg)

His other large canvas paintings include Le Cirque (1890), The Models (1888), La Parade (1889), and Le Chahut (1891).

Le Chahut, 1889–1890, Kröller-Müller Museum, O...

Le Chahut, 1889–1890, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seurat died at the age of 31 from meningitis in March of 1891.


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