Saturday, January 8, 2011

Berthe Morisot's teacher, "Papa" Corot

Corot taught the young Berthe Morisot and in the 1860s introduced her to plein air painting. I have always loved his work, and indeed he greatly influenced the young Berthe's style. He was by that time well into his sixties, a generous man with a mane of gray hair who willingly lent his pupils some of his paintings to take home and copy. Berthe's mother coaxed him into the social circle at her house; he was a shy bachelor and unwilling to come until Madame Morisot agreed to let him smoke his pipe during dessert. They called him "Papa" Corot.

Corot stood strongly behind the young Monet and Pissarro as well. The photograph of him shown was taken by Nadar, who lent his old photography studio at 35 boulevard des Capucines for the first Exhibition of Impressionism in 1874. Corot did not take part in the Exhibition though he had influenced and taught many of its painters.

Monet's Christmas lunch

Almost everyone who has journeyed to the master's house in Giverny comes away with a vision not only of the flower gardens but the glorious yellow dining room. We imagine ourselves invited to eat there with the master. Dinner was punctual; Monet would have been up tramping fields to paint since before dawn and was very hungry. He was also very particular. Asparagus was hardly cooked; he covered his salad and much else with almost spoonfuls of black pepper.

In Claire Joyes' fascinating book, Monet's Table, I found some enticing details about Christmas dinner at Giverny. It was served at midday and the dining room was bedecked with garlands of leaves and flowers while table bowls held clusters of Christmas roses and jasmine. Children would find little gray envelopes lined with rose madder at their places containing money from Monet and his wife. There were also mysterious little packets of sweets and small gifts such as pins, medallions and pocket watches. The large presents were waiting under the tree in the dining room.

The meal began with eggs scrambled with truffles or monkfish. Strasbourg truffled foie gras in pastry was served before the truffled, stuffed capon...etc. etc. Lastly there was a lit Christmas pudding and banana ice cream. And to think Monet lived on a sack of beans for a few months in his mid twenties while sharing a studio with Renoir. And they were not truffled beans, I am sure!

(I searched in vain for a Christmas post for this blog and found one two weeks late but here it is! Do get a copy of the book and cook some of the many recipes at the back of it!)