Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Misia: The Life of Misia Sert" by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale (Alfred A. Knopf)


Superb biography on Misia Sert, who was a wealthy iconic model as well as a supporter of artists Renoir, Vuillard, Bonnard, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Wherever she sat, it seems that she was the magnet or in the presence of greatness in the art world. From writers to artists to composers to close designers, she knew everyone, and everyone seemed to want her support and friendship. At the moment I can't think of a better book on European art from the 19th-century to the World War II era, where things fell apart in the world of the arts.

"Misia" is written by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, which is the sole reason why I picked this book up. In my vinyl hunting, I have come upon two great albums by Gold and Fizdale, who play duo pianos, and focused on early 20th-century music, specifically the excellent Paul Bowles. Gold/Fizdale, a gay couple, seem to be at the very heart of the boho music world of the 1940s and 1950s Manhattan world. Besides writing this remarkable biography (1980), they also had a local New York City cooking show as well.

"Misia" is brilliantly told through various letters and journals by those who are in Ms. Sert's social world, as well as her letters to such cultural icons like Jean Cocteau and her best friend Serge Diaghilev, whose personality comes out gloriously in these pages. Cocteau was a hustler for his work, and Diaghilev was a hardcore hustler for his vision of the ballet and combining the most exceptional talents in art, music, and dance in one space, and on one stage. Misia also helped a young Coco Chanel start her world as fashion goddess, and may and may not have been lovers. The book is a gossip's dream of classic scandal on everyone from Marcel Proust to Erik Satie. It's fascinating to me that I know all the participants in this world, except for Misia Sert! There are people like her who were extremely important for any scene to get started, and she was the finance/friend that kept the ball rolling - especially to someone who was a combination of financial ruin and mess, Diaghilev.

The book is full of bitchy witticisms and an essential title for anyone who even has the 'slightest' interest in art culture from those times.
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