In the country they lost me in the woods, or I was running after animals. I could not be tamed. I didn’t want to learn to read at any price, but when I was not even four years old, I a felt a true passion for drawing and smeared the white walls, as far as I could reach, with my scribbles.
To write about my first attempts would be to repeat the story of all artists’ beginnings, and I prefer not to do that..
As a young girl I wasted my time with excessive questioning and eccentric trivialities. There is a time when, completely naively, you feel yourself capable of anything and everything.
I was in search of a vocation that no longer exists. I wanted technique, craft skills, simplicity and good taste. When I went to Italy, I suddenly saw in all the museums the paintings by the Italian masters of the fifteenth century. I was enthused. And I asked myself why I liked them so much. Because they were so clear, so clean. I paint clearly and cleanly. And that is the reason for my success. Among hundreds of paintings you can immediately recognize mine. The galleries hang my paintings in the best rooms, always in the centre because my painting attracts people. It is clean; it is consummate.
I enjoy it when people say to me that my paintings are perverse Ingres.
It is particularly important in any vocation, and certainly in art, to have a good “start”, and then everything will turn out fine. This difficulty is so great and sustained that we have to possess the ability to dream of our success, even to believe in it, so that we can endure such a stony career-path.
I smoke three packets of cigarettes a day and swallow tons of sleeping pills at night . The days are simply too short. Sometimes I go out in the evenings and come back home at 2 a.m. and work until 6 o’clock in bad light.
I have a goal and I have a plan. After every second painting sold, I will buy a bracelet until the diamonds and jewels reach from my wrist to the elbow.
You must have a great enthusiasm for your art in order to be able to live in this horrible milieu and among these crude people.
I am only interested in the best.
I have a completely black wig on and my eyebrows are also blackened.
I can spend entire nights thinking about a painting or a statue; the thought of a handsome man has never had the same effect.
I am living here happily, far from the world, receiving visits from a few intimate friends, and working as well as I can.
I lead the life of a farmer. I get up early and go to bed late. Early in the morning I take a stroll in the garden with my dog. At nine o’clock I sit down at my easel and work until eleven thirty; then I have a frugal breakfast, smoke a cigarette and glance at the newspapers.
Everything I own I owe to the work of my hands and my own good taste.
If I were completely happy, perhaps I never would have worked.
Quotations: Rosa Bonheur, Marie Bashkirtseff, Lousie-Catherine Breslau, Tamara de Lempicka
In: Starship, Nr. 3, Winter 2000