E7S1 Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont

Visual artist Mickalene Thomas seems to have works of art everywhere, from the Moody Arts Center in Houston to the Brooklyn Museum and Paris.

One morning in June, Mickalene and her partner and muse, Racquel Chevremont, joined us at Albertine, our French bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. We talked at length about how Mickalene reinterprets famous French paintings (1:57); about the visibility of black women in the arts (10:42); about Mickalene and Racquel’s love for Dior (15:01) and French butter (30:45); and the role that Paris plays for African-American artists (6:02). 

Show Notes

The below notes are designed to enrich the listener's experience by further explaining the more obscure French references mentioned throughout the show.

1:57 Impressionism

Impressionism began in the 1860s in Paris as certain painters moved away from the traditional academic style that dominated French art. Impressionist painters settled outside of their studios and tried to capture the sensory experience of a given moment – impressions of the scene they were perceiving. Their name comes from Claude Monet’s painting Impression, soleil levant.

12:25 Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe

Painting by Édouard Manet (1863) – literally Luncheon on the Grass – depicting a female nude with fully dressed men. Its lack of historical or mythological justification shocked the public. It was rejected by the official Paris Salon and exhibited at the Salon des Refusés. It is considered one of the first works of modern painting. It is on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

2:45 Henri Matisse

Known as a painter, Matisse was also a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor of the early 20th century. His style plays with the impression of flatness, the use of very intense colors, and a sense of deceptive simplicity. His works include La danse (MoMA, New York), La desserte rouge (Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg), and Nu bleu II (Centre Pompidou, Paris).

3:48 Giverny & Claude Monet

Located in Normandy, 50 miles away from Paris, Giverny (only 500 inhabitants!) is known around the world as French impressionist painter Claude Monet’s hometown. He drew inspiration from his property, especially his garden, and his pond. His water lilies series is among his most famous works. Today, you can visit Monet’s house and garden and get a sense of what inspired this renowned artist.

14:19 Georges Seurat

French post-impressionist of the second half of the 19th century, Seurat is known as the founder of pointillism–also called chromoluminarism, a technique using small and distinct dots of color to create an image. His works include paintings like Le Noeud noir (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), Le Cirque (Musée d’Orsay) and La Tour Eiffel (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco).

20:44 Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today / Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse

The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris partnered to present an exhibition on “the Black Model.” The exhibition was on display in New York from October 24, 2018 to February 10, 2019, and then travelled to the Musée d’Orsay in France from March 26, to July 14, 2019 – you still have a little bit of time to catch it! 

23:20 Le Sommeil by Gustave Courbet

Painting by Gustave Courbet, one of the leaders of Realism in French painting. His works – including the famous The Origin of the World – often sparked controversies. In 2013, Mickalene Thomas reinterpreted Courbet’s painting in a piece called Sleep Deux Femmes Noires.

31:00 Beurre demi-sel

French people are famously picky when it comes to food, and butter is no exception. It can either be doux (sweet, unsalted), demi-sel (half-salted, between 0.5% and 3%) or salé (salted, over 3%). Salted butter is often associated with the Western part of France, and especially Brittany, where they started using salt to keep butter longer. Don’t even think about mentioning unsalted butter to Britons –it’s not real butter for them!

31:40 Robert et Louise

Small traditional French restaurant located in the 3rd arrondissement in Paris. It has been a family business for over sixty years.

31:59 Le BHV Marais

Located across the Hôtel de Ville in the Parisian neighborhood of the Marais, BHV is a trendy and fashionable bazaar where you are sure to find everything you didn’t even know you needed, from cutlery to clothes and sink strainers.