Essay by Boris Kalachnikoff

Essay by Boris Kalachnikoff (1924-2013), stage designer, painter, sculptor and art educator, Paris, France, 1991

Kindly translated from French by Jennifer Kotlarevsky, freelance translator, Auckland, New Zealand, 1991

An accompanied solitude

To my godmother Flora

I THE MEETING

II FLORA SCALES

III FLORA SCALES AND PAINTING

IV ANALYSIS OF HER WORKS

V THE TRAP

VI BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ‘ADMIRED ARTISTS’

VII MAN AND ART

I THE MEETING

It was on a sunny morning in the spring of 1928, on the Boulevard Port-Royal (Paris, 5th District), where my family lived: my mother, my father, my brother who was 5 years older than me, and myself, in a small ground-floor apartment where beloved turtledoves fluttered in total liberty, that Flora Scales with Miss Poulingea was going to Montparnasse and met me.

“Painting was her refuge, her passion, her reason – her intelligence.”

I was playing among the trees of the wide boulevard, alone.  I was four years old.

This small, carefree boy that I was then, blond, with curly hair and blue eyes, drew the attention of these young women who were in love with life and dreams.

They were both tall, slim, full of the joy of life, faces lit up with beautiful smiles…

Thus came about a meeting, a friendship, a journey, lives which were going to finish sadly in 1985…

If the meeting was happy, spontaneous, enchanting, dazzling, our separation was more uncertain… the train left from the St Lazare Station, my godmother in a lovely orange-coloured coat, her black hat sitting assuredly on her head, her face pure and smiling, with an ample gesture of her gloved hand, said this goodbye which we all knew – herself, Christiane and I – would be forever … no tears, … just goodbye.

For three years, I was permanently looking for sign of life, something which would speak to me of her.  Communications between France and New Zealand were interrupted and all messages remained without reply.

How could I from so far away, in difficult administrative circumstances, with foreigners, contact someone who had loved me like a son, who had saved me from my solitude, guiding my destiny, who had helped me to survive?

Like her, I was a prisoner of Art.

After trying consulates, letters delivered through other countries, no reply.  At last, a missive, the last one, which troubled me.  Already the weakness of her state was appearing, and worried me greatly.  Was she free, was she able to contact me.  Was she able to speak to me

Would I be notified? … no matter what, I wanted her to be happy, calm, as at our parting in the train at St Lazare.

In June 1985, my sorrow was great … The childhood dream was always present, Flora’s smile, my godmother was there, among the landscapes of Bry or Lozère.

- Flora opened up to my childhood wonderment.

Near my home there was a sweet shop, Flora offered me an enormous packet of raisins!  Immediately I ran to my mother, pulling Flora after me insistently to our modest apartment.

- Thus was born a friendship where Art was always present.

In fact there were often visits to the green park of Luxembourg (Paris), visits to the museum, then called the Museum of Modern Art, where Matisse, Dufy, Marquet, Lhote, Ozenfant, Metzinger, Bonnard, Kisling, de Segonzac were grouped together.

She used to say to me:

“Poor Seurat, he died breathing the coloured powders of pastels”.  In fact, he died catching cold, but she felt deeply for the tragic fate of many artists.

I had the feeling of entering an elitist world.  Already keenly interested, admiring, I communed with the paintings and disconcerted, I asked myself questions.  Perhaps the privileged relationship with Flora was already isolating me from an exterior world which she wanted to ignore and from which I was already fleeing.


Then, from the Museum of the Orangerie to the Tuileries where she spent a long time analysing the works, concentrating intently on the lesson of the masters, I was with her all the time.

In Pierre Nicole street, not far from where we lived, in the student quarter, of old artists presbyteries, in Montparnasse, we used to go back to her hotel where English afternoon teas awaited me, the inevitable rite of cake, tea, biscuits and marmalade.

I loved this ceremony and awaited it with anticipation, face to face with Flora who was delighted, and me, the child, feeling important, grown-up, wondrous.

… I used to play with the water in the washbasin, with a little wooden boat and an Indian.

My inseparable friend Flora, became my godmother.

There were also walks, not far from the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens) on the banks of the Seine.  What a beautiful river the Seine is, with its quays lined with majestic trees, its mysterious slow-moving barges.  It breathed of Nature.

In the evenings we used to go to a modest and pleasant restaurant at Madame Wadja’s.  We used to eat enormous apple cakes with fresh cream!!

Godmother and I were accomplices, gourmands.  What abundance.  What delicious moments!!

- The holidays.  She used to take me by train to Le Tréport, a pebble beach on the Channel, with its sky filled with puffy, downy clouds which I always admired.

… I was looking out of the train window in wonderment at the green countryside of Normandy going past, it went quickly, too quickly, the wind whipped my face … Flora was delighted.  Enchanted, she said to me: “You don’t know how much you bring me.”  She offered me a handkerchief, and there I was waving it in the wind … goodbye beautiful bird, the toy flew away as quickly as a furtive look.  I was afraid of a reprimand.  Instead I got a smile.  That surprised me.  Such kindness …


II FLORA SCALES

Later on, we went to St Tropez, several times during the long school holidays.  I must have been between eight and fourteen.

In St Tropez I lived my happiest moments, near the bright colourful sea.  Godmother painted the countryside around St Tropez, which was always sunny.

We used to stay in a villa belonging to Madame Coccoz, which looked onto the Place des Lys (Square of Lilies), shaded by old plane trees with abundant foliage where the boules players used to meet.

In St Tropez, there was the Museum of the Assumption with the painters of the 30s: Matisse, Dufy, de Segonzac, Renoir, Ozenfant.

We visited Cagnes-sur-Mer, not far from St Tropez, where she spoke of Soutine, his desperate life, his begging from other artists to obtain some colours.  We saw the little church above Cagnes which Renoir painted in 1905.

We lived in the rue Constantin Guys, near the workshop of an Austrian sculptor who was tall and handsome with blond hair.  He had sculpted the bust of Beethoven.  He spoke to me of Bourdelle.

I revelled in this atmosphere where a quality of art and culture prevailed.  This sculptor talked to me about the high quality of art.

At my request, my godmother procured a box of paints and some brushes for me, and without mastering anything at all, surrounded by prestigious books, I immersed myself in Matisse’s work and copied his blue sideboard.

I went to paint the sea, from the top of the hills, vague semblances of Cézanne, very disappointing.

On returning to Paris, about 1935, my godmother took me to the Ranson Academy, where the artists were surprised to see a child pretending to be an artist, but behaving with dignity so as to merit this artistic environment.  I was very embarrassed.  Flora didn’t always realise, completely devoid of prejudices, as she was.  She was above conventional pettiness, sometimes not very realistic, but happy.  She drew live models in a cubist style, reminding me of one of the nudes of Braque.

I have another childhood memory.

At Le Tréport, on the Channel, I must have been about 8 years old, one evening we were walking along the beach, and in the distance we could hear music, it must have been light music, a slow fox-trot, I was touched, I asked her if we could go to the Casino where the music was coming from.  We went there, to the stupefaction of the dancers, who were quite surprised to see a child there; the music was disappointing, I was extremely ill at ease.  Flora refused me nothing.  The universe belonged to us.  She used to say to me, I cannot foresee the future.  It was compassion which predominated in her, only compassion, always above all guile where so-called adults evolve.

Among her artist friends she was at ease, even rather worldly, affected when taking her tea, always a Lady.  Flora was a lady, always very strict, very upright, very Victorian.  With the years her silhouette got slimmer, a halo of coiled hair crowned her neat head.

Flora was very dignified.  She was devoid of spite and hidden motives, completely defenseless in an often cruel, unscrupulous world, where resourcefulness prevails and the shameless, unscrupulous ambition of those who seek to impress.  I used to meet her after school, where I was unhappy.

We sometimes went, but more rarely, to a restaurant reserved for “English ladies”.  I felt very intimidated in these unfamiliar circles but always forced myself to be respectfully discreet.


We went to visit her family in England, who were rich bourgeois.  I was then about 14 years old.  I had long hair, an orange jacket, it was shocking for them.  They called me “Master”, indiscreetly questioned me about my family, about my life, trying to find out what I thought, trying to discover the personage of BOB! - the intruder.

I remember being in difficulty.  At this young age, I was not ready to withstand the assaults of one of these beautiful young women who was far from shy.

“The English”, Flora used to say, “are not artists, they are shopkeepers.”

Her sister, a snob with black glasses, rather pretentious (and “with it”).  A colonel was there amongst the group, rather indifferent, distant.  And also a very pleasant young officer in the Royal Navy who was killed in the War.

Flora also introduced me to her mother, an elderly lady, who was bedridden.  I was admitted into her room to be presented to her, to greet her towards the end of her life.

I wanted to be worthy of this society where I had to be on my best behaviour.

But Flora liked France, Paris or the South of France.  She used to come, later, to Bry-sur-Marne, to spend the warmer weather with us.  Then, because of the exchange rate had to leave, regretfully for New Zealand.

We never stopped writing to each other.

I always encouraged her to paint.

But it is only now that I understand certain of her paintings, upheld by theories where the plastic dominates all creative steps.

As time went by, she scrutinised “Time” which was passing, her face became more closed, her friends became rarer, but never a word on the non-communication of anyone towards her.

At this time, Flora came more and more often to France and to Bry and stayed with us for 7 to 8 months.

****


III FLORA SCALES AND PAINTING

Rightly or wrongly, I think that Goya said that English art is tea and biscuits, it lacks meat.

Flora’s painting, in her structured paintings is not deliquescent, it is unctuous and muted.

She painted colourful and structured still-lifes.  I remember one of her paintings, a round garden table, made of metal, coloured green with eucalyptus, some striped pink and green Indian material which she was fond of, a terracotta pitcher, some fruit [BC123].

Her painting is very studied in its composition, with deliberate deformations of perspective in order to satisfy a strict plastic art, which could be said to be an application of the Cubist experience.

This remarkable still-life was painted around 1935.

My mother who was incapable of understanding such an elaborate painting that was not at all stereotyped or descriptive, a healthy, tonic work from which emanated a “joie de vivre”, a creative interpretation, which replied to questions posed by the requirements of the art of painting, from where we discovered modern art, a  masterly application of the thought of Maurice Denis: “A painting, before being a battle horse or a nude woman, is, first of all a space filled with colour, forms, values and a certain composed order.”

Well, my mother used this coloured canvas to repair the underneath of an armchair.

What wealth, lost forever!

Such a lesson in art reduced to the underneath of a chair!

Flora saw this chair, – what sadness.  I felt extremely uncomfortable.  Flora was appalled.

Flora had the pure soul of certain authentic artists, who retained from childhood a certain naivety which was not lost forever to greed.

When she found herself confronted by the vulgarity of certain paintings or architecture, she used to say, “That is heavy, that lies on the stomach.”

Here are a few memories, among others, where art was present and filled me with a certain strength.

These memories are with me and cannot fade.  I experienced with my godmother such intense moments of art and life.  Many who have not experienced such moments lead lacklustre lives, evolving in a grey universe which can be compared to crossing a desert, not really having “lived.”

With the discovery of art, with my godmother, I discovered an enchanted life, the happiest moments of my childhood, of my existence.

There was mutual understanding, elective exchanges, a knowing sensitivity, among so much misunderstanding where the sometimes fruitless transmission of knowledge dominates, lacking in beauty and hope in man, towards his own discovery.

****


IV ANALYSIS OF HER WORKS

- “To finish a painting is to finish it off.”

Picasso

- “I don’t work for the finite, but for the infinite.”

El Greco


Like El Greco, Picasso does not work to “finish” a painting, but to express himself, to create life, always calling into question, reaching out, communicating the way of discovery, establishing a relationship with life.

Each moment is creation.

A perpetual calling into question:

“One must ceaselessly keep up the chaos within oneself in order to give birth to a star which dances”.

Nietzsche

“To finish a painting is to finish it off”

in other words, to kill it.

A few creators:

In sculpture: Rodin, Germaine Richier, Giacometti, etc

those who help one think
those who help one live
who give a meaning to our life.

In art: De Stael, Raoul Dufy, Bonnard, Cézanne, etc…

“The artist is not adapted to this world, he compensates, he creates his world in order to find himself” (Freud)

express themselves by lines, by dots, by vividness, by masses, by suggestive graphism.

Their works are a perpetual calling into question, in movement.  They vibrate.  Their construction develops little by little becoming a work which is deliberately unfinished.  The artist frees himself from a sclerotic finish.

“It is Art which makes the rules, it is not the rules which make Art.”

“I live in a movement where I follow a passage.”

The period of the perfectionist masterpiece has finished.

Modern Art has broken the mould of the Renaissance.  The viewer no longer finds himself in front of the closed work.  He can, at his will, imagine, himself prolong the work with his knowledge, his dreams and thus communicate with its creator.  An intimate relationship is established.


To strive to finish does not leave room for the unexpected, for spontaneity, for liberty and the plastic work becomes stilted, lifeless.

To finish a painting, is certainly to finish it off …

That which is apparent throughout Flora’s paintings is her perpetual evolution, always developing, in gestation, calling into question.

She is obsessed by plastic problems: form, colour, subject matter in a certain order, organised, composed, with her there are no frills, no concession to pleasing always unfinished so as to allow an “opening” a calling into question, the passion to express something that is real, perceived, sensitive, a quality of life.

The Port of Mousehole in the setting sun [BC026]

What a lesson in art!

A humble approach that is constructive in a stubborn reflection, always searching.  Flora was always unsatisfied, with a sustained feverishness, like an illuminated temple absorbs the cosmos; one melts into it, like Icarus, the artist flies towards the sun.

Elsewhere there is so much trickery, such gratuitous craftiness, vain virtuosity dominated by that which is spectacular, and devoid of any authenticity.

Certain fashionable artists are corrupted by commercialism, where surprising no longer surprises, were the cleverest themselves are lost, incapable of perceiving the blinding truth, in a labyrinth where one cannot get one’s bearings.  We are carried along by false aims which open up to servitude.

It was a moving process for Flora, together with those who listen to the voice of the world with an unselfish sincerity, without concession or flattery.  This knowledgeable simplicity is not easy to decipher!

In the Port of Mousehole, the search for the whole is evident, Flora endeavours, with a great science of composition, to distribute her coloured spaces, where empty spaces are treated as full ones, with a mastery attained by experimentation by an effort sustained by scumble.  One can feel the relentless effort, the search to master, to organise the whole and here one is reminded of another of Goya’s thoughts: “art is in sacrifice”.  That is to say, stripping of everything except the essential.

What strikes one here, is the unexpected abstract composition which is organised on the motif, reached without any stereotype or any of the procedures usually exploited by the adherents of figurative abstraction.

Here, all is rediscovery of a recreated space, of modest proportions 350mm x 250mm of support, but monumental by the effect of the size of the space obtained, where the space merges into infinite space. (For Matisse this is to make a small surface big).

Art is to take a small surface and make it appear big.

Painting attains cosmogony.  The line of the horizon, to the right of the painting is surprising, unexpected with its sun, so rare, re-created, also treated by an out of line plane in order to bring about a displaced plastic effect and thus avoid a lifeless evenness.  There is an intelligence of the re-created form.

All this is a permanent calling into question, resolved with the authenticity of an exceptional personality, which only a few creators of a very high standard attain.  I am thinking of Braque, Bonnard for composition, and Cézanne.

It is of such natural subtleness that all flashy superficial and facile virtuosity is eliminated.  The culmination gives way as in Bonnard to an eternal revival.


Here, Flora attains cosmic abstraction where perception fuses with space, the modest format becomes huge, for Matisse: “a painting of modest size must give a sensation of space.”  One must feel comfortable with it.

Flora offers us a lesson in art.

She was someone who was often misunderstood, vulnerable, solitary, who sometimes provoked derision of those who were ignorant or lucidly blind.“Art makes idiots laugh” Valery

“Painting is like Chinese, one can learn it.”  Picasso

Through Art Flora left the caverns and attained the truth of the sun, of the coloured and vibrant light of the new day which is always renewed.

Flora Scales was the student of Mr Kinzinga [sic], a theoretician whose teaching she often evoked, and of Bissière, an artist where childhood could be felt, upheld by a vast and audacious pictorial culture.  She often spoke of them, one for his masterly lessons and Bissière for his sensitive humanity, so down to earth.

From this wondrous childhood, where the present moment projects itself in space on the canvas, the first, spontaneous impulsions of hidden desires, which are liberated with the aid of the creative hand, without constraint.

From this rediscovered childhood the emotional gesture is poured out in a creative moment.

A spontaneous gesture felt by the adult and projected into space.  

PICASSO

“One spends a long time becoming young.”

By her love the meaning of her research, always up to date, her discretion in modest achievement and her humility which sets her apart from even the wiliest of painters.

There was a complicity between us of two beings who were brought together by a strong aesthetic drive, in spite of the great difference in age, one listening to the other, beings who came together in a sterile world: art among the blind.

Flora was not sensitive to music, however at St Tropez I took her into a room where the 6th symphony of Beethoven was being played on the radio. I was deeply touched by this music.  I was carried away, bedazzled.

Flora was happy to see this childhood wonderment.  She took this taste for the Arts very seriously. I was 11 years old.

Flora progressed to painting from life between Cornwall, Paris at the Ranson Academy, and especially the South of France.  In Cassis she was fascinated by the violet colour of the earth, St Tropez, its Museum of the Assumption, Cagnes sur Mer, the school of Munich and its art gallery.

In Paris she often went to the Luxembourg Museum of Modern Art.  There she admired the “fauves”, Bonnard, Matisse, the impressionist museum of the Jeu de Paume at the Tuileries, where she spent long moments in front of Lola de Valence by Manet, Olympia.

At the Louvre: the Pisanellos, the Italian primitives, the Venus in the Mirror by Velázquez of which she often used to look at the reproduction – she was surrounded by postcards, her imaginary museum where she passionately consulted the teachings of Tintoretto, Veronese, Goya, Michelangelo.  The great ones – van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, which she avidly took in.

Picasso said that one learned more by watching artists, than by watching nature!

Whereas for Debussy, one must “listen to the wind in the trees.”


I received her letters regularly, the handwriting was becoming hesitant, her eyes were clouding over, colours that were so strong, so bright and the contrasts of coloured values became blurred and disappeared.

On a sunny autumn morning, she passed away.  The aura of Flora’s sun and her eternity.

In her best paintings, Flora is situated in the rational constructivist style of Cézanne, Seurat of the Nabis, cubism sometimes at various periods of her painting.  She liked to look at Fernand Léger.

Although being of a temperament with a sensorial tendency due to her apprehension of that which is “real”, her inadaptation in a world where the profit of elementary concrete is of prime concern, where most are indistinguishable, meeting in a milieu that is devoid of any aesthetic understanding and which loses itself in a scatalogical environment in which there is neither colour nor form but an accumulation of incoherency, of invading rubbish which finishes by suffocating lost childhood.

- HER PAINTING is without any concession to pleasing.

Always unsatisfied with her own research, deeply sincere, always a calling into question, akin to the artists she admired, from Seurat to Veronese, Manet, Velázquez with whose reproductions on postcards she surrounded herself, her Museum, which she always had with her wherever she went.

What is remarkable is this awareness, this seeking of discoveries of Modern Art relying on a past which felt confusedly the discoveries that were to come.  Then, Art in the rough, a return to basics, where Bissière rejoins the spontaneity of childhood which is not constrained by the control of reason.

Bissière is perhaps a sort of French Paul Klee, and Paul Klee said: “I would like to be like a newborn child who rediscovers everything.”

Paul Klee is an introverted cerebral type.

Bissière more instinctive, down to earth, plebian even.

But both are emotional, energetic, instinctive.

Flora’s painting is neither emotive effusion nor cerebral.

Like Cézanne, she sometimes practices structure in painting.

However, she is of a “sensorial” psychological tendency, that is to say that she is dominated by urges, agitation, expression, colour, matter, which she would compensate by structure, akin sometimes to Cézanne mixed with Bonnard.

All in relation with her comportment which was restrained due to a particularly rigid, strict education.

***


ANALYSIS OF THREE PAINTINGS; STILL LIFE (lost)

Paintings by Flora Scales

In the “Anemones” [BC048], “Mousehole” [BC026], “Lozère” [BC078] without forgetting the superb “Eucalyptus” [BC123], which was very colourful (destroyed by my mother).

In these works Flora, consciously or not turns from figuration to abstraction.

In her way, Flora follows the lessons of Cézanne.

She directs the composition, always having in mind the ensemble, where the full spaces are as important as the empty ones in an organised rhythm where realism of the subject becomes a game of coloured forms which fit into one another with colour, rhythm, values, matter, contrasts, of opposites attaining a certain grandeur, in spite of formats of modest proportions.

It is well known that the sketches of a painting give out a pulsation of coloured movement which the final work loses, see Rubens, Delacroix, Michelangelo – the final work is immobile.

In the Anemones, Flora succeeds in including the vase and the flowers (which is not easy) by fragmentation of the vase.

However, the big step of abstraction is not crossed (which is not necessarily desirable).  In fact, the vase and the flowers are independent as if added on to the background, without falling into any of these systematic effects of those who are nostalgic for realism and flirt with abstraction.

However, the horizontal surfaces in the anemones are out of line and reply to a plastic necessity.

Many artists have gone astray by systematically wanting to conciliate realism and abstraction which falls into a repetitive process, a systematic adapting engenders monotony without any real calling into question.

Nothing of this with Flora, where every still-life and certain landscapes set her new plastic problems to which she replies differently each time.

An abstract construction, pushed to the extreme, is going to lead to pure abstraction with its aspirations of cosmic space, of spirituality, of the universal.

Abstraction, thus considered, becomes a metaphysical result.

But after the large sidereal spaces, how can one forget the clouds, the fruit, a cat, a woman, a smile? long live diversity.

LOZÈRE, PAINTING OF FLORA SCALES

A painting, lightly touched by scumble, flowing, light, however of a strict construction.

Thus, in these paintings, Flora relentlessly follows, with a will, a truth, her quest for a balanced, organised structure where there is absolutely nothing systematic about abstraction, where plans are organised, become unchanging in a movement of ensemble, where the refusal of the non-essential is a course of action.

(Michelangelo was asked “How do you sculpt?”  He replied “I take away all that is unnecessary”).

Flora looks over the village of Lozère with the approach of an artist, a poet in order to discover, at last, the motive which she has brought to fruition as a plastician.

In fact, knowing the village well, it could only be at this precise spot where she had to put down her easel.

Thus there is a privileged meeting between the artist and her subject.


And here again, Flora has succeeded her space by an abstraction in relation with the subject: houses, bell towers, porches, chimneys.

No mean descriptions, no anecdotal illustration, no mannerism, one breathes, it is ample like the pure mountain air of Lozère, but where Flora complained of the cold.

With Flora, nothing is spectacular, it is the simple truth, no mannerism, no compliancy, but always rigorously sustained.

To approach Flora’s painting, one must forget all the tricks of the trade, all easy, flattering eye-catching effects of superficial virtuosity at the service of a mercenary skill to impress the innocent spectator.

All devices, the processes of painstaking, professional artists (artisans), stuck in mortal repetition, pirouettes of all sorts.

For Picasso, repetition is Hell.

For these four paintings, each one is a calling into question with the problems posed by each new model.

It is the truth which stands out.

Laborious, artisanal, industrious work gives way to a dominated, reconquered ease, in order to master the ensemble, which is barely touched, as here.

Effort is not a laboured duty, however she concentrates fully in order to lead, to master the composition, it is a struggle; she is tense, tormented, searching to overcome when she was painting here.These paintings are accessible to those who understand that in order to please, it is not necessary to seduce.

Thank you Flora for offering us the chance to join you in this simple but elaborate language, where it is possible to love one another.

Flora you are less alone
A few perceive you and sometimes
reach you in your hidden domain.


The word “bohemian” does not suit Flora, who was marked by a strict, Victorian education, that was traditionally English and of anabaptist religion.

Flora was very well-groomed, always impeccably dressed with a refined sobriety and the right balance of colours, discretely rich.

These paintings were reflected in her, with all their different shades.

She always held herself very upright, very dignified in a tradition which had been handed down by her ancestors.

At table these manners were particularly respected, without affectation, it was second nature, with a ceremonial of different forks and knives and plates.

Her education had been very strict since her childhood.  Horses were only ridden sidesaddle.

She was naturally distinguished.  The Lady was present.


When she arrived at the Saint Lazare Station, she was noticeable straight away.  A tall, rather severe-looking, slender lady, with a wide, circular hairdo, at right-angles to her chest on an upheld head.  She was dressed in refined grey, tones of green and pale orange, with her easel and her shiny box of paints in her hand.

She was easily distinguishable from the other travellers by her imposing bearing.

When it was rainy, rubber galoshes were worn, an inborn habit due to a rainy climate.

Her appearance was definitive and identical to herself, like her days, rising early, a well-looked after house, there were always flowers, fruits, everything tastefully done.

The quality, hand-made ceramic dishes: tones of emerald green, pink, crimson violet.

Breakfast with a ritual place setting, in the English way.

Everything around her was meticulous.

Then, setting off to paint, with her drawing pad.

Through her art she lived as in a dream, among Bonnard, Seurat, Matisse.

After her return from painting, the brushes and the palette were carefully cleaned.

At 5 o’clock it was the inevitable cup of tea with its accompaniments.  Flora enjoyed her food.

She felt sorry for animals and always had a lost cat which she used to call ceaselessly, with great patience she tried to tame it; a game between these two secret beings fascinated by one another.


V FLORA AND THE FRENCH

Her French was approximate, but it was a language which she loved, always admiring certain correct turns of phrase.

However I always understood her very well.

She learned French in the artist’s studios.

She used to ardently wish to speak French well.  I used to enjoy helping her to articulate this beautiful musical language.  She always wanted to take French lessons.

In fact, she enjoyed being in France.  In any case in Paris and on the Riviera.  Lozère, being at an altitude of 1000 metres she found rather cold.


VI THE TRAP

In comparison with her education, her art was another world where she rebuilt herself, little by little at the same time as she structured her painting. She would have liked to exhibit.

But how was she to consider the world of exhibitions, of selling: it is a sort of sect with its conventions.

Those artists who know how to manoeuver among this set, these clowns, courtesans, kings, where artists sacrifice themselves to the social round, holding the telephone with one hand and the paintbrush with the other, inviting this one and that one to the restaurant, playing the polite host, cunningly manoeuvering, where relationships are all-important.

Where paying to exhibit is exorbitantly expensive.

Where being crafty, fashionable imposter (of art), pirouetting here and there.

The true artist, like Flora, finds himself in silence, far from intrigues and devouring ambition.

To be projected into a world of rivalries, dominances, cunning, fanatical ambitiousness, which is cruelly dominated by the shrewd.

Flora was not armed to confront this earth.

She arrived in a small town in Cornwall, where pretentious, idle snobs see a middle class lady arriving, and an artist on top of that.

But there, Flora was an authentic artist completely devoid of spitefulness and these people were on the lookout for easy distractions.

Thus Flora became their prey.  Flora foresaw this and fled from them, which irritated these intellectuals who were annoyed and provoked aggression on their part; they meanly took their revenge.

Among other things: after Lands End at the extremity of Cornwall, is an island.  This island is called “Scilly”.

Then they suggested to Flora a boat trip to the Scilly isles.

In England they say: “when it rains, it pours!!!”

Under a perfectly kind appearance, these bad jokers, carried out a form of persecution.

Flora was minimised, not knowing how to pull strings in a society which was not made for her.

Flora fled from this perverse and insidious mob.

Flora wouldn’t say anything bad about anyone.

She never said anything against these neighbours who were idle intellectuals.

Flora didn’t want to set me against anyone.

Should one, on the subject of these deplorable meetings in Cornwall, evoke Baudelaire’s “Albatross”?  I do not know, but these sophisticated snobs were closer to those cruel sailors in Baudelaire’s poem, than sensitive to a kind of innocence.

Luckily, she met Bissière, who was so human, Kinzinga who was open to theories of painting.

She had an artist friend, Miss Knight, with whom she had warm and sincere conversations and exchanged paintings, in a friendly way, in the sunny countryside of Saint Tropez.


Poulingea, who created the link between a practical reality and an understanding of Art.  Miss Poulingea was a smiling English bourgeoisie, tall well-built sure of herself, realist, healthy.

Miss Poulingea painted.  I remember her studio in Montparnasse in the year 1933, where she used to have long conversations with Flora over a cup of tea.  I used to wait, a little apart, keeping quiet.  I looked at her painting trying to understand.  I must have been about 12 years old.

I remember one small, framed painting by Miss Poulingea with facades, houses, shops, a sign, with flat colours uniformly applied, clean, neat, very pleasing.

I have good memories of this.

There were other women artists who invited her to different cultural towns.  Munich, for example, or the picturesque spots of the Riviera:  Saint Tropez, Cassis and its violet coloured landscapes with attracted her, Cagnes sur Mer or in Cornwall, Saint Ives, Mousehole and other fishing ports where she was welcome.

There it was, a deep friendship, touching for a child whose education was influenced by a sensitive, dignified and artistic lady.

Thank you Flora.

I am now almost at the end of a career as a specialist in education through Plastic Arts, a career which I practised with passion.

My inclination for the Arts was due to Flora.

I would have liked to understand earlier the meaning of her research, to have been more influenced in my own works, but her spirit was what determined my penchant for Art.

Her Art of which I only now perceive the hidden steps, the meaning of her research, her example is a calling into question of truth, a respiration, a sensation of freedom in space.


Introduction to Boris Kalachnikoff’s scanned pages.

The following pages are scanned copies of the continuation of Boris Kalachnikoff’s essay. Included are some original pages in his handwriting in French alongside a translated copy.

They show the characteristically graphic form of his thoughts and ideas expressed as lists and diagrams which accompany many of his letters to his godmother, Flora Scales and to B de Lange. They demonstrate his passion for art and its history and his dedication to teaching and passing on his knowledge.

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