Peggy Guggenheim, The Shock of The Modern, by Francine Prose
I have long wanted to learn more about Peggy Guggenheim, the famous American heiress turned patron of the arts, collector and gallery owner, who played an instrumental role in promoting and protecting modern art and artists that went on to become legends, of which Pollock is only the most notorious example, but by far not the only one.
This book covers all that, but it also pays attention to Peggy’s personal life, her husbands and lovers, her children and friends, her homes, her insecurities and her underrated genius. I wasn’t that interested in her amorous life, to be honest, but it was interesting to learn about it particularly after having just read Heiresses, by Laura Thompson, as yet another example of how having money will rather hinder than ensure a happy life.
I still have my eye out for her memoir, Out of This Century: Confessions of an Art Addict, which she re-wrote multiple times during her lifetime, and I’ve had The Unfinished Palazzo audiobook on my wish list for a while, but in the meantime, I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed this account of Peggy Guggenheim’s life. The art she favoured does not ‘speak to me’, but she definitely does!
The History of Coffee
I am on a mission to learn more about coffee, so this week I researched documentaries about the ‘black gold’, the most popular ‘legal drug’ in the world and one of the most traded commodities ever. The history and cultural aspects interest me the most, so I decided to start with the Black Coffee three-part series from PBS. I devoured the one-hour-long episodes, available for free on YouTube, entitled The Irresistible Bean, Gold in Your Cup and The Perfect Cup.
I found it fascinating to learn about how coffee was discovered and how it spread around the world, what cultural, social and political factors have influenced the story of coffee and how in turn it has done the same, how it has changed the world and how it impacted and still does, the lives of millions of people every day, what coffee stood for at certain times in history and in certain parts of the world.
It’s a deeply insightful story about something that many of us take the time to enjoy every single day. Or rather, can’t imagine life without being able to do so… I have a fair few more titles on my list for my research, with Caffeinated, A Film about Coffee and Black Coffee being at the top.
Exquisite Job – Flavour Inventor
With my mind on coffee and its distinctive flavour, recognisable everywhere in the world, I was reminded of this fascinating read about a day in the life of a flavour inventor, an exquisite job I didn’t even fully realise existed, but of course, it does.
I can’t even begin to think of how someone gets into this field and does this job, although I suspect there is a lot of chemistry involved. To me, it seems there must be a touch of magic too, like in the case of creating perfumes, composing music or painting.
I suppose the world would, quite literally, be blander without these types of raw talent.
Félix Potin Building
This incredible art-deco/art-nouveau building looks to me like a bottle of wine or, even better, champagne. I spotted the image recently and did a bit of research as I wanted to know if this had been the intention. As far as I could find out online, it seems not, and I find that to be brilliant!
This is one of several buildings designed by the architect Paul Auscher (1866-1932) for grocery magnate Félix Potin and it sits on Rue de Rennes in Paris. It was renovated in 2019 and it now hosts a Zara store, but the exterior, with the magnificent concrete turret and balconies, were consolidated to grace passers-by with their presence hopefully for centuries to come!
I am curious, do you see a bottle, as I did?
Catiques – Vintage Bling
Source – all images via Catiques
A truly precious find from this past week is the jewellery of artist Cathy Sexton, who pairs vintage chains with opulent rhinestone pieces, all marked by a lovely worn patina, to create the most decadent and en vogue results.
I don’t know where she finds all these treasures, particularly some of those gorgeous chains, but I am jolly glad I found her, even if that means I have added yet another item on my neverending dream list of.. everything exquisite.
Russian Flower Socks
Where can one spot an exquisite find like this? Well, last weekend I went ice skating at the National History Museum Ice Rink and among a sea of people all changing in and out of their skates, I was sitting near a lady who was wearing the prettiest pair of pale pink knitted socks with big roses. I had to ask her where she’d got them and she said at a local market, which is truly the best answer… but she quickly added I should find these online too and mentioned they are known as Russian socks.
Sure enough, Etsy did not disappoint, as you can see. These are, of course, very folkish, and I guess they could look a bit kitschy too, but it truly depends on what you pair them with and where you wear them. I can assure you the one example I have seen looked absolutely lovely and covetable.
I dare say these would make a thoughtful and cosy gift too!
Simone de Beauvoir Quote
The perks of a curated Instagram feed (more on this some other time…) is that it always delivers inspiration and when I go for a ten minutes scroll I get instant ideas for the exquisite finds I share with you every week.
With this quote by Simone de Beauvoir, I had the rare feeling of seeing one’s feelings put into words by someone else. I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.
Of course, this is describing her particular life and desires, but the feeling that transpires is the key, and I wonder how many of us feel like this all the time? Add to this bipolarity the trump card of being a mom, this all-consuming privilege and pure joy, and it is like trying to walk in three (or more?) different directions at the same time.
Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way…
If this letter has offered you a moment of inspiration, kindly forward it to others who might enjoy it too. And if you have been forwarded it, indulge in all previous Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds and subscribe to the weekly letter.