“I love how the space is lit up and how light reflects off every surface in Monet’s painting of his wife embroidering, Madame Monet Embroidering (Camille au métier). It’s so peaceful and dazzling at the same time.” – Rosalie Goldstein
Today is the 100th birthday of Rosalie Goldstein, an alumna of the Barnes-de Mazia Education Program and likely the only alum to have met Violette de Mazia for tea in Paris. Her fascinating story is recounted in the following interview by Barnes docent, Ann Moss, from January 2014 following a visit to Rosalie’s home.
Rosalie Goldstein with her doll, named for Violette de Mazia.
Tea in Paris with Violette
Rosalie Goldstein is passionate about her Barnes education. In October, she invited Staff Liaison Katie Adams and me to her home in Ardmore, where she lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She wanted to share her stories and memories of the Barnes in general and of Violette de Mazia in particular.
Many alumni have stories to tell about de Mazia, but Rosalie, age 97, may be the only one to have met her for tea in Paris. Rosalie was nine years old. “Violette was an important part of my childhood,” she says. “Imagine being so young and meeting such a glamorous woman.”
“When I was nine,” recalled Rosalie, “my mother hired Violette to teach me French. It was during that two-year period that my parents planned a trip to France. My mother knew Violette would be in Paris at the same time and she arranged—keeping it a secret from me—that we would all meet for tea. What a surprise! When we arrived and I saw Violette, I ran up to her and jumped right into her lap.” During this trip, Rosalie’s parents also bought her a doll with a pouty face, appreciatively named Violette, which she still has today.
In 1952, Rosalie and her husband went together to be interviewed by de Mazia as a first step in applying to take the Barnes courses. Violette informed them that couples were not accepted, so “one of us would need to defer to the other. I was the lucky one and Violette became my first professor.”
“I remember one day,” continued Rosalie, “our class was studying Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire. As Violette stood in front of this painting, we could sense something was wrong, and then we remembered and understood. It was the first anniversary of Dr. Barnes’s death.”
Studying at the Barnes was a remarkable experience for Rosalie: “It opened up an entire world—where you see and examine all things differently as a result of looking at art. As my husband had not been accepted into the classes, I would report back to him over dinner what I had learned, and we developed a mutual interest in art and visiting museums and galleries. We would take paintings we were considering purchasing back to Violette to critique, and she would ask that works be taken out of their frames. She was very interested in provenance.”
Inspired by Rosalie and her own relationship with Violette, Rosalie’s mother enrolled in the Barnes courses in the 1960s, taking the train from the city to Merion. Rosalie notes that her mother “especially hated Soutine’s Flayed Rabbit, but she told us how Violette took the painting off the wall, so the class could discuss it and look at it closely. My mother then described having what she called a vision. She exclaimed in class, ‘Voilà! Now I see it.’ I think all her students had that same kind of experience with Violette.”
For Rosalie, “Something as special as the Barnes experience never leaves you. I am happy that so many people can now see what Dr. Barnes put together. The whole world should be able to see it. I especially love seeing the children there when I visit. They tie everything back to when I was nine and ten.”
- Ann Moss
Rosalie met her masterpiece in Claude Monet’s Madame Monet Embroidering. What’s your story? We love hearing from our visitors. Tag your Barnes photo #MeetYourMasterpiece on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and describe your favorite masterpiece in three words (remember, no photography allowed in the galleries) for a chance to be featured.
Tweet this: New on the Barnes Blog! Which Monet is Barnes alumna Rosalie Goldstein's favorite masterpiece? http://bit.ly/1LYMS7Z #MeetYourMasterpiece
Images courtesy of Rosalie Goldstein and the Barnes Foundation