PaperCity Magazine

September 2017 - Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 128 of 195

127 for many years as a collections registrar for the de Menils, transcribed some interviews and was an invaluable research assistant, particularly on any issues connected to works of art. On sifting through a trove. In addition to the Menil Archives, I have been able to review, thanks to the generosity and openness of the fi ve de Menil children, a tremendous amount of material from the de Menil Family Archives, most of which has never before been studied. That includes some 10,000 family photographs — beginning in the 19th century — and probably 5,000 letters, most handwritten and probably 95 percent in French. That amount of research in French was certainly daunting. Even more challenging was the handwriting. Two French nationals living in Houston, Frédérique de Montblanc and Marie-Pascale Ware, were invaluable in deciphering the handwriting. On time and research. The sheer volume of information is one reason why this book and many other heavily researched works of nonfi ction take so much time to complete. John Richardson published the fi rst volume of his Picasso biography in 1991 (covering the fi rst 25 years of the artists life). Volume two was published in 1996; volume three in 2007; and he is currently working on the fourth volume. Robert Caro published the fi rst volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson in 1982; the fourth volume was published 30 years later; volume fi ve is still in progress. De Kooning: An American Master, took two authors almost 15 years to research and write. All three of these biographies are Knopf books. Who you interviewed just in time. I interviewed the late Walter Hopps several times. As the founding director of The Menil Collection, he was essential to understanding the institution and the de Menils' approach to collecting art. His stories, often very colorful, could be long and winding until just when you thought he had lost the point and he would come out with an observation that was revelatory. He is quoted throughout the biography. He died in 2005. There were so many Houston residents who were important interview subjects. Jane Blaffer Owen told me about her memories of the de Menils beginning in the 1940s, shortly after they had moved to the United States. Anne Schlumberger (her father Pierre was Dominique's first cousin) shared memories of her family and private correspondence. Peter Marzio, late director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, told me of Dominique's sustained connection with the museum during his tenure; Edward Mayo, the MFAH's former registrar, discussed his memories of former MFAH director James Johnson Sweeney and the de Menils. Other interview subjects included Jasper Johns; John Richardson, the Picasso biographer; Christopher Rothko, the artist's son; Leo Steinberg, the great art historian; Philip Glass, the composer; Robert Wilson, the theater director; Renzo Piano; and President Jimmy Carter. Where you followed the trail. I took multiple trips to places that had been important for the de Menils. On my fi rst research trip to France, I visited the Left Bank apartment that Dominique and John moved into in 1931; the chateau in Normandy, the Val- Richer, that has been the center of Dominique's family since the 19th century; and a chateau in Alsace, owned by Dominique's cousin that inspired the de Menils to hire noted Paris architect, Pierre Barbe, to renovate their apartment and their country house north of Paris. On bringing the book to press. Ouf! It was a tremendous relief to have a completed, edited manuscript. In April, I had a one- week trip back to New York to meet with my editor on the selection of photographs. Messengered to my hotel was a printout of the edited manuscript — the fi rst time I had "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? HOW DID THIS COUPLE COME HERE FROM PARIS IN THE 1940S AND DO ALL OF THIS? AND WHY HERE?" — William Middleton (continued on page 186) Desktop reference books include a battered edition of Le Robert & Collins French-English dic- tionary. Hubert on the Min bed by Luciano Bertoncini, from Design Within Reach. Steps by Bowsers Pet Products. Middleton says, "Like everyone's dogs, Hubert is all about love, which was a terrifi c message to have at crunch time." George Nelson daybed by Herman Miller, Napoleon III méridienne, Jean Prouvé tabourets. Middleton moved into the Mirabeau B., a sustainable residential building developed by Joey Romano, in the summer of 2014.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - September 2017 - Houston