“Some of My Lives” by Rosamond Bernier

somemylives.jpegThis is a surprising book.

Rosamond Bernier is a journalist as well as hostess extraordinaire. Born to a wealthy Jewish Pennsylvania family, she had an English mother which meant many trips to London and time in an English school. Her father, a lawyer, was involved in the music scene in Philadelphia and Rosamond grew up meeting many of the conductors, and soloists, of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Walter Gieseking, Eugene Ormandy, all came to her house, as well as Leopold Stokowsky, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland who became close friends.

Her first marriage took her to Mexico where of course Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo entered her life. Bernier writes of intimate moments with these artists but she does much more than simply name-drop. She is graceful and witty herself, with a fine taste in dress, and not conceited about her contacts. The result is we get much closer to these artists that we otherwise would.

Bernier’s life takes her to New York, where she writes about fashion for “Vogue” and eventually goes to Paris where another world of visual artists opens up, i.e. Henri Matisse, Picasso, Miro. She co-founds the art review “L’Oeil” and built an excellent reputation for herself in both research and interviews. Back in the U.S. she became well-known for her lectures at the Metropolitan Museum, as well as museums all across the country. She had the wit to be original – but brief.

Calvin Tomkins calls her book “pure pleasure – a brilliant life, beautifully evoked” and John Guare calls it an “exhilarating hopscotch through 20th century art.”

Review by Anne McDougall