Marilyn Gardner Woods
It's orange blossom time again...
Once up a time, I wrote a book.
The inspiration for my first book was a poem—“Invitation to a Voyage”—by Charles Baudelaire, one of the 19th century’s most compelling poets, and a painting titled Luxe, Calme, et Volupté by Henri Matisse.
The painting by the great French master, which was inspired by Baudelaire’s work, is considered by many to be the starting point of the Fauve art style embraced by many early 20th century modernist artist.
I first encountered the small and vibrant painting at Musée d’Orsay in Paris and in turn the poem.
Dazzlement on my part for days.
Even weeks and months later.
In my first book, I wrote about that bedazzlement that befell me that year in France:
“When Jack and I rounded the corner and came upon Luxe, Calme et Volupté, I staggered a bit before racing to the painting. Discrete strokes of bold colors covered the painted surface, creating an image of a fantasy getaway to a seaside on the French Riviera. Matisse’s imaginative portrayal of happy bathers exuded beauty, happiness, relaxation, and escape.
The figures sunning at water’s edge in Saint-Tropez captivated me. A sense of peace and pleasure emanated from the canvas. Dreamy. I longed to be on that beach and feel that feeling. As I absorbed the work of the great French master, my appreciation of his work grew more than I had dreamed possible. This piece drew me in magnetically; Matisse’s imagery of a tranquil refuge would haunt and inspire me for all my days at The Orangewoods.
I purchased a book in the museum bookstore before we left and learned that Matisse’s painting takes its title, which means “richness, calm, and pleasure,” from a line by one of the most compelling poets of the nineteenth century, Charles Baudelaire. Back at our hotel, a pleasant young girl offered an English translation of the poem “L’Invitation au Voyage,” phrases, such as patina of time, the rarest flowers, and amber’s uncertain redolence . . . “
That evening, over a Grand Marnier dessert soufflé at Le Soufflé, our little hideaway on a quiet street near our hotel, Jack and I continued to discuss the painting and its symbolism.
“That’s what I imagine The Orangewoods to be, honey,” I said. “It is a peaceful and beautiful place of pleasure where, like Baudelaire wrote, “all the world would whisper.” I think Matisse might have wanted to paint our “luxe, calme et volupté . . . ”
Recently, a friend brought a bouquet of beautiful orange tulips, like the Valencia oranges in my book—The Orangewoods – Seasons in the Country Artfully Lived.
The tulips—the color of marmalade jam-- brought back memories of all those seasons lived in the country and the passion that went in to writing about it.
In my home, the tulips also reminded me of the poem. There are many translations; I particularly like this one:
With the patina
Of time itself in the room we would share;
The rarest flowers
With amber’s uncertain redolence;
Echoed in mirrors
And Eastern splendor on the walls –
Here all would whisper
To the soul in secret
Her sweet mother tongue.
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté
Luxe, calme et volupté.
Enjoy springtime’s dazzling beauty.