Monday, April 21, 2008


Napoleon and Whistler

I have just finished reading a book called “Napoléon et moi !” by the French art historian Jocelyne Rotily. It’s subject is the American impressionist painter James McNeill Whistler, focusing on the winter and spring of 1901 which he spent in Ajaccio.

As well as giving the reader a glimpse of the island’s capital at the turn of the last century (most of his Corsican paintings and etchings are reproduced in the appendix), the book also sheds an interesting light on the inner workings of Whistler’s mind. On the latter, I was intrigued to learn how deeply this American artist hated the British. It seems that some of Britain’s citizens were unwise enough not to elect him to membership of the Royal Academy, and for this the nation received a lifetime’s supply of his wrath. He castigated them in letters to his young sister-in-law and various influential friends, and even took pleasure at British setbacks in the Boer War.

Whistler had been advised to go to Corsica for a rest by a doctor whose opinion he valued, but the book left me with the feeling that he rejoiced in being there because it was the birthplace of Napoleon – Britain’s bitterest enemy from an all too recent past. I love Whistler’s work, but the quoted letters lead me to believe I wouldn’t much have liked this bitter and complex old man.

Napoléon et moi ! James McNeill Whistler en Corse is published by ACFA editions and the author tells me that an English edition is planned. If you can’t wait, you can order the French version on A good read, backed by thorough research.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Not much has changed

We watched a rerun of the Inspector Wexford programme that was set in Corsica last night (how sad is that - staying in on a Saturday night to watch a rerun?) From what I could observe from the numberplates on the cars, the original must have been filmed in about 1990.

I was surprised by how little had changed in the past 18 years. The shots of Calvi looked pretty much as they are now: even the one or two restaurants featured are still there. And in the closing shot, which looked like Ile Rousse, I'd swear that the wicker chairs in the Main Square are the same ones that we sat on last year. Of course it takes more than the intervention of a few human beings to make an impression on Corsica's glorious scenery, but it's still reassuring to see that Corsica's timelessness is being maintained.

By the way - for those of you who visit this blog every now and again, I'm sorry I've been neglecting it recently. I've been elsewhere in the world and my mind has been on other things. However, Corsica beckons in June and now normal service will be resumed.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

counter customizable free hit