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stories from george

A collection of stories and memories recounting the early days of the museum and the intriguing lives of our founders.


"It was decided that I go to paris to L'Ecole des Beaux Arts and study there for a year. My aunt, Alma Duval, was married to the most marvelous Hollander names Christian Duval, a most civilized and talented man. They decided to pick up the tab during my stay. To get into L'Ecole des Bauex Arts, in those days, you had to have an apartment by the American Embassy. The ambassador then was Ambassador Herrick/ He had the dubious pleasure of recieving me one year after he had recieved Charles A. Lindbergh after his flight across the Atlantic. We had by then moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to the old family home. When it was heard of me, 19 years old, going to Paris to study art, my family's friends were shocked.

"Why Louise, George will go to hell in Paris!" they said to my mother.

"Well," mother said, "if he has an aptitude for going to hell, he can do it just as quickly at the country club here at home."

With that, I took the Dollar Line, a very slow boat with only one class, to paris...which took quite awhile. However, on the boat were some marvelous people. Among them was the present publicity genius, Eleanore Lambert. She was with her first husband, a young man and very well off from some western town. She married him to escape the drudgery of her surroundings. Another person was one of the young heiresses of the Dollar Line, nancy Cunard. She and myself had rather a romance before the trip was over...

...Across the Seine on the Quai de Journelle from the Ile de la Cite there lived in a beautiful apartment, Mrs. Potter Palmer from Chicago. Her son, Honore, was a friend and I dined with them often surrounded with the her Monets...mostly the water lilies at the Garden of Giverny.

My young girlfriend, Nitu Butler, lives in Monet's house, as her mother was Monet's daughter. She married Mr. Butler of the Butler grocery stores in the states. What weekends we had...I would do quite a few watercolors. The garden and pond with wisteria bridge was rather neglected. Years later, when Gerald Van den Camp elected to raise money to restore it, the sum was two million dollars. I laughed and wondered how can one spend so much on such a tiny garden. Anyhow, it is restored in such a way to startle Monet if he was alive.

In 1929-1930, French Impressionist paintings, with the exception of Monet and Degas, went for nothing. Had I had any means, i could have had quite a collection."


Finally, Flato said, "George, your whole metier is jewels. You have a feeling of wonderful proportion, originality and small scale. Give up the dress making thing and work full time for me."

Up at Flato's there was a receptionist, naturally, and anyone who got off the lift was known. Like Frank Gould would go to Flato, and someone else to Mr. Klety. I was supposed to get people no one had heard of. I hadn't been there hardly any timeat all, when this gentleman loomed up in my beautiful office and said that he would like to have something nice for his wife for Christmas. I was pretty green about the price of things. I went to the safe and pulled out the greatest, largest Cashmere sapphire I had ever seen. It was something that ahdn't been able to sell because it was so rare and I produced that...The gentleman was mr. Slide, from Far Hills, New Jersey. His office was across the way in the Heckshire building. He peered at it. I told him the price. I said, "You must realize, sir, this is unique in the world." He said, "I'll take it. Would you mind coming across the street to my office and i'll give you a check?" This was when times weren't too plus. To me, being very green at the game, I thought these big sales went on all the time. I came back with the check and said to Mr. Flato, "I've sold that sapphire in the safe."

"Why George that's fantastic! I've had that for years. That's absolutely marvelous."

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