American Friends of Blérancourt

Vol. 2, No. 1

NEWSLETTER 1990

1989 could be called a focal point year of prestige for the American Friends of Blérancourt with the opening of the Florence Gould Pavilion and our two American gardens, not to mention the significant Bicentennial exhibit LES AMERICAINS ET LA REVOLUTION FRANCAISE. 1990, on the other hand is a year of assessment and consolidation of our success and of our relationship with the French Government, a year of reflection on our future projects and the strategy required to carry these out.

At the same time, 1990 is a year of "coups de prestige". The Florence Gould Pavilion was awarded one of the highest architectural awards in France, the 1989 Equerre d'Argent, for the excellency of its conception. To honor this distinction, a ceremony was held under the Pyramid at the Louvre on January 9th, during which the prize was handed jointly to Pierre Rosenberg, our curator and to the two architects, Yves Lion and Alan Levitt, by M. Michel Delbarre, French Minister of Equipment, Housing and Transportation. Those of us present were proud that this distinction had been handed to Blérancourt, pleased too to note that we were 1,500 guests present at the ceremony.

The Florence Gould Pavilion has not only been honored and admired; the visitor count has been multiplied eight times since the pavilion was renovated, a real boon for the museum.

View of the new extension of the Florence Gould Pavilion

Michel Delbarre, Minister of Equipment, Housing & Transportation toasting with Pierre Rosenberg, Inspecteur Général des Musées de France, Chief curator of the Museum of French-American Cooperation at Blérancourt; and Yves Lion, architect of the Florence Gould Pavilion, at the Equerre d'Argent ceremony under the Pyramid on January 9th.

On May 4th, Pierre Rosenberg flew over to Boston (and back again the same day) to give a lecture on Blérancourt at the historical Faneuil Hall. It was a Bostonian, David Noonan, who spontaneously initiated this event. David had originally heard of Blérancourt through his grandmother, who was a member of the French organization, the Amis du Musée de Blérancourt, between the two wars. Then last year David heard of Blérancourt again, this time through one of AFB's members, and subsequently became convinced that Blérancourt should be introduced to Boston with an event. Assisted by Nina Kearns, AFB's Director for the Archives Project and a native Bostonian, David did a wonderful job for us. Pierre Rosenberg flew in to Boston on the afternoon of the 4th and was shuttled across Boston Harbor from the airport to the French Consulate, where the Consul General, Alain Briottet, gave an early reception. Pierre's lecture, preceded by introductory speeches by AFB's Chairman and President, took place at 7:00pm in front of 350 guests and was followed by another, larger, reception at 75 State Street. Pierre could not stay as he had to catch a plane back to Europe at 9:55 pm, but the reception lasted until 11:00 pm and provided an opportunity for AFB's Chairman and President to make new friends for Blérancourt.

The following day a luncheon was given for AFB in Gloucester, Mass., at Red Roof, the home of the American Field Service founder, Piatt "Doc" Andrew, at the invitation of Mr. Andrew's nephew, Andrew Gray. What World War I treasures are to be found at Red Roof! Posters, paintings, memorabilia... Our hope is to one day acquire some of this material for Blérancourt.

Didi d'Anglejan, Chairman of AFB, Alain Briottet, French Consul General in Boston.

Pierre Rosenberg, Eugénie Angles, President of AFB; Alain Briottet; Georgina Pouzzner.

On May 12th, we received Nancy Reagan at Blérancourt. Mrs. Reagan was in France for the launching of the French version of her book, "My Turn", and devoted the Saturday to Blérancourt. Preceding the visit to the Museum, the Marquise de Ravenel, a member of AFB's Board of Directors and a close friend of Nancy Reagan's, gave a luncheon in her charming "manoir" in Vauxbuin, which was attended among others by Madame Jacques Chirac, wife of France's former Prime Minister and present mayor of Paris, the Marquis and Marquise de Ganay, Jerome Zipkin from New York, Baron Seillière, president of the Amis du Musée and Madame Seillière, the Princesse de Polignac and AFB's Chairman and President. At 3:00 the official party arrived at Blérancourt and Mrs. Reagan spent an hour visiting the museum and grounds, accompanied by Pierre Rosenberg, Olivier Chevrillon, the Directeur des Musées de France and the Prefect of Picardie, Patrice Magnier. The focal point of the visit was Nancy Reagan's inauguration of Blérancourt's new Archives Center, located in one of the museum's two gatehouses. The Archives project was instigated by AFB a year and a half ago and is being directed by Nina Kearns. Nina's task is to locate rare documents in the United States and in France that tie in with Blérancourt's artistic and historical collections. The development of the Museum's archives adds an important dimension to Blérancourt's activities; the inauguration by Nancy Reagan of the archives building on May 12th is very significant to us.

Olivier Chevrillon, Directeur des Musées de France, introducing Nancy Reagan to Jacques de Larosière, Gouverneur de la Banque de France, with Bernadette Chirac looking on at Blérancourt on May 12th.

Nancy Reagan, Paul Girod, Senator of l'Aisne; Christine Crinque, Director of AMSAM, on May 12th.

Baronne d 'Anglejan, Nancy Reagan, Jean-Claude Vrignaud, General Manager of European Operations at Rockwell; Eugénie Anglès, on May 12th.

Another noteworthy date was June 29th, when the current temporary exhibition LE VOYAGE DE PARIS LES AMERICAINS DANS LES ECOLES D'ART, 1868-1918 was inaugurated. Numerous are the young American artists who came to Paris at the end of the Second Empire. The more fortunate lived on the right bank and were able to spend the hot months in Giverny, Barbizon or Ecouen; a few too were accepted at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The majority lived on the less expensive Rive Gauche, and attended the numerous arts schools or ateliers that were available. All were urged to mix with the French students and not be put off by the "appalling behavior of those wild, dishevelled young ruffians". The names of the young artists were Sargent, Whistler, Cassatt, Macmonnies... For those AFB members who will be in France this summer or early fall, the exhibition will last until October 1st.

Pierre Rosenberg receiving the first visitors to the exhibition on June 29th.

Gaston Dessoubrie, mayor of Blérancourt; Marilyn Despres, administrative secretary at the Museum and Louis Turtin, vice-mayor of Blérancourt, at the exhibition on June 29th.

Véronique Wiesinger commenting the exhibition on June 29th to visitors.

Eugénie Anglès; Véronique Wiesinger, curator at Blérancourt; Laurence Détroyat, Vice President of the Amis du Musée, at the inauguration of Blérancourt's 1990 exhibition, June 29th.

A word must be added concerning events that have been organized around Blérancourt with the indirect participation of AFB. On June 19th, AFB sponsored, together with the Amis du Musée de Sèvres, the Amis du Musée de Blérancourt and Vieilles Maisons Françaises, a conference by Gillian Wilson, curator of the Department of Objets d'Art at the Getty Museum. On June 23rd, AMSAM (Association Médico-Sociale Anne Morgan), the organization that carries on Anne Morgan's humanitarian work in Picardy, inaugurated an exhibit devoted to Blérancourt's founder. This exhibit subsequently went to Blérancourt, where it was shown in the village hall simultaneously with the exhibit at the museum. There exist close ties between AMSAM and the museum of Blérancourt, and AMSAM has decided to generously donate their archives to the museum.

 

One last event must be mentioned: the American Field Service organized a trip to France in early July for "AFSers", that culminated at Blérancourt on July 7th and 8th. A special commemorative exhibit was set up in their honor at the Museum and on July 8th a buffet lunch was served to 310 guests that included members of the American Field Service who came from America, others from France plus 120 AFS students who arrived from 22 countries around the world to complete their year's program in France.

AFS students in front of the bridge leading to the museum buildings.

William Orrick, Director of AFS archives, addressing AFSers' with bust of Piatt Doc Andrew in background.

Alan Albright, AFS representative and close collaborator at Blérancourt.

AFB's big project for 1990 is the printing up of tourist brochures. We feel that the time has come to launch Blérancourt on the tourist market, because although the Historical Wing has yet to be renovated and the garden projects completed, the Florence Gould Pavilion, the American gardens and the arboretum are attracting a large public. There will be two versions of the brochures: one, destined for distribution in France and England, will be printed in French and English; the other, to be distributed in the United States, in English only. We plan to distribute 100,000 of these brochures in the States as of early 1991. Would any members who have favorite tourist agencies please let us know if they would like us to send some brochures and how many? (See special enclosed card.)

Plans for the Historical Pavilion are currently under discussion. It is an architectural project that is particularly challenging for our architects because the building concerned constitutes part of the original Salomon de Brosse construction and a careful historical survey must be carried out before the architects can begin outlining their plans. We are particularly excited with the idea of installing miniature Period Rooms in this pavilion. These will constitute a "first" in the French museum world and will illustrate historical moments in French-American history and decorative arts. Once again, if you have any constructive thoughts about what rooms might be represented, we would deeply appreciate your thoughts on this project and eventual collaboration.

Late spring and fall garden with museum buildings in background.

Imminent garden plans concern a project by our landscape architect, Mark Rudkin, for the creation, on the grounds immediately surrounding the museum buildings, of gardens in XVIIth Century style, in souvenir of the château's origins.

We have had a few administrative changes since our last newsletter: two of our Board Members, Mrs. Henry Brandon and Mrs. Oscar de la Renta, both of whom are extremely busy on other Boards, have asked to step down. Anne de la Renta is staying on as Patron and we have a new Member on our Board, Mrs. Erin Galatti, a dynamic professional fundraiser in New York City.

Another important administrative change that affects AFB indirectly must be mentioned: Olivier Chevrillon, Directeur des Musées de France, was succeeded in June by Jacques Sallois, former Directeur de Cabinet of France's Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. Olivier Chevrillon was a devoted supporter of Blérancourt and always gave AFB his fullest possible cooperation. In his farewell letter to AFB directors, Monsieur Chevrillon wrote "I have the impression that a great museum has been surreptitiously born..."

As a member of AFB, you must share this compliment.

Please note that we have some remaining Belle Poule scarves
should you wish to buy one with the enclosed order card.