Art and Lawrence Durrell
There must be something in the air in the little village of San Quentin la Poterie that stokes a fire in the creative minds of artists. They are everywhere.
Known especially for fine pottery works, the town has more than its fair share of painters and sculptors. That’s why visiting San Quentin la Poterie, only down the road from Uzes, is one of my favorite pastimes.
Last week, for instance. Geoffrey called to invite me to tag along with him and Annabelle to an art exhibit in San Quentin. He knew I’d be more than ready to attend the opening event hosted by one of his longtime friends — Antony Daniells.
The venue was a scene straight out of a Romance novel.
The exhibition was not in a “proper” art gallery but on the grounds of a private home or maison de ville. In fact, the artwork was displayed on the walls of the ancient stables, now a private garden.
Entering from the street, through the open wooden gate, there was a courtyard and a garden layered with lush vines, trees, and seasonal plantings.
Inside the “stable,” the paintings reminded me of the work of the Great Impressionists. (Photos are a poor reflection of the art itself. Hopefully, you get the idea.)
The artist – Antony Daniells
Anthony Daniells is an American who lived in France, now in Spain. This night he was quite busy entertaining guests for the show. I had not pre-arranged a meeting with him, so the blog post would be short and sweet — just showing the gallery and the art. Later I found out more about the artist. He and Geoffrey have known each other since “before the beginning of time,” Geoffrey says.
Like other things the Barefoot Blogger runs into living in France, there’s a story behind everything. Anthony and Geoffrey’s friendship also involves famous British novelist and poet, Lawrence Durrell.
Geoffrey and Lawrence Darrell were patrons of the same bookstore in London — Bernard Stone’s Turret Bookshop.
“Bernie Stone published some of Durrell’s early works,” stated Geoffrey, who lived in London at the time of Stone’s bookstore. “When Durrell would come to town, he’d stop in at the bookstore,” he added. “That’s where we met.”
Lawrence Durrell was born to Irish and English parents living in India. After years in India, then Corfu as an adult, Lawrence lived in the village of Sommières, near Uzes, in France, until he died in 1990. His younger brother, Gerald, was a renowned naturalist and author of “”My Family and Other Animals.”
“Lawrence had the most beautiful voice,” reminisced Geoffrey about his time with Durrell. “He would read his poetry when I’d see him in the bookstore, ” he said, “.. and later when I lived with him,” he added nonchalantly.
“You lived with Lawrence Durrell?” I exclaimed, almost shouting.
“Why yes,” claimed Geoffrey in his most calm voice. “Well, I didn’t exactly live with him, ” he confessed. “I stayed a few weeks at his home in Sommières before I moved to Uzes,” he explained.
“That’s how I met Tony Daniells,” he continued. “He was a friend of Durrell’s.
“Ah-ha,” said I. “Now I get the connection.”
“I lived in Lawrence’s large chateau in Sommières,” said Geoffrey, “along with him and his exquisitely beautiful wife,” he added. “That’s when I decided to move my family to France,” he remembered; “then I went back to England.”
When Geoffrey returned to France to live, he rented the home of Antony Daniells in Flaux, another small village near Uzes.
“Antony was spending most of his time at his house in Spain, so the home in Flaux was empty,” Geoffrey stated. “It was a perfect arrangement,” he added.
The beginning of a long friendship, I discovered.
Although Geoffrey and Antony had not seen each other for years, they were happy to meet again. Daniells now stays in Spain and returns to the Uzes area for his annual art show.
On another note, just to pique your interest and curiosity, I met a most delightful woman at the exhibition — Panna Grady — the southern heiress of the ’60s who ran with the likes of Andy Warhol and the “Godfather of Punk,” William Burroughs. These days she is frail and mostly known as a recluse. On the way home from meeting her, I couldn’t help but imagine the stories she had to tell about her life in New York City, living at The Dakota with John Lennon and Yoko. Perhaps we will meet again.