Jacqueline Delubac of Lyon: “The Most Elegant Woman in Paris”
Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved movie stars. My make-believe world included screen legends like Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Betty Davis, and Grace Kelly. They exuded glamour and style in their work and their real lives. If France had been within the realm of my imagination while growing up, surely Jacqueline Delubac would have been close to the top of my list of idols. She was known in France as “the most elegant woman in Paris.” During her reign in the theatre in the l930s and beyond, she had it all — actress, Paris socialite, fashion icon.
I came to know about Delubac on my recent visit to Lyon. An exhibit dedicated to celebrating her life and her contributions to the art world as a collector is featured at the Musee des Beaux-Arts. Much like “lucking” into a retrospective of Princess Diana and her fashions several years ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I was thrilled to get a “fashion fix” during my day at the museum.
To briefly describe Jacqueline Delubac, she was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and chose Paris and a job in the theatre over an aristocratic life in Lyon. In Paris, she met and married Sacha Guitry, a popular French producer and actor twice her age. With Guitry, Jacqueline starred in numerous romantic comedies, such as Bonne Chance and Faisons un Reve (Let’s Dream Together).
In the theatre and in her high society life in Paris, Delubac was admired for her beauty and elegance — much like those actresses of the 1930s and 1940s in Hollywood. Her opulent life with Sacha Guitry included the best of everything, especially a world-class collection of couture and art in the Museum exhibit.
After her divorce from Guitry, Delubac faded from the big screen. Yet her passion for art grew until she became devoted to building her holdings of fine paintings, sculptures, and Impressionist art. She was known for having an “eye for talent,” and possessed some of the earliest works of Picasso, Miro, and Bacon.
The Most Elegant Woman in Paris
Living with Art
To me, the most impressive part of the Musee des Beaux-Arts exhibit is how it captures the total persona of the legendary Delubac — from displays of her glamorous wardrobe to photographs of the interior of her Paris apartment. Surrounding each photo of her home are the art pieces shown in the picture.
The multi-floor Museum exhibit featured rooms recreated precisely from Delubac’s apartment.
Jacqueline Delubac died in 1997 with no heirs. The Musee des Beaux-Arts in Lyon is the custodian of more than thirty of her paintings and pastels by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Bonnard, Vuillard, Léger, Braque, Picasso, Miró, Bacon and others.
Due to the contribution, the Lyon Modern Art Museum possesses the largest Impressionist collection in France, outside Paris.