March 6, 2010

Thora Dardel

Thora Dardel nee Klinkowstrom was born in Sweden in 1899. In 1919 she moved to Paris to live with her art-student brother who was studying in Montparnasse. What fun. Count me in! She was to study art under the tutelage of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. On the way over from Sweden, Thora became friendly with a shipmate named Nils Dardel, also an artist.  Through Nils Dardel, Thora was drawn into the circle of artists who frequented the Cafe de la Rotonde where Modigliani was a regular.

In Thora's memoirs she recounts her first meeting with Modigliani
"Modigliani ...drew me piece by piece on several sheets of paper which he then spread out edge to edge. All his figures had such long necks and bodies that he usually needed two or three sheets of paper for each person that he drew when he drew on the Rotonde's small stationery. Then he wrote Italian verse on the drawings and gave them to me. I thought he was extraordinarily fascinating. Then one day some time later Modigliani asked Nils Dardel if he was allowed to paint my portrait. The question was of course relayed to me, who of course was happy and overwhelmed."
Later she goes on the describe the modelling session.
"Modigliani's studio was on the top floor of a house on rue de la Grande Chaumiere. His floor was covered with a carpet of trod on charcoal and matches. He almost fainted when I asked him to sweep the floor. I think he had worked several years to make it look like that. A large table with his painting stuff, a glass, a bottle of rum was the whole environment, plus two chairs, some canvases and an easel. He drank often and easily - against the cough, he declared and he really did cough a lot. It was cold and miserable outside but in his studio corner there was a charcoal stove that he did up well. Modigliani put a large canvas on the easel and drew me. I got the same El Greco-like lines and the same figure as all the women in his art had. The likeness of me was therefore not very good. I returned on several occasions and sat for the portrait and liked Modigliani more and more."

Thora married Nils Dardel. During the 20s she worked as a photographer and journalist for a Swedish magazine.

Years ago I came across the top photograph of Thora Dardel in my "Desert Island" book, Kiki's Paris. The photo inspired me to paint another Montparnasse lady.

I had forgotten that I'd ever seen this picture, when just the other day I stumbled across Dora's photo again and recognized her hat. Because I was just inspired by her hat, my humble painting is not at all a true likeness.  But is it closer than Modigliani, I wonder? Anyway, I call her Marianne, not Thora, because she reminds the rest of my family of my step-mother-in-law.

with notes from the Dictionary of Artists Models ed. Jill Berk Jimenez, Thora Dardel, Billy Klüver and Julie Martin.


Lorenzo at the Alchemist's Pillow said...

Well, I am certainly enjoying your series of paintings, photos, quotes and thoughts on that marvelous Montparnasse colony. I have another question about the book. Does it make much mention of Modigliani's work as a sculpture. At the exhibit I mentioned in a previous comment, I learned that he practically gave up painting for a number of years to work as a sculptor. One of the reasons he went back to painting was that the dust he had to work in as a sculptor aggravated his lung problems.

The Clever Pup said...

Lorenzo - the "book" does mention Modi's stone carving - but I can't find any reference to his sickness because of it. He was pals with Brancusi

Hels said...

"In 1919 she moved to Paris to live with her art-student brother who was studying in Montparnasse. .. She was to study art under the tutelage of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle."

Now I never know if Thora really did want to study art seriously, or if she was simply finding a great excuse to live in Paris, respectably in her brother's company.

You noted that later on, Thora married and worked as a photographer and journalist for a Swedish magazine. So I hope that she really did take her art studies seriously.

Modigliani had typhoid fever and TB as a child, and never really recovered. Heavy sculpture was going to be impossible, in the long run. Mind you, his poor health wasn't helped by smoking, drugs, drinking, sleeping with every woman he could find and malnutrition.

Ima Wizer said...

Thanks Hazel for another wonderful post!!!

Moira said...

What a beautiful woman, no wonder Modigliani wanted to paint her, I would love to have been painted by him I could od with a bit of elongating!Have you seen the movie, Andy Garcia plays Modigliani, mmmmm yum!