Article du Palm Beach Post-Times (1957) – Les Amis du Château de Fontainebleau

Article du Palm Beach Post-Times (1957)

M Bernard CHUPIN, de Fréjus, nous a envoyé une page d’un journal américain de 1957. Qu’il en soit remercié. L’article, reproduit ici, présente à ses lecteurs les Ecoles d’Art Américaines.





Palais de Fontainbleau « Home » For Students

PARIS France, – In France there is a saying that the only tradition is never to repeat tradition. From time to time the articles on outstanding  Florida home published in the Post-Times have been reprinted in Europe. Now the opportunity for seeing the influence on Palm Beach homes of European design presents itself.

While many American tourists congregate daily to view the Palais de Fontainbleau, with its state apartments, immense gardens and magnificent forest , ,few realize that an American Beaux Arts School is housed within these great wings. This summer, one hundred architects , artists and musicians have been working here with some of Europe’s leading instructors. For us this 2,000-room palace has been « home »

About 1523 A.D., Francis I decided to rebuild this eleventh century château. It then became the meeting place for great artists of the Renaissance. The work began under Gilles Le Breton. This master mason of Paris used local sandstone, brick and stone in a single design. Sandstone, a difficult material with which to work, did not allow the kind of finesse in decoration permitted by the soft fine stone  of the Loire. In some respects, therefore, Fontainbleau is »rough and ready »

The King wished to have somptuous interiors in his castle, so he gathered French and Italians art work including the paintings of Andrea del Sarto, Benvento Cellini and Leonardo de Vinci.

As each succeeding French king inherited the palace, each added his own period of decoration and architecture to it. The furnishings are essentially Louis 14, 15, 16 and Empire. Some kings built wings and some had them torn down until to day the Palace resembles a picture album of French Royal history .

In 1918, following General  Pershing’s wish to have the artistic level of American Army music raised, Dr Walter Damrosch, the well-known conductor, organized a French instruction center. The success of the school was so great that when the American Forces withdrawn, Dr Damrosch suggested establishing a Beaux Arts School exclusively for American students.

The French government offered wings of the historic palace at Fontainbleau, which Dr Damrosch described as « a remarkable example of  the affectionate relations between two countries ».

Prominent Americans gave support to the plan. Mrs Harry Hackness Flagler, Blair Fairchild, George Tuttle, Frances Roger, Lloyd Warren were among them. The Music and Art Schools were given legal status by the French governement in 1926 under the official name of Ecoles d’Art Americaines de Fontainbleau.

The conservatory took up its quarters in the Aile Louis XV on the main courtyard of the palace. This 18th century building was formerly used as the summer residence for the presidents of France.

TheArt School established its studios in the Aile de l’Ancienne Comedie which overlooks a pond. Since the upper story and roof of this building had been destroyed by fire, money donated by John D. Rockfeller was used to restore this presentation hall with its characteristic high slanting slate roofs and monumental windows. Studios for the painters and sculptors were greatly improved in lighting by this restoration. Drafting boards of American architects now replace the rows of theater benches.

The musicians’pratice rooms were once Royal guest rooms. Among those still furnished is Marie Antoinette ‘s boudoir. There one views her original bed. Against one wall is the jewel case of Maria Theresa, which was ordered by Josephine a few months before her divorce from Napoleon.

It is at Fontainbleau, in the abdication room pictured in this page that Napoleon abdicated his throne. The Red drawing Room, thus named because of the brocaded silk hanging on its walls, is better known as the Abdication Chamber.  On the ordinary mahagony table in the room’s center is a copper plate engraved with the following words : «  On April, 5, 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte signed his abdication on this table in the King’s study, the second after the bedroom at Fontainbleau.

Napoleon adopted the White Horse courtyard which one now views upon  arrival. This has since been known at the Court of Farewells. It is below this staircase that the carriages waited to take Napoleon away. The guard was lined in the courtyard, with drums beating a salute. He ordered silence and then pronounced his words of farewell to his soldiers.

At night, the palace is lighted by spotlights. By day it lives on as a world influences in the arts and peace  for all nations. Another section of the palace now houses the headquartersof Allied forces for Central Europe, with representatives of seven nations striving together for world peace.

West Palm Beach, Florida, Sunday Morning, september 15, 1957.


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