Friday, October 21, 2005

Miller's First Stay At Villa Seurat, 1931

[This post was updated after discovering Villa Seurat references in Letters To Emil]

A year after arriving in Paris on his serious endeavour to be a real artist, Henry Miller found himself couch-surfing from flat to flat. It was his good fortune to meet another ex-pat American in March 1931: Walter Lowenfels.

Lowenfels--a poet--lived on Villa Seurat. After meeting Henry, he felt that he and his writer neighbour, Michael Fraenkel, would hit it off. Upon hearing about Miller, Fraenkel invited him to his home at 18 Villa Seurat.

Henry ended up sleeping in Michael's living room for a few months. In a letter to his great New York friend Emil Schnellock that summer, Henry felt the need to mention that the "beautiful" Villa Seurat was once home to the artist Andre Derain and where "still lives Foujita" (Foujita would leave later that year). The domestic chores at 18 Villa Seurat were tended to by a maid named Greta. Once a week, Michael invited Henry to dine with him. At other times, Henry went through his list of generous dinner hosts and invited himself to their tables.

Miller lived with Fraenkel until July 1931. "Suddenly [Fraenkel] got a telegram," reported Miller to Schnellock several weeks after the fact, "and we all had to blow -- that very day." Mary Dearborn's Miller biography says that Fraenkel needed to sublet the apartment and asked Henry to leave. Miller again found himself at the Hotel Central, living off the good graces of his new best friend, Alfred Perles.

Despite his poverty during these months at 18 Villa Seurat, Miller looked back at this brief stay with fondness. In letters to Schnellock over the next few years, Miller would state that "the process of losing myself began at the Villa Seurat" ... "ever since [then], my genie is expressing itself." ... "During that sojourn at the beautiful Villa Seurat with Michael Fraenkel, when I had never a cent in my pocket [...], I was never happier in my life. I was living!"

Henry Miller would return to live at 18 Villa Seurat three years later.

The photograph of the Villa Seurat street sign was taken by Kimberly Kradel and was borrowed from the website Artists At Large. This particular link offers a quote from Miller describing his mornings at 18 Villa Seurat. It also contains an anecdote of a personal visit to 18 Villa Seurat by the photographer, Ms. Kradel.

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