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Some of My Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir

Some of My Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir

3.8 5
by Rosamond Bernier

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Rosamond Bernier has lived an unusually full life—remarkable for its vividness and diversity of experience—and she has known many (one is tempted to say all) of the greatest artists and composers of the twentieth century.

In Some of My Lives, Bernier has made a kind of literary scrapbook from an extraordinary array of writings, ranging from


Rosamond Bernier has lived an unusually full life—remarkable for its vividness and diversity of experience—and she has known many (one is tempted to say all) of the greatest artists and composers of the twentieth century.

In Some of My Lives, Bernier has made a kind of literary scrapbook from an extraordinary array of writings, ranging from diary entries to her many contributions to the art journal L'OEIL, which she cofounded in 1955. The result is a multifaceted self-portrait of a life informed and surrounded by the arts.

Through the stories of her encounters with some of the twentieth century's great artists and composers—including Pablo Picasso, Leonard Bernstein, Max Ernst, Aaron Copeland, Malcolm Lowry, and Karl Lagerfeld—we come to understand the sheer richness of Bernier's experiences, interactions, and memories. The result is pithy, hilarious, and wise—a richly rewarding chronicle of many lives fully lived.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Early Vogue fashion editor and accomplished lecturer on modern art, Bernier (Matisse, Picasso, Miro—As I Knew Them) reminisces about the famous artists she has known throughout a full, rich career, from Mexico to Paris. Although Bernier was born in Philadelphia in 1916, her mother was English, and Bernier rarely lived in the U.S. until after the 1970s, when she made a second career as an itinerant lecturer. Her first marriage took her to Acapulco, Mexico, and in short, snappy chapters she recounts dishy anecdotes about acquaintances Jane and Paul Bowles, the drunken Malcolm Lowry, and the jealous couple Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Through her friendship with Nada Patcevitch, wife of the "guiding spirit" at Condé Nast, Iva Patcevitch, Bernier managed to wangle several job offers at once at New York Vogue and ended up reporting on fashion under Babs Rawlings, then "swerved" into covering the Parisian art scene using legendary photographers like Irving Penn during the creative post-WWII years. The names Bernier drops are jaw-dropping—Matisse got a gander of her Balenciaga full-length orange coat and suggested, "Wear a yellow scarf with it"; Philip Johnson staged her wedding to English art critic John Russell at MoMA in 1975—but she is ever demure and unpretentious. These precious remembrances prove a tremendous record. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Bernier has had so much fun, and her charm, wit, and style are apparent….She turned being social into a kind of art.” —Louisa Thomas, The New York Times Book Review

“Animated by Bernier's inimitable voice and charm…her razor-sharp insights, playful humor, and deep humility throw the colorful personalities surrounding her into high relief.” —Vogue

“Pablo Picasso befriended Bernier, Henri Matisse gave her fashion tips, Alice B. Toklas baked for her….Some of My Lives is a lively compendium of this movable feast of art and genius---and of the author's own considerable charm.” —NPR's Weekend Edition

“A remarkable memoir of a remarkable life. Intimate, winning, sunny, and smart, Some of My Lives has a voice not unlike the one in Diana Vreeland's autobiography---only here, all of it is true.” —Michael Kimmelman

“Bernier proves an able guide across a wide range of forms, from painting and sculpture to architecture and fashion. Her interview with Coco Chanel is brilliant....She has provided a very stylish memoir indeed.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Read an Excerpt

Some of My Lives
DisgraceMy English mother, Rosamond Rawlins, left her native shores to marry my father, Samuel R. Rosenbaum, the eldest son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, at the beginning of World War I. He was brilliant, the president of his class at the University of Pennsylvania, president of his year at law school, editor of the law review, Phi Beta Kappa. And what did he do but marry my mother, an Episcopalian. His family said the Kaddish over him and never met my mother. I hardly ever saw them.I was born in 1916, two years into World War I, in Philadelphia. My mother was quintessentially English and patriotic. Her brother Hugh had been killed fighting in the trenches. His photograph in uniform, a handsome sensitive face, hung over our staircase.I was brought up like a little English girl: riding lessons began at age four. I went for my lessons to Foley's Riding Academy, where Miss Eleanor Foley in admirably fitted jodhpurs guided my efforts from a leading rein. I won my first medal at six. A photograph records me on my pony Teddy happily holding my silver cup. It was only second place--but there was a cup to go with it! Two years later there was a blue medal for jumping, first place!Naturally, I had to have a governess; a French governess would be best. Both parents were excellent linguists. Because my mother missed her family and her country, we went to England several times a year, sailing on one of the ships of the Royal Mail Lines. We stayed at Aunt Queenie's in London. I was very impressed because the toilet in her flat was at the end of a corridor, not part of the bathroom. I had never seen this before. Her daughter was called Aunt Olive. She was always described as the picture of rectitude.Many years later, in 1949, I opened a copy of Time, and therewas an article about Aunt Olive: she had been murdered by someone who came to be called Haigh the Vampire--dissolved in a vat of acid. I gained considerable credit with my ten-year-old stepson when I took him to Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London and could point out my family connection to one of the exhibits.On one of our visits to London, my mother was interviewing candidates for a French governess. I was six at the time and extremely shy. I was called in to meet the favored candidate, and, wordlessly, I stood on my head. This is a skill I had acquired on my own, and I thought it best to show myself to my advantage.A disgraceful episode dates from two years earlier. At that time English children, boys and girls, were dressed in what were called sailor suits, navy blue of course, and part of the outfit was a metal whistle on a white cord. It was Empire Day, when there was a great procession of various elements of the British army and navy with their bands. I marched along with my mother, following the parade, carried away by the marching music and the sight of a drummer with a big tiger skin bravely making resounding whacks on a huge drum.The parade ended in a church, where there was a Thanksgiving service for the troops. As I have said, I was a shy child, so it was completely out of character when, intoxicated by the music, I lifted my whistle to my lips and let out a shrill blast. I was hurried out of church in disgrace and never allowed to wear my whistle again.A few years later, I am ten years old and enrolled, to my dismay, in an English boarding school, Sherborne School for Girls. My mother had died two years before, and this had been her wish. I would come back to Philadelphia for the Christmas and summer holidays. Before these departures, the entire school, at chapel, sang the encouraging words "Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea." I was the only transatlantic student; foreign students were still a great novelty.It was time to return for the autumn term. I was booked with my governess, Mademoiselle, to sail on the family's favorite line, the Royal Mail, on the Orduna.At the last moment Mademoiselle fell gravely ill, no question of traveling. But my father saw no reason to postpone my return to school. He took me to New York for a farewell dinner, at the oldWaldorf. I had black-currant ice and was totally miserable. I kept my misery to myself.My father knew the purser of the Orduna because of my mother's frequent transatlantic trips. I was taken to the boat, introduced to him, and, I felt, abandoned.I discovered that my cabin had three bunks, which encouraged me. I slept in a different bunk each night. I had my place in the dining room at the purser's table. Each night I would put on my one party dress (silk), my white silk socks, and my patent-leather slippers and go down to the dining room. The others at the table were quite jolly, and soon I was enjoying my favorite dish at the time: cold smoked tongue. Since there was no one to curb me, I had tongue at every meal and felt this indeed was high living. After dinner, I would go up to the smoking room and gamble. The gambling consisted of choosing a wooden horse; a throw of the dice would indicate whether the horse could advance along a stretch of canvas marked with divisions or stay in place. I had spectacular luck. People came to see which horse I had chosen. I won my term's pocket money many times over.It was something of a letdown when my grandmother met me at Plymouth and hurried me away to Sherborne.A welcome illness ended my English boarding school days and brought me back to Philadelphia and my bed.This was before the days of streptomycin and antibiotics. For TB patients it was bed rest and practically force-feeding.When finally I was fully vertical again, it was Sarah Lawrence for three happy years. I had the great good fortune of having Professor Jacques Barzun for my don. Many years later we were both speakers on a program for Glimmerglass Opera, in Cooperstown, New York. As I said to Jacques (by then, he was Jacques to me): I had never expected to share any platform with him, not even a subway platform.Even later, I was lecturing at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, on Diaghilev. And who was sitting in the front row but Jacques Barzun? His first wife had died, he had remarried, and his second wife came from that part of the country.After the lecture he and his wife took me out for some memorable margaritas.Copyright © 2011 by Rosamond Bernier

Meet the Author

Rosamond Bernier was born in Philadelphia and was educated in France, England, and America. In 1955, she cofounded the influential art magazine L'OEIL, which featured the works of the masters of the School of Paris. A renowned lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rosamond Bernier was named for life to the International Best-Dressed List.

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Some of My Lives 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poors water om her strapless dress. And it slips down with her bra. Oops sorry didnt ean to. U look cute. ~sam
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are seriously into modern art and/or classical music, you'll like this book. The stories "behind the scenes" with artists can be fascinating. Don't expect an actual memoir or to learn much, if anything, about Rosamond Bernier the person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Bernier has mastered the art of the declarative sentence, but I found this book startlingly lacking in nuance or insight. This void is particularly glaring, given the richness of the author's life. I bought the book because of a glowing NPR review, but I question whether finishing it is worth the effort. On a more positive note, there clearly was no ghost writer. --catwak