Life gallery

Letter to his brothers Harry & Tom

This letter to his brothers Harry and Tom describes his visit to Le Grand Palais and reflects his excitement and sense of being at the heart of the artistic world.

The Salon opening was great. On Monday was Petite Vernissage, when I went down & saw artists by the hundreds slopping varnish on their paintings. I also took a bottle of varnish but I didn’t use it, as I was too busy looking at the Pictures, miles of them, hundreds & thousands of rotten things for the most part.

The Grande Vernissage was on the Tuesday & the place was packed full of fashionables, so that you couldn’t look at the pictures for fear of getting on some duchesse’s hair. I think French ones are the ugliest in the world. It was a great sight, though, if only to see the 6 beautiful women beautifully dressed, & the celebrities. I saw, besides dozens of others, Carolus Duran & Jean Paul Laurens holding forth. You can’t imagine the size of the exhibitions, the New & Old Salons. It’s terrific. They’re both held in the big Grand Palais des Beaux Arts, a most magnificent building, by the Seine, opposite the Eiffel Tower & all that, in fact it was built for the Great Exposition, & is the only permanent building. It seems a shame to see them destroying all these beautiful buildings, but of course they’re run up & made to look nice for the Exposition. The Grande Palais des Beaux Arts is built of marble & white granite, & has a glorious façade of columns all round.