Legendary art lecturer and L’OEIL magazine founder Bernier (Matisse, Picasso, Miró—As I Knew Them, 1991) collates jam-packed brief sketches of her long, eventful life.
As a roving fashion editor for Vogue from 1945 onward, the author met all the modern artists of the time, in music, design, photography and painting. She was one of the few journalists invited into the studios of Picasso, Matisse and Louise Bourgeois, and she depicts these prickly personalities with a startlingly freshness and intimacy. Bernier’s fortuitous career path was due partly to her peripatetic upbringing and family ties. Born in 1916 to an English mother and American Jewish lawyer from Philadelphia who was steeped in music, Bernier attended English boarding school and Sarah Lawrence College. She befriended musicians like Aaron Copeland and his disciple Leonard Bernstein early on, while living in Mexico after college and during her first marriage. Bernier got offered three jobs at Vogue at once, mostly by accident and knowing the right people. She admitted to Edna Chase that she knew nothing about fashion, to which the redoubtable editor replied: “My child, I know a fashion editor when I see one.” Tracking stories in Paris meant helping Horst photograph Gertrude Stein and her poodle; getting fabulous discount clothes from Balenciaga’s tailors and others; and being asked to interview Coco Chanel when she staged her postwar comeback in 1954. Each vignette is riveting with particulars. Bernier’s later years were notable for her marriage to English art critic John Russell and successful career as a “professional talker,” roaming the world giving lessons in art history.
An inimitable life captured with spirited, winning immediacy.