I’m obsessed with Misia Sert. Muse, hostess, gifted pianist, painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, friend of Verlaine, Rilke, Proust, best friends with Chanel, Diaghilev’s soul mate, the list goes on and on. Clive James says in his excellent essay about her biography:
Misia was in the thick of it, stirring the magic, helping make life itself a work of art — something artists are usually too busy to do.
She also shot Morphine straight through her clothes (ummm) and first heard “The Rite of Spring” in her living room, no big deal. She also never bothered to open some of Proust’s letters (WHAT). James also writes:
Misia survives only in the work of others. … But the personality itself has been long gone. In a way that no artist can ever quite understand but nearly all of them find irresistibly attractive, she did nothing with her capacity for beauty except live. Yet the human personality, which dies with the memory of individuals, and the work of art, which lives on in the collective consciousness, are different forms of the same thing — a truth made acutely visible by Misia’s portraits, which, if they do not capture her, certainly capture uncapturability. She gave the artists the gift of her sublime ephemerality and they made it last. That true sacred monster the Comtesse Anna de Noailles wrote herself an epitaph which would have done much better for Misia: ‘I shall have been useless but irreplaceable.’