Simon and I got off the ferry from Tangier in Morocco at Gibraltar but unfortunately didn’t see any of the resident Barbary Macaque old world monkeys…After clearing customs we boarded the train to the stately metropolis of Spain, Madrid.
From the glass domed “Atocha” train station a taxi driver brought us to the “Plaza de Santa Ana” hotel, which had a convenient coffee shop on the ground floor where they served tasty tapas and café au lait. We were lucky to get a large room upstairs overlooking the busy plaza from the small balcony and settled in.
The first thing on the calendar was to call the gallery owner to let her know we had arrived and set up an appointment. The “Galeria Juana Mordo” was located on Calle Villa Nueva #7. The exhibition was set to open in a few days and Simon had named his catalogue “Testigos de la Luz” (“Witness of Light”). The next day we went to see the proprietress, Senora Juana Mordo, a classy lady in her mid-forties, to discuss the installation and business matters and afterwards we proceeded to investigate the old dignified city and have a nice meal.
Another Dutch artist, Joop Birker was exhibiting also, his work consisted of earth toned structured canvases which included wood and metal details, quite attractive. During the time left before the opening date Simon and I painted a new large canvas in oil paint together, our first collaborative piece, and called it “Jumping Man”. The gouaches he intended to show had been shipped over from Amsterdam and met with the enthusiastic approval of Juana.
The vernisage (opening) attracted some important figures on the Madrid cultural scene, among others, the Spanish art collector Antonio Echevario y Uribe, the choreographer Francesco d’Alentrino and designer Misha St. Maux, Another artist Juana represented, the British Pamela Kerr and her husband Harry were present also. It was a good turn out, we drank champagne and savored the hors d’oeuvres. Some classical Spanish guitar music played in the background and everyone had a good time. Simon sold three or four of his gouaches. Pamela and Harry heard about our plans to go to London and said we were very welcome to stay with them anytime we wished when in town.
Later in the week Simon and Juana were in the office talking business while I roamed around the gallery space when an older chic looking, clearly American couple, entered and looked around, finally spending a lot of time looking at our “Jumping Man” painting. I started talking with them and they introduced themselves as Sidney and Jean Lanier. They were extremely handsome people, Sidney with silver hair and bright blue eyes and Jean a brunette with golden doe eyes. They expressed the wish to purchase the painting so I went into the office to get Simon and Juana and a deal was made there and then, our painting had found a good home.
The following week the Laniers invited us to an exciting Flamenco open-air performance out in the countryside. The musicians and dancers were among the top performers in the country and the show was exhilarating! Sidney was the director of the New York State Theater and Jean a heiress in control of the Webster Foundation, which right away provided us a grant in order to contribute to our desire to eventually go to London. Sidney and Jean have been an important part of our life over the years ever since.
Roaming around the plaza Simon had made friends with Reid, a wrangler for the film industry who provided horses and tack for film productions involving equines shot in Spain. He invited us to go for a ride and brought us to an equestrian center in a rural area where fabulous Andalusian horses were raised and stabled.
Neither of us had ever been on a horse but I had always admired them for their beauty and we took to it like water. Coached by Reid we had an exciting ride on our well-trained geldings. It was quite easy going on the flat pretty trails and to canter along was exhilarating. I adore horses and was hooked forever. I would acquire quite a few of them in the future, to my ultimate delight…
Of course we also had a grand time going to the Prado and seeing the impressive collection of paintings by many of the greatest artists; Goya, Velasquez, Rubens, El Greco, Titian, Tintoretto and Rembrandt. Most of the work of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch ended up in the Prado because of the Spanish occupation of The Netherlands by King Philip II of Spain in the 16th. Century. Hieronymus’ work inspired me to paint several triptychs later in life.
When our show at Juana Mordo’s gallery closed a month later and after all the excitement in Madrid we decided to check out he Balearic island of Ibiza, we had heard rumors we might be able to whip up some business there too and in the alternative, we could kick back with a short vacation before moving to London.
To be continued…