A Painter (My Mother) Celebrates Her 100th Birthday

Are artists particularly prone to longevity?  The list of centenarian artists on Wikipedia is long but there's no way you can prove a causal effect beyond the intuition that if you spend your time doing something you love, your life might last longer. For one Grandma Moses who lived to be 101, you always have a Caravaggio who died in his late thirties.

This is by way of introduction: on 20 October, my mother, a professional painter who studied with Delvaux and met with success in the 1960s as a portraitist in New York, celebrated her (first) century on earth. Her art name is "S. Ruyters" where the mysterious S stands for Simone, a name she hates. Her parents had a memorable dispute about what name to give her and her father unilaterally opted for Simone, actually a fashionable name for baby girls at the time - perhaps because of the beautiful Madame Simone, a theater celebrity in pre-World War I Paris who also happened to live to the ripe old age of 108 years (she died in 1985) . Could it be that the name Simone is a guarantee of longevity?

The whole family, including a cute 2 year-old great-granddaughter, met in my mother's home for a celebratory meal last Sunday. Here she is with my husband, both looking very serious over their after-lunch coffee (are they pondering the beauty of the flowers, a gift from my son?):



Note that her coffee cup rests on a closed Kindle: my mother is an avid novel reader (one per week) and fond of her e-reader because it is light in her hands and lets her enlarge the letters. She is currently reading Khaled Hosseini's "And the Mountains Echoed" and loving it very much though, she says, she liked "The Kite Runner" better.

The meal was a happy one and marked by a moment of distraction when my mother started to eat her birthday cake straight from the serving dish. When she realized what she was doing, she collapsed laughing - here she is in front of her whipped cream and chestnut "Mont Blanc" brought by my daughter:


Curious about her paintings? She painted every day until five years ago, declaring that her vision was no longer good enough. This is one of her latest paintings (done in 2005), quite humorous, of a monkey puzzled by a fly:


And here's my husband's favorite painting, it was done in the 1960s, when she was experimenting with oil painting done on gold leaves: 


And no, this is not anyone's portrait, it's a work of imagination! The 1960s were a particularly prolific time for her, here she is in her studio in New York:


And here is the canvas sitting on her easel:


Titled “Melancholy”, this is not a portrait either – just a girl who’s visited the Metropolitan Museum and her feet are aching! New York was then (as now) a fantastic place to live for artists, and she met many, including Magritte, and here she is with Salvador Dali:


She became famous with her portraits, for example, this one of Barbara Thompson Eisenhower, the former President's daughter-in-law:


She also experimented with tapestries, creating the designs for the French manufacture of Aubusson and the Belgian Brussels tapestries workshop of Chaudoir - like this one that was picked by King Baudouin of Belgium as an official gift for the Soviet government when he visited Russia in 1973:


She even got into interior decoration when she designed furniture like this coffee table with a painted gold leaf top (sold at the time through French Co.):



She held several one man shows and won awards, including the Prix de Monaco in 1965, for "Anxiety":


Here's the painting in question, depicting two sisters after the nuclear holocaust:


Yes, my mother was a tornado of ideas! She still is...And in the family, we all love her. Happy Birthday, Grand Maman!

To find out more about her and see her paintings, click open the page on S. Ruyters above on top of my blog.

A representative sample of her paintings can also be seen on my Picasa Album: click here


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