The Extraordinary Life of Misia Sert

Misia Sert 1872-1950

Muse to the Artists, Patron of the Russian Ballet, Pianist, ‘The Queen of Paris’

Toulouse-Lautrec Misia Natanson for Revue Blanche 1896

Toulouse-Lautrec Misia Natanson for Revue Blanche 1896

Vuillard Misia at the Piano with Thadee 1899

Vuillard Misia at the Piano with Thadee 1899

Born Marie Godebska, daughter of a Polish sculptor living in France, Misia was brought up in Brussels and Paris where she became a pupil of Gabriel Fauré and a noted concert pianist. In 1893 she married Thadée Natanson owner of ‘La Revue Blanche’ an important art magazine which featured the work of Bonnard, Vuillard, and Toulouse –Lautrec all of whom painted and drew the beautiful and talented Misia Natanson. Renoir painted her portrait while declaring her love for her, as did Edouard Vuillard and during the 1890’s the Natansons were at the centre of the Paris art world.

Misia’s life changed when her husband lost his money which led to the breakdown of her marriage. She met and married a rich industrialist Alfred Edwards and Misia enjoyed her role as a wealthy patron of artists and musicians. Maurice Ravel dedicated ‘La Cygne’ and ‘La Valse’ to Misia who also accompanied Caruso on the piano. In 1909 the marriage ended when Edwards fell for the young actress Genevieve Lantelme. Misia soon met and married José-Maria Sert a highly successful Spanish painter of extravagant murals.

Renoir Misia Natanson 1904

Renoir Misia Natanson 1904

1908 Misia saw a production of ‘Boris Godunov’ designed by Serge Diaghilev thus starting a close relationship with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. Misia helped finance the company and took a keen interest in the new music by Stravinsky, Satie and others. She was with Diaghilev when he died in Venice in 1929.

In 1917 Misia met Coco Chanel and admired “her genius, lethal wit, sarcasm and maniacal destructiveness, which intrigued and appalled everyone”: these two extraordinary women were inseparable in their later years. This is an extraordinary and fascinating story of a talented and beautiful woman who was muse and patron of the arts who has been described as ‘The Queen of Paris’.