That afternoon, I was sitting in front of my master wearing a vintage Romanian blouse that he favors.
How many summers has it been? I have spent countless afternoons sitting on the terrace, facing him and the easel in his atelier. The bright white sun caresses the moist sea breeze into the studio.
I was 22 years old when I first met him. Forced to flee Russia in the turmoil after the revolution, I landed from the freezing north of Siberia to a light-filled Nice by the sea. My survival instinct empowers me to do whatever it takes and my patron has accepted me to work in his studio.
I still recall the astonishing moment when I stepped into his studio. Inside the room was a small universe complied with orderly chaos, like an impromptu melody of a piano. The white linen spread across the table by the window and the lemon that rests unpretentiously. The Anemone petals that fall off with the brush of a salty breeze, an old map that was spread out, a piece of an irregular sugar cube, and a silver spoon that holds it – one by one, those dispersed items correlate, respond, and resonate. As if I had entered into a world of magic, I stand still, silent.
I could barely speak French, but my master patiently taught me all the things I needed to do in this studio - place the canvas onto the easel, squeeze the paint on the palette, wash and wipe the brushes. Simple but crucial measures, so that my master can reproduce on canvas everything that is ethereal, revive with life, and breathe, dance, sing, and feel the joy.
“Lydia, can you lend a hand in shaping a world of my creation?” my master says, squinting behind his round glasses. And I wondered – why is he telling me in such a way, and piercing me with such gleaming gaze?
Then again on a summer afternoon he says, “Lydia, would you like to be part of my world of inspiration? I smiled. My shyness prevented me from telling him the truth that no woman will deny being part of his world. Instead, I took off my clothes and inspired my master, like a little boy who discovered a unique flower.
Since then and through many seasons, I sat still in front of my master. In a relaxed pose, or at times, I lie faced down on the table. I would reveal my skin or I would wear many different garments. Bright colored dress, a vigilant inspired one piece, a gorgeous frilled collared blouse, lemon yellow summer dress, border patterned shirt, odalisque style bulging pants, and smocking Romanian blouse resembling the waves. My master would gaze upon me when inspired. I became his delicate flower, an obedient fruit, and an inhibited piece of glass. I became the creation – to be everything that is the most ethereal.
Lydia, my master calls me. His voice echoes like the G on Cello.
-Are you ready?
-Yes, I am, always.
I close my eyes and I follow my master’s vision. Now he is long gone. Those summer afternoons sitting in front of Henri Matissse – a moment passes like an eternity and is still breathing inside me.