Galleries: Crossing Continents at the Henderson Gallery
Baroness Pannonica (Nica) de Koenigswarter (1913-1988) had a lifelong love affair with travel, art, photography and jazz music. Nica (nee Rothschild) was born in London and studied Art History in Venice, Vienna and Munich; she was an avid traveller with her husband Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, a French diplomat and war hero. Moving to New York in the early 1950s, she became known as the Jazz Baroness through her role as patron and glamorous muse of pioneering jazz musicians including Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
Her passion for the arts has been inherited by her children and grandchildren who are also nomadic cultural travellers, based around the world. A family friend has observed how artistic creativity continues to run through the blood of this celebrated family, such that “the urge to paint comes from a genetic defect that impels the afflicted to paint, which others identify as talent.”
Kari de Koenigswarter now lives in Edinburgh and is inspired by the landscape of Scotland: “Since the age of four I've travelled all my life and am fascinated and excited by the parallels and universals I see everywhere,” she says.
“The intricate complexities of nature has led me to use a variety of techniques and colour pigments, beeswax and oil.”
On show is a selection of her finely crafted and composed works such as the richly tinted “Blue Dusk,” and “Jade Mountain” which is delicately treated with 24 ct gold leaf to add a glowing shimmer.
Berit, a printmaker living in New York, specializes in etching, lithography and woodcuts. The impressive monoprint, “Musical Abstract” dances with colour, movement and light - in the same way that Alan Davie is inspired by atonal sounds of jazz music.
In contrast a coloured etching of “Crail” is a charming landscape depicting the old harbour and fisherfolk cottages in bold tints of orange and green.
Three Wishes: An intimate look at Jazz Greats is a collection of Nica’s interviews with 300 musicians accompanied by her Polaroid photographs. The book was edited with an introduction by her grand-daughter Nadine who recalls the last time she saw her grandmother Nica in New York in 1986.
“We went round the clubs in her convertible Bentley. She was wearing brightly coloured clothes, her pale face framed by long black tresses and between her scarlet lips rested the customary cigarette holder. She would sit quietly in a corner in the clubs, but at the sound of her British accent the musicians called out "Nica, my lady" or "There's the Baroness."
Nadine is a multi-media artist who divides her time between France and West Africa, and whose work in this show includes the monochrome photograms of star gazing “Petit Cosmos” and the soaring shape of “Bird.” The diverse nature of this family exhibition is particularly highlighted by a trio of charming oil paintings by Francoise of cute rabbits, one munching, hidden in a field of long grass, (“Un lapin qui mange de ble”), as if escaped from a child’s picture storybook.
A trio of female portraits by Janka (from Jerusalem) are simple line drawings in graphite on paper, but which capture character and personality. And finally the work of Steven, (based in Amsterdam), whose limited edition photographs are striking graphic poster-style images, such as Untitled II giving the impression of a golden sun against a bright blue sky.
After the official opening of the exhibition in late October, the artists were invited downstairs to Henderson’s Restaurant where local musicians Graham and Ian were entertaining diners in the Wine bar. One number they played was the Thelonius Monk classic 'Round Midnight,' and performed to thunderous applause: for Nica this had been her signature jazz tune. What a fitting musical welcome to the De Koenigswarter family who had crossed the continents to visit Edinburgh to present this unique joint celebration of an artistic, aristocratic dynasty across the generations.
The Henderson Gallery - 24 October to 21st November (free entry).