Tuesday, October 18, 2016

CHARLOTTE BRONTE: An Independent Will: Review by Polly Guerin

Charlotte Bronte 1850 National Portrait Gallery
Charlotte Bronte,  a woman determined to succeed, declared herself "a free human being with an independent will." She was born in the era of The Cult of Domesticity on the desolate moors of Yorkshire, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman. 
   Charlotte and her sisters, and their brother, Branwell,  grew up blighted by domestic tragedy and loss and had to create a world of imagination for themselves. Save for the Parsonage cemetery at their doorstep and monotonous hours exploring the windswept expanses of the moors they were led as teenagers on a path of creative Juveniiia that resulted in plays and hand-made miniature books, illustrated with watercolor images. 
      For Charlotte and her sisters later it was Jane Eyre, Withering Heights, and Agnes Grey that gave the mid-nineteenth century a new concept of women in love and trying to live in society. 
Image Left: Life portrait of Charlotte Bronte, by George Richmond, on loan from London's National Portrait Gallery.
     CHARLOTTE BRONTE: An Independent Will, a new exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum runs through January 2, 2017. It traces the writer's life from imaginative teenager to reluctant governess to published poet and masterful novelist. The exhibition celebrates the two-hundredth anniversary of Bronte's birth in 1816, and marks an historic collaboration between The Morgan, which holds one of the word's most important collections of Bronte Manuscripts and letters, and the Bronte Parsonage, in Haworth, England which lent a variety of key items including the author's earliest manuscript, her portable writing desk and paintbox, and a blue floral dress she wore in the 1850s.
Bronte's earliest surviving miniature manuscript book
THE MINUSCULE BOOKS Reading of the classics, the bible and Milton, Scott, and Lord Byron to name a few,  fueled the Bronte children's imagination and their games informed their writing, and enhanced their stories. The selection of Juvenilia presented in the exhibition highlights the whimsy and imaginativeness of the Brontes' production.  On one view is Charlotte's earliest surviving manuscript, a tiny handmade booklet. I observed, it is no more than two and a half inches by one and a fourth inches illustrated with watercolor drawings. It presents the story of a little girl named Anne who goes on an exciting journey. Best to use the magnifying glass provided in the exhibit hall to try to see the almost indecipherable writing. Bronte wrote it when she was about twelve. Image Right: Charlotte Bronte's story, beginning "There once was a little girl and her name was Anne ca 1828 Bronte Parsonage Museum.
TEACHING and PUBLISHING: In 1836, when she was nineteen, Bronte entered the Roe Head School where she previously had been a student, as a teacher, but chafed in her new role.  A few years later she took a a short-term position as a governess in a private home, caring for what she called the "riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs."   Relief came with the largess of an aunt. Bronte and her sister Emily went to Brussels in 1842 to study and improve their teaching credentials.  It was there that she fell under the influence of her inspiring teacher, Constantin Heger and later suffered years of what appeared to be unrequited love for the married professor.  
Charlotte Bronte's gown circa 1850
      As Bronte biographer Rebecca Fraser wrote, "Working as governesses, teaching school, traveling to the continent, and caring for their volatile and tragic brother, Branwell, Charlotte and her sisters led difficult and fiery lives---lives that electrified their fiction, challenged the Victorian Age, and made them the most distinctive, enduring women---and novelists--of their time."
     In 1846, she and her sisters Emily and Anne self-published a book of poems, which by the record sold but one copy, yet was held in esteem by some of her followers. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. and Agnes Grey followed. The authors retained the pseudonyms they had chosen for their book of poems the year earlier. Charlotte was Currier Bell, Emily, Elias Bell and Anne, Acton Bell.
 LEGACY:  Bronte published her last novel, Villette, in 1853. The following year, at the age of thirty-eight, she married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate. A mere nine months later, she died, most likely from complications of pregnancy.  Bronte's writing continues to have a profound impact on readers throughout the world, and many find her life story just as compelling as much of what lays within the stories parallel her extraordinary life's experiences. A woman who wrestled with her own independence. Charlotte Bronte's, An Independent Will Gallery Talk takes place Friday November 4 at 6 pm Free with museum admission. For further information about programs and the adult workshop visit 
      Ta Ta Darlings!!!  A reading group on Charlotte Bronte's final novel, Villette, in the historic family rooms of the nineteenth-century Morgan House,takes place on Nov. 1 and Dec. 13. Advance tickets are required. I'm going!!!  Polly loves to receive fan mail at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's other Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and check the Blog that interests you listed in the left-hand column  

Monday, August 3, 2015

FANIA AND ZLATKA remembered in PAPER HEARTS by Meg Wiviott: Review by Polly Guerin

Meg Wiviott's young adult book PAPER HEARTS brings the story of Fania and Zlatka and their friendship through poetry written during the terrible days in Auschwitz The novel is is based on a true story of a bond that helped two teenage girls realize hope for the best in the face of the worst. The book of collected poems also focuses on twenty remarkable young women who conspired through their youth and determination to conspire against the Nazi regime, which classified them as subhuman, forced them to work as slave laborers, and thought of them as nothing more than the numbers tattooed on their arms---yet they conspired to commit an act of great defiance.
     They dared to behave as humans and they dared to celebrate life---a birthday---with a simple gesture that, if they have been caught, could have meant death. Needless to say, after some seventy years after the events, this story still resonates to remind us that courage and youthful optimism instilled a strong resolve in the hearts of these incarcerated young women.Through poetry in verse their plight in the hateful camp becomes a riveting story of fortitude and survival.
MAKING A BIRTHDAY CARD should seem like a simple everyday task but only "an act of defiance," a statement of hope makes this book such a treasure to read, to inspire, and to remind us of indomitable spirit of the youthful poets. Making a birthday card in Auschwitz was all of those things but death marches were real and the slightest effort of defiance was punishable by death.  Yet Zlatka had courage and the determination to create a birthday card for her best friend Fania. She stole and bartered for paper and scissors, and secretly created an origami heart. It was passed along the work tables to sign, which they did with their hopes to find love and happiness but most of all, freedom. It is not known how many of the girls who signed the Heart survived the death marches but  Fania  treasured her gift and kept it secret during her imprisonment, even carried it through the death marches. She kept the Heart with her when she was liberated, and through the years as she rebuilt her life and her family.
Meg Wiviott
This remarkable story lives on in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, where it is a permanent exhibition, telling its story of defiance, love, and friendship. Thousands of visitors who visit the Centre each year, will no doubt take to their own hearts this remarkable story in verse. Fania eventually returned to Poland, met her husband, and then settled later in Toronto, Canada, where they raised their daughter and son. Fania still lives there today.As for Zlatka, the creator of the Heart, she too returned to Poland, fell in love, got married and moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she still loves today (as of October 2013).
   This is Meg Wiviott's first novel for young adults. Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. On sale: 9/1/15
   Fan mail and comments about this review welcome at

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

INCOMPARABLE COUPLES By Rose Hartman Reviewed by Polly Guerin

Reading Rose Hartman's new book, Incomparable Couples, is like taking a trip down memory lane revisiting the glamorous and celebrated personalities who defined the fashion and social trendsetter era for three decades. The book is populated by people we knew and people we wish we knew. Nostalgia tugs at our hearts as we review the pages of engaging couples at the prime of their celebrity.
   Couples featured in this full-color, beautiful tome include:: Jerry Hall and Annie Leibovitz, Bob Mackie and Cher, Jean Paul Gautier and Lauren Bacall, Peter and Jane Fonda, Bianca and Jade Jagger, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono, Liz Taylor and her dog, Robert Wolders and Audrey Hepburn, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and 150 more, too numerous to list here.
    So why should we want to read Incomparable Couples?" The answer comes clear and forthright in the  photographs themselves and I can surreptitiously hear the reader saying, "Oh I remember them, and then repeat page after page, I remember them again, and then sigh. At best Hartman's photographic documentary serves as a permanent archival book referencing artists and muses, designers and muses, family, mothers and children; pets, friendships, models, marriages --images of people we remember and people we wish we had known.
   Hartman, the quintessential photographer of our time, captures beautiful duos, unlikely duos and some downright scary duos. Rose's images are always spontaneous, never staged, that is what makes these photographs so interesting and spellbinding.. Ms. Hartman tips the shutter at just the right moment, capturing a critical moment in a conversation--a pose, a gesture--to present a story abut two people from the world of popular culture.
  Eric Shiner who wrote some of the text wrote, "It might be best to think about Rose as an anthropologist who has spend so much time with her subjects that she has become a trusted, known entity."
   In her presence, celebrities have let their guard down, allowing her to capture moments otherwise rarely   seen. The vitality of the images in "Incomparable Couples" attest to the rare sense of familiarity.  Hartman portrays the humanity in her subjects. instead of their more famous, fashionable shells. :
  Incomparable Couples is published by ACC Editions,  photographs by Rose Hartman, Texts by Eric Shiner, Michael Gross and Rose Hartman, hardcover $49.50 available a fine book stores.
   Who is Rose Hartman? Rose stands as one of the most prolific photographers of our age. As a woman
photographer, she has jumped over every hurdle in a male-dominated world to create a huge body of work documenting the demimonde of fame and glamor in the center of the world of culture. Hartman is a one of those remarkable women who have scaled the heights of success in their oeuvre. She has created a book that has archival value, recording over time, she straddles the boundaries between street photography, portraiture and documentary photography. My hearty congratulations to Rose Hartman for preserving a world of celebrity for generations to come. As Eric Shiner, Director of the Any Warhol Museum said, "It takes two to tango, but it takes Rose to truly dance."
Read this feature on pollytalkfromnewyork.blogspot and also on amazingartdecodivas.blogspot (womendetermined to succeed) or go to www.pollytalk.com and click on the link in the left hand column to either one of these blogs.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Helena Rubinstein may not be a household name, but the legendary magnate built a cosmetic empire and crowned herself Queen of her domain, reigning over the beauty routines of women worldwide for decades. Her story is one of inspiration for all women who aspire to ascend the ladder to success. What it took was a passion for living, a drive extraordinary and perseverance to succeed. And, it is about time that recognition be given to this pioneering woman who made her beauty business one of the hallmarks of the cosmetic industry.
   The Jewish Museum exhibit, Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power, through March 22, 2015 is the first museum exhibition to focus on the innovative cosmetics entrepreneur and art collector.. By the time of her death, Rubinstein had risen from her humble origins in a small town Jewish Poland to become a global icon of female entrepreneurship and a leader in art, fashion, design and philanthropy.  As head of a cosmetic empire that extended across four continents, she was, arguably, the first modern self-made woman magnate.
   Rubinstein was born in a small town in Poland in 1872. In 1888, when she was sixteen Rubinstein fled the prospect of an arranged marriage and found her way from Krakow to Vienna to Australia, where she established her first business, Helena Rubinstein & Co., producing skin creams; and at the same time she married her first husband, Edward Titus.
   Her talent for business and its inherent feminism reflects her modern thinking. One of the first slogans Rubinstein used to promote her cosmetics, "Beauty is Power," is an advertisement that first appeared in an Australian newspaper in 1904. This was revolutionary at the turn of the century when the use of cosmetics, associated with the painted faces of actresses and prostitutes, was widely frowned upon by the middle class, but Rubinstein found the means for ordinary women to transform themselves.  Her business challenged the myth of beauty and taste as inborn, or something to which on the wealthy were entitled. By encouraging women to define themselves as sell-expressive individuals, Rubinstein contributed to their empowerment.
She eventually returned to Europe where she established salons in the grandest districts of London and Paris, and also began collecting African and Oceanic art in 1909.
The Salon Format Inspired by the tradition of European literary salons, Rubinstein conceived of her beauty salons as intimate environments where progressive ideas were exchanged under the guidance of a sophisticated patroness. At the outbreak of World War I she moved to the United States, where she founded her first salon in 1915.  Today the term 'beauty salon" means a hairdresser or a day spa. But Rubinstein salon was a place designed entirely by women, where a client could learn not only how to improve her looks, but also how to re-conceive her standards of taste, to understand design, color, and art in order to express her own personality. What Rubinstein advocated was new and profound in the early 20th century. She offered women the ideal of self-invention, a fundamental principle of modernity.
The Art Collection Madame (as she was universally known) ruled with a firm hand and empowered
women. Case in point, at a huge rally in 1911 some women suffragists wore lip rouge as a badge of emancipation.
   Selections from Rubinstein's famous art collection include works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadelman, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Joan Miro and Henri Matisse, among others, as well as thirty works from
her collection of African and Oceanic art. When people found it strange that a woman who had dedicated her life to beauty would purchase such "ugly things," Rubinstein said, "I had always favored the unusual and when I followed sound advice, as well as my own 'inner eye;'  my purchases were invariably good.":
   Other highlights include Rubinstein's beloved miniature period rooms, jewelry, and clothing designed by Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli and Paul Poiret. Her savvy for self-promotion is evident in portraits of her made by the leading artists of her day, from Marie Laurencin to Any Warhol.  Most interesting are the vintage advetisements, cosmetics products and professional films related to her beauty business.
At The Jewish Museum, located on Museum Mile at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street,  www.thejm.org.
Ta Ta Darlings!!! Madame is my inspiration, she really set the independent mark for women. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs on www.pollytalk.com and in the left hand column click on the Blog of your interest be it amazing women, visionary men, treasures in New York or poetry.

Monday, August 19, 2013


In a world filled with the cacophony of city life, the stress of work or personal health concerns it is comforting to know that women seeking the resurgence of  harmony in their lifestyle need go no further but turn to Sharon’s Energetic Bliss.  Her mission statement says it all. “My belief in the healing arts is deeply profound, providing an Energetic “whole” – istic approach.  I pledge to keep the power of gentle professional touch alive by providing an important service to women that can truly improve their quality of life by being the conduit, for their own self-healing.”  Sharon is a woman determined to succeed in holistic healing with a subtle approach that underscores the philosophy of Energetic Bliss.

HOLISTIC HEALING Sharon has dedicated her life to the well being of others. She is a woman whose hands have a distinct therapeutic touch that is gentle, yet goes deep into sensitizing where a client’s energy centers need the most attention and revitalization.  With soft persuasive hands, Sharon‘s gentle professional touch serves as a conduit that also helps women to heal themselves and clear toxins whether emotional, chemical or both. Her services are tuned into the needs of the individual and her uncanny ability to immediately attune to a client’s concerns makes her a truly sensitive practitioner.
THE SERVICES Sharon practices in disciplines including Reiki, Aromatherapy Massage, Hot Stone Massage, Polarity Therapy and Onnetsu Far Infrared Therapy. The wall in her salon attests to the fact that Sharon has honed her skills and authenticated her diverse practice. The serene salon has a skyline view with windows opening to the sunlight. A warm bed-like massage table, on which a client reclines, in a fully clothed session, provides a soothing experience that calms and restores disharmony in the energy fields of the body.  You can almost feel the tension and the burden of everyday concerns melt away. 
POLARITY THERAPY I can attest to the Polarity Therapy treatment as I was fortunate recently to experience it.  Sharon’s featherlike touch scanned my body reaching blocked currents in the body’s energy field, and at one place in particular, she touched a spot that dramatically resonated to her touch with a gentle but almost electrifying reaction.  I assessed this to mean that there may be severe blocking of energy in that area as well in other places. After the session I felt light and euphoric. I now realize that the power of gentle professional touch can truly improve the quality of life by clearing and balancing chakra/energy centers, relieve pain, activate the body’s natural ability to heal itself, relieve stress and release toxins or impurities, to name a few.
ENERGETIC BLISS, Natural Health Care for Women, focuses on your total well-being in treatments that soothe your senses, restore your body and replenish your spirit. Energetic Bliss is located at 121 Newark Ave., Suite 402, Downtown Jersey City, NJ 07302. Tel. 971.239.8476 or sharon@energetic bliss.com By appointment only. Visit her Web Site at www.energeticbliss.com

Thursday, May 30, 2013

GUERIN, POLLY's Illustrated Lecture on her book: COOPER-HEWITT DYNASTY OF NEW YORK


M i d - M a n h a t t a n
40th Street and 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
6:30 p.m. on the 6th floor

w e l c o m e s
Polly Guérin
presenting an illustrated lecture on her book

About the presenter:
Polly Guérin
is a former adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York
and the author of four college textbooks, four blogs,magazine articles and pollytalk columns.
Her featureson the decorative arts, antiques, collectibles and design have appeared in Art & Antiques magazine. She is alsotheauthor of four blogs: pollytalkfromnewyork;menremarkablevisionaries; womendeterminedtosucceed and poetryfromtheheartbypollyguerin.

Monday, May 13, 2013

PALMER, POTTER: Retail Pioneer and Bertha Honore (c) by Polly Guerin

While retail theater on television is currently celebrating the rise of the department store, viewers would be served better to know that the true story of the man you brought retailing to the pinnacle of showmanship was Potter Palmer. He was the creator of what we now know as the modern department store. (It was not Marshall Field or Harry Selfridge) Palmer ranks highest among the remarkable visionaries who made shopping an adventure and entertainment destination.    However, he was more than just a merchant king he also gave Chicago, the grand Palmer House Hotel and many other ‘firsts’  including  introducing impressionism to the United States. Palmer's wife, Bertha Honore, shares in the limelight by becoming one of Chicago's most distinguished leaders for women's rights.   RETAIL ORIGINS Palmer invented many of the retail practices we take for granted today. He was the first captain of the merchant class to allow women to exchange merchandise.  He created the motto, “the customer is always right,” originated a liberal credit policy, opened the bargain basement concept and last but not least installed dazzling window displays. Obviously Palmer influenced other retailers who adopted his successful retail innovations. A man ahead of his time, Palmer hired one of the first female architects to construct a building for the World’s Columbia Exposition in 1892.                                                                                                                 LOVE UNDER FIRE Such a story is worth  historical reverence and to this end Corn Bred Films has set the record straight about  the lives of Bertha and Potter Palmer, one of the first and foremost power couples in the United States. Corn Bred's new 30 minute documentary film, LOVE UNDER FIRE, tells the epic love story between young socialite Bertha Honore and Potter Palmer, a self-made man twenty years her senior. Their passion for Chicago, the city they loved is a riveting saga that reveals more than meets the eye.                                                                           
PALMER ARRIVES Potter Palmer came from upstate New York and was interested in retailing.  He stopped off in Chicago a burgeoning Midwest town with mud roads but a growing community. Palmer saw opportunity and decided he wanted to be part of the city and prospered in real estate and retailing. After reaching an elevated level of business and social recognition, when he was thirty-eight years old Palmer was worth millions of dollars, a fine catch to say the least. Due to Palmer’s social ascendancy, he was invited to dinner at the home of real estate maven, where Palmer met thirteen year old Bertha Honore, an event that would forever change his  life.                                                                                                              PALMER HOTEL Bertha Honore was a remarkable woman, determined to succeed and did so in more way than when years later she married Palmer. Palmer was a man of great gestures and he built the Palmer Hotel as a wedding present for his bride. During the raging fire that destroyed Chicago in 1875 and the Palmer Hotel, Bertha seemingly rose from the ashes, a woman of great fortitude. She was the first woman to appear before Congress to petition the government for funds, and traveled throughout Europe, influencing royalty and industrialists. Palmer let Bertha shine in the limelight. She continued to be a great supporter of women’s education, wages and working conditions. This powerful couple’s story is breathtaking and illuminating as to how two people forged a legacy that makes the Palmers important figures in the historic record of our country’s evolution as a great retail empire.