Tuesday, March 30, 2010

John Ulbricht & Angela Von Neumann

j ulbricht auto-retratoJohn Ulbricht Self-portrait

Chapter 37

During these first months in Mallorca the weekends were eagerly anticipated because it was then that Mr. G., Helen and I went out exploring the island or visiting.
Mr. G. was acquainted with many of the English-speaking foreign residents, some whom he had met through his mother,
Dina Moore Bowden, a patron of the arts who was born into a wealthy American family.

At that time there were several known American artists and writers who had chosen Mallorca as their permanent home. Mr. G. was eager to introduce them to me, and at times we would appear without warning on the steps of an artist's studio home in a quiet village up in the Mallorcan hills. Not everyone had telephones in those days because it took years of waiting to have one installed. And many painters or writers had little desire to be in touch by telephone with the outside world, as they had left that convenience behind in their search for a simpler life style. A once a week trip down to the village often sufficed to replenish the pantry, catch up on local news or pick up the mail. But on occasion, we would receive a word of mouth invitation to visit someone.

I remember one such outing to the village of Galilea where we were invited to the studio home of John Ulbricht and his wife Angela von Neumann, both of whom were painters.

john ulbricht
John Ulbricht
was born in Cuba in 1926, and moved to America when he was six years of age. He studied in the Chicago Art Institute where he met his future wife, Angela Von Neumann, also a painter. After living in America and touring Europe they discovered Mallorca and decided to settle there in the village of Galilea in 1954.

Angela von Neumann
Angela von Neumann was the daughter of Robert von Neumann, 1888 - 1976, a prolific painter who came to Wisconsin from Germany and taught art in Chicago for most of his life. Angela painted nature and animals in a naif or bright folk art style. She exhibited in USA, Mexico and Barcelona, and was awarded the Ramón Llull award of merit in 1998.

crocodile Crocodile by Angela von Neumann

I remember her as an attractive dark-haired woman who in our brief meeting impressed me with her style and grace.

Galilea is a charming small village in the mountains of Mallorca. about 20 kms from Palma. Houses centre around the church square where a nearby bar and restaurant serves as a meeting place for neighbours and visitors.

My memories of the visit we had with John and his wife are a little vague now but I do remember entering a large, bright studio and seeing paintings stacked around the walls.

John painted large dimension head portraits in his style of pointillism, if I can call it that. His palette of soft earth tones, impressed me deeply, as did his ability to capture a likeness. He painted royals, and famous faces as well as friends on enormous canvases. I don't forget seeing his near wall-size canvas of the American writer, Anthony Bonner in the Bonner home, the first time I stepped inside with Mr. G.

Mountbatten Earl Mountbatten of Burma by John Ulbricht

Betty FordBetty Ford by John Ulbricht

He also painted larger than life elements of nature, fruits, vegetables and landscapes of Mallorca. Here are some examples:

Mallorcan landscape Mallorcan Landscape

Bancales con Olivos Bancales con Olivos

And here is his painting of his wife, "Angela in Nine Fragments":

Angela in 8 fragments
Another interesting visit will be coming soon.

All photos were taken from the internet. Thanks and credits to the following:

National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk) Portrait of Mountbatten

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cognac Gulch

Plaza GomilaPhoto credit of Plaza Gomila to Salvatore at Il Guardiano del Faro

Chapter 36

While Helen and I were still living at the apartment in Son Armadams with her father, Mr. G., the three of us would sometimes go out for an evening stroll around the area. The Mediterranean summer nights were warm and scented with the exotic aromas of jasmine and dama de noche. It was such a pleasure to escape the heat and humidity of the day although the air never really cooled and one could wear sleeveless cotton summer dresses both day and night.

Inevitably we would take a long walk up the street to the area known as El Terreno and join the throngs of people-watchers in the Plaza Gomila, referred to by Mr. G. as 'Cognac Gulch'.

El Terreno means 'the land' in Spanish, and the area used to be on the outskirts of Palma. It was where wealthier residents built their summer or weekend home away from the bustle of the city; a sort of country retreat of long ago.

But by 1968 the distance between city and country had disappeared and El Terreno had become the nightlife centre of Palma, where bars and cafes vied for the attention of tourists and residents alike by setting up their tables and chairs outdoors in Plaza Gomila, which was a small plaza divided by a narrow road leading down to more bars and the Hotel Mediterraneo Grand.

It was a place where people sat to have coffee, brandy, gin & tonics or cool drinks in the evenings while all the time watching the stream of colourful passers-by, such as those in full evening dress as they walked towards the entrance of Tito's nightclub.

Tito's was the topnotch club of Palma, hosting international and national entertainment figures, where guests were served champagne and chocolates at small tables tiered around the stage. There was a dress code and if a man dared to enter without jacket and tie, he was taken aside and offered the chance to rent them. Women dressed in cocktail dresses and long gowns, and as they swished past the outdoor tables, their jewellery sparkled in the neon lights and their perfume trailed in the air, mingling with the scent of fresh coffee from the bars next door.

Sara Montiel Sara Montiel

Sara Montiel, or Saritisima as she was often called, was a frequent performer there in Tito's. Sara was a popular Spanish singer and actress from La Mancha who became well known for some of her early screen appearances. She was a frequent visitor to Palma.

But outside in Plaza Gomila the three of us would find ourselves a little round table, sit down and order our cafés cortado, our brandies Soberano, and pull out our black tobacco cigarettes, usually a national brand called Record which cost at the time just a few pesetas....worth pennies in other currencies.

cafe cortado
We'd sit there smoking and drinking, chatting, and laughing while observing the post beatnik, hippy, international crowd. As we listening to the babel of European languages mixed with Spanish and English, we kept watch for any passing celebrities. After all, we were there in what was the most exciting and interesting spot in the Balearic Islands, or so we thought.

We wondered if we might even see that new young curly-haired singer called Julio Iglesias who was becoming so popular after winning the Benidorm song festival with his own composition "La Vida Sigue Igual".

Young Julio Iglesias Julio Iglesias

Near to Plaza Gomila was the popular Africa Bar where English people congregated and around the corner was the Loa Bar, where one could find the best spaghetti bolognese and pancakes with real maple syrup; the only place in Palma where those were seen.
spaghetti bolognese
pancakesWe thought it could have something to do with the fact that the Loa Bar was a favourite haunt for American sailors from the sixth fleet who stopped there when they were in town.
Otherwise from where did the Loa bar get their real maple syrup? I asked but they would never tell!

Photo credit of Julio Iglesias to www.todocoleccion.net

Next: John Ulbricht & Angela Von Neumann

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kristian Krekovic and Bill Lewis

Bill Lewis as King Jaime I Chapter 35

I’m making a pause in recounting Helen’s wedding preparations to tell you about something curious that happened a couple of years before I arrived in Mallorca.

You may have read in my earlier posts entitled Vancouver Flashback about Bill Lewis, my first guitar teacher who had been giving lessons and working on guitar construction and repairs for George Bowden in his Mediterranean shop in Vancouver. And how one year Bill came over to Palma de Mallorca to help out in George’s guitar factory, located at the time in the Pueblo Español.

During that time, Bill was introduced to Kristian Krekovic, the Croatian portrait painter.

Krekovic was born in Bosnia in 1901 and after studying in both Vienna and Paris and living for a time with his wife in Peru, he settled in 1960 in Mallorca and became interested in Spanish art.

There he set about painting a large work depicting King Jaime I (James I) of Aragón (The Conqueror) showing his landing in Mallorca at Santa Ponsa in 1229, where together with his fleet of 155 ships he conquered the island, driving out the Moors.

As Krekovic was primarily a portrait painter he needed a model with strong facial features, preferably bearded, to represent King Jaime seated on a rock as he gazed out to sea.

Bill Lewis
I don’t know how they met, but Bill Lewis, Canadian, was the model and became the face of King Jaime I of Aragón.

Here he is in this now famous painting, with the artist standing beside it.

painting of Jaime I by Krekovic
For a long time the painting hung in the Palma city hall – the Ayuntamiento, where I was to see it after my arrival in Mallorca but I believe it has been moved to the Hotel Marina Rey Don Jaime in Santa Ponsa (Mallorca).

There is now a city park and a museum devoted to Kristian Krekovic, who passed away in 1985 in Palma de Mallorca.

Here is another of Krekovic's paintings depicting Mallorquin women in their native costumes:

Mallorquin women in costume - Krekovic
Photo credits of Krekovic's works go to:
The Croatian History Net.
Photo of Bill Lewis thanks to his daughter, Lyra Lewis, to whom I am most grateful.

Next: Cognac Gulch

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Barcelona & Antoni Gaudí

Sharon & Ruth
With Helen in Barcelona 1968

Chapter 34

After our overnight trip on the boat from Palma, Helen and I disembarked in the early morning hours and took a taxi to our hotel, located within viewing distance of the Temple of the Sagrada Familia, the amazing and still unfinished creation of the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. By leaning out our hotel window we could see the tall spires pointing skyward far down the avenue.

view from hotelWe were to meet with José who was free for the day and would take us around the city to see the sights, visiting the Barri Gòtic...the Gothic quarter, the Parc de la Ciutadella...the large city park and of course, the Temple of the Sagrada Familia.

Los NoviosHelen with José walking in the Gothic quarter

I was so wide-eyed at being in Barcelona and to be seeing all these sights. We passed by the famous Ramblas, that beautiful treed avenue where people were sitting at outdoor cafes.

The Ramblas
We visited the Parc de la Ciutadella...

The statue known as La Cascada:

La Cascada
Through the Barri Gòtic to the magnificent Barcelona cathedral, known as La Seu.

La Seu

La Seu
We passed through narrow streets in the Gothic quarter and famous landmarks such as Gaudí's Art Nouveau restoration of Casa Batlló.

Casa Batlló

Barcelona street

Barcelona street
And finally arriving at the enormous and awe-inspiring Roman Catholic Temple of the Sagrada Familia, whose construction began in 1882 and is still not finished. It must be seen to be believed and this was how it looked in 1968 as we walked around taking in as much as we could of the intricate carved facade.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia
We stopped for something to eat after which they dropped me at the hotel where I wanted to have a long siesta and rest my feet after such an exciting day. Helen and José were to meet with his parents and then go to a movie.....without their chaperone. I had developed a rather bad headache and so I fell into bed and was immediately asleep. I guess I hadn't slept so well the night before on that boat trip after all. But it had been a wonderful day that I would always remember!

Here is a slideshow of these photos enlarged and a few more of our day in Barcelona. They are the original slides I took in 1968, and although they are not in perfect shape I do treasure them. I hope you will also enjoy seeing them. Hasta pronto!

Next: Kristian Krekovic and Bill Lewis

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Night Boat to Barcelona

night boat to BarcelonaChapter 33

As Helen's wedding preparations were under way, it became necessary for her to make a trip to Barcelona in order to finalize the guest list and other details of this important event with José and his family who lived near Barcelona's city centre in a residential apartment or piso.

Since it wasn't considered proper for Helen to travel alone she was to have a chaperone. I was elected. And of course I was delighted to be offered a paid trip to Barcelona when my only task would be to accompany Helen and her fiancé around the city and visit his parents.

We would travel on the overnight ferry of the Trasmediterránea Line from Palma and stay in a hotel.

logo Trasmediterranea
As I didn't have a small overnight bag, I prepared my pink and green striped plastic suitcase that had served for my trip from Vancouver to Spain. Not much to put in there except the black and white flowered cotton dress I'd made before leaving Canada, one pair of shoes, nightdress, housecoat and slippers.

I made sure to bring my camera, an old German Voigtländer 35mm film camera that my father had given me on my 21st birthday. As I didn't have enough money to pay for colour film, I used black and white or slide film for which, in later years, I was thankful, since the photo quality lasted fairly well over the years, certainly better than could be expected of coloured prints of that time.

We also brought what was the standard snack food to take on picnics or journeys: the famous Inca biscuits of Mallorca. No picnic or venture away from home could be undertaken without a bag of these galletas de Inca which were first elaborated in the 19th century at the request of shipping companies which needed a sturdy biscuit suitable for taking on long voyages. The name comes from the original factory in the town of Inca, Mallorca.

Inca biscuits
Hard, oval, thick crackers, with a slight centre indentation, packaged in a transparent plastic bag and which, when squeezed a certain way on the sides with both hands would split perfectly in half horizontally, making them easy to top with a drop of olive oil, a small piece of cheese or ham. When you pressed too hard, or the wrong way they would crumble and you'd have to eat the little dry pieces from your lap.

Another indispensable snack for travelling was a bag of Galletas Maria.

Galletas Maria
Thin, flat and round, these were slightly sweet biscuits which would hardly have been popular in Canada I thought, as they were so plain. However in Spain at that time when there was little else available, one became accustomed to them, even learning to enjoy dipping them in coffee for breakfast.
flag of trasmedThe boat was to leave the Palma dock late at night and would arrive early the next morning in Barcelona. The sleeping accomodation at that time was in segregated (women or men only) windowless four-berth cabins, consisting of two sets of bunk beds with a wash basin in between and a bathroom down the corridor. This photo from www.norwayheritage.com shows a cabin similar to ours on a different ship, except that we were in a four-berth room with no window. But ours was as basic as the one in this photo.

two berth cabinAs we didn’t as yet have cabin companions, we left our cases in the room, closed the door and went up on deck to the bow of the ship. There was a full moon and the air was warm. As we stood in the evening breeze in our summer dresses, the boat began to move away from the dock and I marvelled at the mild Mediterranean air. Even as the ship picked up speed, the breeze was balmy.

I recalled such evening boat trips from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, where out on deck on an early summer evening we would be warmly wrapped in pullovers or jackets. When the lights of Palma harbour were far in the distance we went back downstairs to our cabin. We had company.

Gypsy MotherGypsy Mother - Painting by Robert Henri 1906

There was a middle aged Spanish lady arranging her belongings in the opposite top berth and a young gypsy mother with a baby sitting on the bottom berth.
The young mother looked like a child herself. Her baby was cranky and whining and I wondered if they had eaten that day. After we exchanged greetings, Helen and I prepared for bed. I took the upper bunk.
As there were no lockers in the room, we had to sleep with our suitcases and handbags at the end of the berth, by our feet. I wondered if I would get any rest that night, since I was so excited over this venture. But the motion of the boat soon put me into a sound sleep.

Unfortunately the gypsy mother was seasick and spent the night vomiting into the washbasin. We weren’t aware of it until early morning when we woke and discovered her plight. The baby was crying out ‘pa…pa…pa’ which I couldn’t understand but was told by Helen that he was saying ‘pan’ - bread.

The child was hungry and they didn’t have anything to eat. So we gave them the Galletas Maria which would have to do until they reunited with the male members of their family who were sleeping in another part of the ship.

After Helen and I had each taken a breakfast of cafe con leche and a hard breakfast bocadillo (small baguette sandwich) with cheese in the cafeteria we went out on deck to watch the arrival in Barcelona as the sun was rising.
It was a beautiful beginning to our day.

Photo credit Barcelona Sunrise to Louise Huot on Webshots

escudo trasned
Next: Gaudi and the Gothic Quarter
Go back to Chapter 32 The Bride's Hand

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Bride's Hand

The Marriage Proposal The Marriage Proposal
Frederic Soulacroix 1858 - 1933

Chapter 32

In Spain it is customary for the families of a future bride and groom ...los novios...to meet for a friendly luncheon, tea or dinner in the prenuptial event called "the asking of the hand"...la petición de mano.

Whereas in former days the groom may have made a formal request to the bride's father for her hand in marriage, the custom was gradually disappearing. The bride and groom had by this time decided to marry and the petición de mano became more of an engagement party where the two families would have the opportunity to meet, perhaps for the first time.

At this time the engagement ring is presented to the bride by her future husband, while she customarily presents him with a watch or engraved cuff links.

Since Helen's future inlaws lived in Barcelona, they took a hotel room in Palma for their short visit to the island. Helen and her father would be hosting the casual coffee afternoon in the apartment in which I was a guest. Vases were filled with flowers. Coffee and light refreshments were prepared.

Finally the three arrived...the handsome groom, José, dressed in a dark suit, his mother, dressed in black and his father also dressed in a dark suit. It was customary at that time for Spanish women to wear black for most important occasions, whether or not they were in mourning (de luto) for a deceased family member, which under Catholic Church customs kept them wearing black for most of their senior years.

However on this occasion the dark clothing was for the significance of the event. Mr. G. also wore a dark suit and tie, while Helen and I wore printed summer dresses. I was not long in Spain, having recently arrived from Canada, so I found all this to be most unusual and interesting.

After the coffee, the pleasantries and exchange of gifts, we all went out for dinner to a lovely restaurant. Here in this photo below, you see from left to right, the groom's parents, Helen (pseudonym) the bride, José the groom, and George Bowden...Mr. G.

peticion de mano family

Here below are some more transparency photos I made in El Pueblo Español, the Spanish Village, located in Palma de Mallorca during this time, shortly after my arrival in 1968.

La Guitarreria - the entrance to Mr. G's guitar factory:
La Guitarreria The Basket Maker:
the basket maker In Pueblo Español:
pueblo español Reproduction of La Alhambra:
la alhambra Vancouver Chuck with José Ferrer - guitar maker:
Chuck with José Ferrer Pueblo Español:
Pueblo Español
Continue on to Chapter 33 Night Boat to Barcelona
Go back to Chapter 31 Living in Palma
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