A look through Rosamond Bernier's photo albums —
from Philadelphia to Acapulco, Paris to New York, accompanied by some friends
Some favorite photos >
Born in Philadelphia of an American father and an English mother, Rosamond Bernier was educated in France, in England and at Sarah Lawrence College. She then lived for some years in Mexico, where she flew her own airplane and raised a small private zoo.
After World War II she spent more than twenty years in Paris, initially as European features editor for VOGUE magazine. She became friends with the masters of the School of Paris: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Alberto Giacometti. She knew them as few foreigners did, and when she founded the art magazine L'OEIL in 1955 they did all they could to help her.
Rosamond Bernier was often the first writer to get into print with new achievements in art that have since acquired landmark status. Among these were the Matisse chapel in Vence and the ensemble of paintings by Picasso in the Chateau d'Antibes. It was at Picasso's suggestion that she went to Barcelona and became the first person to report on the important collection of early works — later to become the nucleus of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona — that he had left there with his family many years before.
After returning to the United States in 1971 she began a new career as a lecturer. It was immediately clear that she had exceptional gifts as a speaker. (Leonard Bernstein, for instance, wrote, "Madame Bernier has the gift of instant communication to a degree which I have rarely encountered.")
Since 1971 she has spoken to audiences around the globe. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she eventually gave over 200 lectures, her annual series routinely sold out months in advance. She has lectured in French in France, at the Grand Palais, the Louvre and the Pompidou Center, in Paris. The governments of India and Israel have invited her to lecture as a state guest.
Madame Bernier is also a practiced television performer, having conducted numerous interviews with leading artists and cultural figures for CBS and Channel THIRTEEN. Narrating scripts by her late husband John Russell, former chief art critic of The New York Times, she made two programs on unfamiliar aspects of the Louvre and a further two on the Pompidou Center. The latter won the coveted Peabody Award. In 1981 they collaborated again on "An Everlasting France", an introduction to the French collections in the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.
Thirteen of her lectures at the Metropolitan Museum have been videotaped for commercial distribution. Her first series of five hour-long programs on Matisse, Picasso and Miró and her second four-part series on French Impressionism have been repeatedly broadcast on national public television.
In recognition of her contributions to French culture, she was made "Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the French government in 1980. In 1999 she was made a "Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur." In 1999, King Juan Carlos I of Spain awarded her the "Cross of Isabel la Católica" for her contributions to Spanish culture.
Her numerous other awards include the honorary degree of "Doctor of Humane Letters" from Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (1991); the "James D. Burke Prize in Fine Arts" by the St. Louis Art Museum (1997); and the "Citation for Achievement" from Sarah Lawrence College (2004).
In 1998 she and John Russell were each named "Fellows for Life" by the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts. In 2004, they were named "National Treasures" by the Municipal Art Society of New York.
Rosamond Bernier was for many years a contributing editor of VOGUE, and remains today on the magazine’s masthead. In 1999 she was placed in the International Fashion Hall of Fame and the International Best-Dressed List for life.
In 1991 Alfred A Knopf, Inc. published her book Matisse, Picasso, Miró — As I Knew Them, a splendidly illustrated volume illuminating the art and lives of three major artists of the 20th century through personal insight and extraordinary visual acumen. The book has been translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Rosamond Bernier has been profiled in The New Yorker, VOGUE, and Town & Country, as well on Today (NBC), 60 Minutes (CBS) and World Day (CNN).
Her memoirs Some of My Lives were published in 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Rosamond Bernier died peacefully at her home on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.