Paul with his mother Daisy
Paul Georges born in Portland, Oregon to Daisy Ostrow & Thomas Theseus Georges (Poppy). He was raised Jewish in Portland in the 3rd house Poppy converted from a chicken coop. The 1st 2 houses burnt down. Paul attends same schools as Rothko a decade later. Spends May - Sept every year until high school with Mom at rented Cannon Beach house; the 4 kids skip school. Swims in Pacific Ocean, now too cold. Paul lives near the ocean his entire life
Paul (L) with Poppy and Ossie (R) his beloved brother at Cannon Beach
Thomas Georges born Greek Orthodox in Medea, Greece 1881, a 2nd son without prospects left his village age 15. He walked 5 hours without shoes to the port of Nafplio, stowed away on a ship to America, worked across Canada building the railroad from Boston to the West coast. In Portland he steadily made himself into a successful American businessman, tough yet smooth. Paul works at his father's business The Oregon Laundry from childhood all the way on & off into the 50's. Very hard work for very good pay.
1939 - 1941
Draws since childhood. Paints 1st Painting age 16, wins Prize at Multnomah County Fair. Buys a car. Friday nights polishes his shoes to a dazzling shine, a lifelong routine before going out, to dance the jitterbug at a Catholic school with girls who Swing Dance. Paul stands out as a terrific dancer and handsome guy. Meets 1st girlfriend Marguerite, a Catholic girl with crossed eyes. Daisy loves projects & finds a doctor who uncrosses eyes. Little sister Shirley describes her brothers, "Ummhmm, those boys sure could fight." Around 1941, oldest brother Tommy "the Bully," throws Paul into a glass dish display case, long scars cover the left side of Paul's torso forever.
WWII Pacific War 3 years, 9 months, 16 days
Paul enrolls at Oregon State College fall 1942 to learn Dry Cleaning. Drafted December '42. Works as army lifeguard in Hawaii briefly. Serves as an Infantry Radio Operator Pacific War. Paul carries 200 pounds radio equipment at the rear. Watches as the frontlines are wiped out & replaced over & over & over. For 10 months walks the entire coastline of New Guinea, Paul has strength from years of laundry work & digs the fastest hole in coral to sleep in. During nightly shelling a soldier is blown into Paul's foxhole, lands on top of him, blood runs out all night into coral. Paul can't tell if he is dying or the other guy. Paul has an epiphany, "if I survive I'm going to do something worthwhile with my life." Both men survive; Paul is awarded a Purple Heart. He survives years of heavy shelling, not knowing one risk is inability to father children. Survives largest Battle of the Pacific: Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, the Philippines. Returns to USA February 1945. Purple Heart, Bronze Star, 15 medals remain in a box. Tries to forget.
1946 - 1948
No longer a kid after the War. Paul attends University of Oregon at Eugene on the G.I. Bill. Studies painting with Jack Wilkinson an artist/philosopher/loyal friend who taught Paul "how to analyze art" Paul considered that one of his most valuable abilities. Paul remains close to Jack for the rest of Jack's life (b. Berkeley, CA 1913 - d. East Hampton, NY 1974) Paul tells his parents he's decided to become an artist. Poppy is outraged! Paul begins First Self Portrait, he never stops painting Self-Portraits until the day he dies.
Hans Hoffman School, Provincetown, Summer 1947
PG 3rd to Hofmann's right, front row
Jack sends Paul to study with Hofmann in Provincetown, summer 1947. He drives across country, at Hofmann's Paul meets Jane Freilicher, Clem Greenberg, Larry Rivers, Wolf Kahn many lifelong artist friends. Rivers nicknames him PG, because there are other Paul's there. The G.I.'s are older, PG is the "star painter" that summer at Hofmann's.
Photo © Thomas Roderick, Courtesy Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust
Red Table and Chairs
PG's "star painting" at Hofmann's. Selected by Hofmann for PG's First Group Exhibition in New York at Jacques Seligmann Gallery. Drives West with student Irvin Kershener, who's going to LA to become a filmmaker. In 1980, Kersh directs The Empire Strikes Back - Star Wars series. They part at a fork in the road. PG returns to Oregon, studies with Jack fall 1947, other students: Ken Snelson, whose parents were in the laundry business & knew PG's parents from laundry conventions, Karl Niederer, future filmmaker James Ivory. Receives Junior Certificate December 1947.
First Solo Exhibition Reed College, Portland
PG spends time painting with his Golden Retriever at the Cannon Beach house named TOPS: Tommy, Ossie, Paul + Shirley, Daisy's children for whom she purchased the house years ago with her own borrowed money. 25 years in the future PG learns one quarter of this house is his only inheritance.
1948 - 1949
Leaves Cannon Beach. Leaves Portland, Oregon.
Lives in New York fall 1948, in a room shared with Vern Witham a student of Jack's. PG paints on one side of the room, Witham the other. March 1949, moves to Paris, lives on Rue de la Bucherie in the 5th, attends Academie de la Grande Chaumiere then Atelier Fernande Leger. Jack's students Ken Snelson & Otto Fried are at Leger's, the class is made up of G.I.'s, they meet once a week, get a paper signed to release living expenses. Leger sat there, when he looked at each painting he said, "enlevez!" or take it away!
PG and a painting outside his rented Dacca in the Paris outskirts: Ste-Geneviève-des-Bois. December 6, at a party filled with Americans in the Impasse Ronsin where Brancusi had a studio and the floors were dirt PG met Lisette Blumenfeld. They danced. She worked for LIFE Magazine, that recently had an article about Abstract Expressionism, she was the daughter of famous photographer Blumenfeld, everyone wanted to meet her. She gave her boyfriend the slip and Paul walked Lisette to the hotel where she lived. They arranged a date, he showed up 2 weeks late because he forgot the address. Lisette took Paul to a record store where a person enters a small booth, puts on headphones to listen, she played Four Seasons by Vivaldi, he was entranced.
Paul Georges proposed to Lisette Blumenfeld.
1950 - 1952
The lovers were married in Cambridge, England, January 1950.
Lisette & Paul had an extraordinary relationship for 52 years.
The Honeymoon was before the Wedding while they "posted bans" for 2 weeks. They both wanted children right away. Telegrams were duly sent to parents. Both sides flew into rages. Telegrams flew, the parents arranged to meet, West would come East immediately. The Oregonians imagined anyone called Lisette was a French whore. The parents instantly disliked the each other. Poppy liked houses that were American and new. The place at 1 West 67th St called a Hotel for Artistes, was full of old junk, old books, old rugs! The loud Americans struck chords of horror in the Blumenfelds for poor Lisettje, how could their refined daughter marry a barbarian? Paul the Wurst name! the same as Lena's cousin Paul Citroen, Bloomie's best friend, who revealed himself a Nazi sympathizer after The War. Agreement was swift: Paul would work as an Elevator Operator, "a job with a future" and they would double his salary together. The newlyweds must return at once!
The newlyweds returned to the Dacca for a few weeks until Lisette found Albert Marquet's house and magnificent studio in La Frette-sur-Seine close to Paris available for rent. They rented it together with Jack Wilkinson, his wife Una and daughter Cathy who arrived in Paris on his sabbatical. Jack & Una always had more money. PG painted. At night he & Jack drank while discussing art, philosophy & politics. They bought a Deux Cheveux for trips to Colmar to see the Grunewalds and Bayeux to see the Normandy tapestries; near where they would live 3 1/2 decades later. Blumenfeld's mistress Kathleen a jealous, lying bitch came to visit. She told Blumenfeld Lisette was living in poverty with broken dishes. Her father barely spoke to his favorite child for 10 years. In September Paul received a telegram that his mother had a heart attack + outlook wasn't good. 2 weeks later came a telegram: MOM DIED. Paul cried hard. He only cried once again in 1991, when he had a heart procedure & thought he died. They rushed to NY by boat then flew to Portland. The plane made 12 or 15 stops, there was a drunk stewardess in a fur coat nothing underneath and drunk passengers, they were more drunk at every stop. Lisette never liked vulgar Americans & had moved back to Paris after the War for that reason. Meeting the Georges family was an eye opener for a European polyglot whose parents homes were always filled with books even if they ate risotto every night. The house PG grew up in didn't have a single book, Lisette helped around the house and found a cross in Poppy's drawer, a Greek Orthodox amidst his Jewish family. PG worked hard driving a laundry route making $600 a week, soon they had enough money to live another year in Paris and left. Poppy paid PG to drive a laundry truck to New York. Lisette discovered the road across country was made of bricks, narrow with sharp curbs. Driving 3000 miles in a laundry truck is an unforgettably uncomfortable trip.
1951 - 1952
Fete a la Frette
Glad to be back in Paris, PG painted a lot and he made a film. Cathy played the kid, PG asked Lisette's friend the artist Richard Lindner to be in the film, he wanted to play the hero & deeply offended, he refused to play the old man! They got a black French Poodle & named him Yuki, he rode on the back seat of the Deux Cheveux. They took trips to see art in Florence, Ravenna, Venice, Arezzo & tried to visit Berlin to see art. Snelson rode all the way to the border in the backseat of the Deux Cheveux with Yuki. At the border a rough German soldier demanded the 4th passport thinking Yuki a girl. Lisette spoke perfect German & finally convinced the soldier "she" was a dog. The 3 agreed Yuki drew too much attention for Germany, turned around and drove back to Paris.
PG's G.I. Bill finally stopped after 7 years of stretching the money. In March, they moved to New York and stayed at the Blumenfeld's with Yuki as briefly as possible after hearing the elevator operator proposal. A loft in a condemned building at 41 E. 8th Street was available for next to nothing. It was Peter Busa's former place, Pollock's best friend. Busa moved out West & Pollock walked right in at any hour of the day or night, slapping Lisette on the ass, lurching around muttering drunkenly, PG hoping to pick up a few pointers following closely. Pollock often keeled over alarmingly then suddenly he'd gather himself up stumbling out the door. On the ground floor Larry Rivers worked at Rosenberg's Art Supply. After Rivers shoplifted expensive brushes and paints he brought the loot upstairs during lunch. The proceeds were divided after work. PG unpacked his paintings from France, people hung around a lot. Lisette found work as a stylist, she was instantly in demand. She dressed stylishly yet simply, 20 years later she was still wearing the exact same items of clothing. Sensing PG's eye wandered when she was out too long she quit in 1953, announcing it was his turn to work. Lisette never had another job.
1953 - 1954
PG paints Lisette pregnant, he becomes a regular at the Club and the Cedar Bar, meets de Kooning, Kaldis, Kline, Rothko, Guston, Still, Gottlieb, Tworkov, Lee Krasner, Resnick, Carone, Alice Neel and artists & writers his own age Elaine de Kooning, Mercedes Matter, Grace Hartigan, Gorchov, Al Leslie, Frank O'Hara, Leroi Jones, Richard Howard, John Ashbery, Harold Rosenberg, Meyer Shapiro, Edwin Denby, the Director of Tibor de Nagy John Myers, whose boyfriend Herbert Machiz Directed Tennessee Williams' plays, PG made sets for premieres of a few plays by Tennessee Williams Directed by Machiz at The Mill Playhouse the summer of 1955. The whole artworld knew each other and fit in a room in the early days. Paul respected many of the artists he met and was pleased important artists respected him. de Kooning saw PG's woman paintings before his own career-making Woman show of 1953. By chance they met on the sidewalk & went into de Kooning's opening together, PG never tired his whole life of describing the excitement of everyone saying, Hi, Bill, Hi, Bill. They all knew de Kooning had risen up. 7 years later de Kooning brought Joseph Hirshhorn to PG's Self-Portrait Show & he bought most of the show!
Paul Georges born 1923, Portland, Oregon. Pictured at 645 Broadway in 1961 © Fred McDarrah Estate
1985 - 2002 Normandy, France
Splits his time between "La Champagne" a fortified farm & his NYC studio siince 1969, at 85 Walker Street.
Paul Georges born 1923, Portland, Oregon. Pictured at 645 Broadway in 1961
© Fred McDarrah Estate
Normandy Fortified farm "La Champagne"
1985 - 2002
Normandy Fortified farm "La Champagne"