Michael Pflug's Biographical Statement 2000
"Our house on Birch Avenue was within 1/4 mile from her first studio..." more
(click art for larger view)
Over the Kitchen Sink
from Wards Island
Toronto from Centre Island II
Box Cars, Marlborough Avenue
Cottingham School with Ying Hope Poster
1968, Oil on canvas
School in Winter II
1969-70, Oil on canvas
Cottingham School with the Yellow Flag
1970-71, Oil on canvas
On McDermott's Farm: The Forest
Cottingham School with Black Flag
1971, Oil on canvas
LETTERS & DOCUMENTS: Birch Ave. 1967-72
An Autobiographical Statement
Letters written on Birch Avenue
An Autobiographical Statement, Christiane Pflug Toronto, 1967
Drawing and painting were what I mostly did after my early years of childhood. I grew up in a world of adults. I had to be quiet, in a large house, and this restricted most other activities. With books, paper and crayon one could always create ones own world, which also defied intrusion by any unwanted people.
xxxAt that time, as a child of six or seven, I was deeply impressed by the paintings in churches and chapels, the carved and painted wooden Madonnas on the crossroads in the woods in Tyrol.
xxxThe many paintings in the peasant houses and small chapels and the changing of ritual colors during the church year gave life a beauty and depth which it would otherwise not have had.
xxxOn Sunday afternoons I was sometimes allowed to sit in the salon and look at the books. I remember once opening a book on medieval paintings and looking at a picture of the devil and some lost and tormented souls. Sometimes I copied pictures out of the Legend-Collections.
xxxWhen I grew older I felt a discouragement. Nobody had been much interested in my drawings, which have been lost. I continued to look at paintings, as one could see them in the first great exhibitions after the war. In Hamburg in the French exhibition at age seventeen, I saw for the first time an Ingres, The Women in the bath, from the Louvre. I did not know Ingres before, but compared to earlier paintings, this seemed a less complicated painting, the simple form of the back, between the light and shadows, the figures in the rear, women in the Harem bath. I also saw Cezanne, in reproductions and the garden landscapes from the Jas de Bouffan seemed simple to me. For the first time I asked myself "could I do something like that?"
xxxI lacked the courage to start. I felt that in order to continue and express myself at all, I would have to learn very much, drawing especially and it would take years to obtain any results.
xxxAlso I could not spend years learning how to paint, not even being sure of any talent. I decided to study drawing in Paris; I had to learn a profession. I could not think of anything that I would be interested in or talented for, but I decided to learn Fashion drawing. I was quite awkward. I did not have the light elegance of line, or the ability to change according to each new development in fashion.
xxxWe had to learn a black and white technique called lavis, with a certain watercolor effect, which I disliked. We were not told anything about the color, as we were expected to learn how to draw first. However I decided to try and bought some gouache colors.
xxxAfter trying for a while I came to like to work in color. Instead of heavy colors I started to use grays and roses and a brassy yellow made with ochre and cadmium. My husband saw my palette and suggested I should paint outside.
xxxI painted on Easter Sunday, 1954, sitting on the Quai du Louvre, the Pont Neuf, the Conciergerie with its heavy towers, and the Seine. An old gentleman looked for a long time at what I did, then said, "Vous avez un pinceau merveilleux, Madamoiselle."
xxxIt was a good moment. I felt I would never like anything better. I painted a few more landscapes, and after a few more weeks Michael took me to Viera da Silva and Arpad Szenes. They liked everything I did, very simple landscapes along the Seine. Michael told me very few things at the beginning; not to leave white spots all over the painting, how to make the colors dense by using white with every gouache color, and what colors to use to retain an earthy quality: Ochre, Natural Siena, Alizarine, Chromoxyde Green, Colbalt Blue, Ceruleum Blue, Ultramarine. We never used Black and very rarely Cadmium Yellow or Red - I have not changed much since. He also told me how to make a sky look less thin and watery, by adding a trace of Ochre or Sienna or sometimes Alizarine, or even Orange, to give it a metallic tinge.
xxxAfter three months, always painting before and after school, I had arrived at large tempera landscapes. We went for a few weeks to Normandy where I continued to paint churches. I painted my first oil painting there - A room on a Normand farm, with the view on the garden, not so different from my kitchen door motif.
xxxPerhaps what made it possible to work and progress was that at no time I had to try to do something "right" - I could not draw and I knew nothing about technique. Gradually I acquired an increasing consciousness of the means employed in painting. I always tried to do something complete in everything I did, never trying to prepare myself for something else.
xxxWe were quite poor. We lived in the center of Paris, not far from the Seine. Somehow I did not feel very remote from the world which sixty years earlier the great French painters had seen. Painting seemed simple to me. Everything I did seemed complete, of course it was primitive, but I did not see it as such, as at that time it presented everything I could express in painting on a certain spot and for that moment.
xxxOf course I saw abstract art in the galleries, there were many large exhibitions in Paris in those years. But I never felt I was doing something out of date. The problems of going out and painting seemed serious enough not to worry about any theory.
xxxOne has said that French painting is characterized by a certain peasant like quality, a heaviness (compare Poussin with Bellini, or Georges de la Tour with Caravaggio) that is perhaps the reason why I was so attracted to it. Cubism, even the later Picasso, all Dufy and Matisse of whom we saw large exhibitions, were a direct continuation of this.
Still in Paris I discovered that a simple landscape in the banlieue, a waterlock on the Canal St. Martin, or in La Villette, were more interesting subjects than a conventionally beautiful landscape.
xxxIn 1956 I followed my husband to Tunis. It was a very different scene. I lived in an old house in the Kasbah and after some hesitations I began to paint still lifes and interiors in the light, and with the objects found in this spot. It was a large empty house, from the flat roof one could overlook the entire Medina. It was again something quite removed from the life most people lived. Though both my children were born there we had no running water. I had to draw the water from a well with the help of a young Bedouin girl.
xxxFor a long time after, I thought that I had painted my most beautiful pictures there. Michael was not sure how long he would be able to work in Tunis and we decided to leave the country. In Paris, Arpad Szenes and Viera da Silva showed my paintings to Pierre Loeb, to Berggrün, we sent reproductions to Dina Vierny, all said it would take years to establish myself as a painter in Paris. We finally had to leave.
xxxI have always hated to change. For the first time I had painted without interruption for over a year. Life in a way was easy in Tunis, one could take a streetcar to Carthago, walk along the beaches to Sidi Bou Said, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We had come to know the people, we lived there as if we had always been there.
xxxAfter some difficulties in obtaining our immigration visa I flew to Canada, alone with the two small children. I lived in the suburbs, hardly ever coming down to the city. I was desperate and felt I would never paint again. Actually I did not paint or even draw for a year and a half after coming here. My husband came in 1960, after spending another year in Tunisia and in Paris. We had hardly any money, but we rented a beautiful apartment in an old house on Yonge Street, across from the Liquor Control Board at Summerhill. It overlooked the street, and the railway yards, and a factory, the tracks, and the Marlbourough Street to the other side. Michael worked as a Junior Intern. He had many examinations to pass and always came home late. I painted the apartment white. We bought some furniture from crippled civilians and a week after moving in I was painting again. It was two and a half years after having finished my last painting in Tunis.
xxxxxxI started to draw from the windows what I saw. Anton van Dalen lent us a large pigeon cage. I draw the railway yard through the bird cage, or over it, with the pigeons. Once I drew a doll lying in its bed in front of a window, with the railway tracks behind.
xxxxxxI tried to paint a still life with some of the objects I had brought from Tunis. It did not look right, but suddenly we saw that a power mast and the Rosedale trees seen through the window in the background of the painting were good, and something I had never painted before. From there I started to paint the series of landscapes of the railway yard.
xxxIn 1962 we moved again. We had no garden and the children were growing. We found an apartment on Woodlawn Avenue. It was surrounded by trees. There was no view from any of its windows. I felt quite lost again, and in one corner of the house I started to paint dolls sitting on a chair. In Winter I placed a doll behind the kitchen door and painted it with the door and the winter landscape behind it. For the next two or three years I varied this scene, the light, the season and even the size of the painting.
xxxIn 1965 I began to paint my daughter sitting on the door step, on a much larger painting, and I have just completed a similar one in Winter with my other daughter.
xxxI had to learn here, that I would never find the same landscape, the same quality of life which we had left behind in Europe and North Africa. What I saw around me at first seemed banal and often ugly. Only slowly I saw it differently, the very sharp light here, which has something of the light in Tunis, the landscape much larger and more chaotic. In pursuing it, one can bring a different tension into ones painting.
xxxI have changed only very slowly but now I feel that I would like to paint more in the city. I drew the city from the island and I start to include other people into my paintings.
xxxSometimes when I walk at night, I see people sitting on one of the small restaurants, and talk to each other. I would like to paint something like that. Or paint some of these teenage girls with their strange hairdos, the violent colors they wear. I can only paint in the way I live, one has to approach these things and learn about them before one can paint them.
xxxOn the island one sees the people on the beaches, and the skyline of the city behind. Nothing like that has ever been painted before. I would like to paint that, and have started it on a small painting.
There is so much, once I saw the city from an apartment window in Eglinton, over a snow landscape. One could move around and paint on different spots in the city. On my last painting I included a city landscape in Winter. I have never painted the city at night.
xxxAlso one could travel more in Canada, or go to New York, all these things, as they now are, have never been painted.
Letters Written on Birch Avenue
Christiane Pflug to Michael Pflug in Chicago, Toronto, December 9, 1967
It is Sunday morning, finally I am a little better. Perhaps we should know a doctor who can look after us, after all the children could become ill too. I have been painting on the landscapes upstairs, as always it takes a while before one has felt oneself into it, above all because it doesnt correspond at all to the landscape from Woodlawn with which I was in the meantime so familiar, suddenly, I dont know why, it reminds me of the Paris motifs, and I think of the bridges, the water, the sky, the snow in the air, the clear grey and black, even a flag we have here, one can really be satisfied. I am drawing Lorraine. Until now it is not too satisfying, she can look very different after all. She will start teaching in the next school year only, and so we are not so rushed. Yesterday I sent the Miezen to skate and they said, (Miezchen) "I sort of miss Father...." In the evening we did something very nice. We went to see Ivan the Terrible, by Eisenstein. The children really liked it, only they didnt find it sufficiently terrible (Ursula) and Miezchen took it more to heart and said she wouldnt want to see a film like that everyday. They were moved the most deeply by the scenes with the child, the little Ivan and that is really done very nicely: some of it is really exaggerated. The film was completed in 1946, but was shown only much later, I had thought it had been made much earlier. Today they are running a [illegible] we did want to see it, but it gets a little late for a school day. Friday was parents night, the teacher and the director said I could let Ursula work in the fifth grade now, then she would be in grade six next year. I then explained to them, that both, little gained time is probably quite useful for the University years, and also that I would prefer it if the children wouldnt be separated by two years within the school system. Of course the increased strain and the relation to older children in the higher grades is a factor, they both said in our case they would favor Ursula doing grade five work. As the school has combined four and five she will stay in the same class, and that is very important. Both teachers were very satisfied with the children. On the wall were hanging many pictures with cut-out figures, sheep, camels, snowmen out of cotton wool and others on which the children had worked together, and everything was so friendly, bright and colorful, unfortunately Ursulas teacher retires after Christmas and the new teacher, a Scottish lady, watches more for quiet, sitting straight and other things to which the children are not used, but as it is now no child will let himself be intimidated. Ursula said that she will give up these habits, and that she has improved already. Sometimes I really think that school, as we experienced it, was very damaging, and even if every teacher cannot be a gifted pedagogue, the system here guarantees that the extremes can be avoided.
xxxIt is cold outside, we want to go to the Museum, unfortunately the Miezen want to see the stuffed animals again, and Im not very keen on that, but in ten years perhaps one would be happy if one could go see the stuffed animals with them. There is nothing new otherwise. My head still hurts and doesnt want to let me think clearly, the other day the Miezen told Lynne of all our domestic animals, the little mouse, the squirrel, the bat, all that was so nice and now one misses it. Miezchen wants to gilt nuts for the tree. They are looking forward to Easter in Chicago. Ursula would like to know whether you have received her mouse pictures, and the crocodile.
Christiane Pflug to Michael Pflug in Chicago, Toronto, April 14 1968
Time is passing so quickly, this morning Miezchen went to the island. The weather is very beautiful but cool and outside of her windbreaker she took several warm things. She was really looking forward to it. Miss Smith goes with them and Ursulas class will be taught by Mr. Doherty. Ursula had a visit of Gillian, and they tried out their French play for marionettes, then Ursula came up and continued to paint on her little oil painting, and then we had supper and then I bathed them and washed quickly her pullover and then she went to bed and you called and I will go to bed as soon as possible, I am always so tired. In the garden are several white and lilac crocuses, with orange stamens. The grass is not showing itself yet, if it grows well and the six roses too we will have it quite nice in summer. On Sunday we worked in the garden and we went to the island, to the farm. We had carrots for the rabbits, which have grown a lot. There are too many people and the entertainment area is being enlarged unnecessarily. The hippies come out of their holes and lie in their old clothes on the banks, among the ducks, everyone is taking in the sun and that is quite nice. On the radio is a beautiful sad piece of Mozart. If only one was not always so fearful, it nearly eats one up. We then went to Wards Island, that was very quiet and empty, the beautiful clear water, the misty city, the orange lamps were already lit. If one only could manage to get along with each other, every day is something special and one must never forget it. And now to bed. Many regards Father, we have to get along and must not always reproach things to each other, I think of the children, the beautiful thoughtful Miezchen who looks so directly into ones eyes. In the garden there was a tiny ladybug with only two black dots, which walked across her fingertips, ducked, lifted itself up again and finally flew away.
Christiane Pflug to Michael Pflug in Chicago, Toronto, 1968
...And so everything passes, the sadness about what was lost, and what one never had is sometimes so violent and unreasonable. I mean against all reason and what one could possibly expect. Always one wants to lift the day beyond itself into something marvelously festive, dream-like and beautiful. Stella and Morris Louis succeeded. Compared to that, what one does oneself looks cramped and detailed, but I cant do anything else. The sun shines on the small houses, through the twigs of the trees one sees cars standing in front of each other. Covered with snow, the car roofs are set off from each other, here and there a red or blue one, which I am just painting. I love to paint again. Im not so impatient any more. Sometimes it seems to me as if the mass of different elements produces an effect which puts it into relation to the complexity and confusion of life. Then again, one would like to take a broom and create space for clear pure forms and colors. And so it goes on, with the restlessness that eats one and hollows one out, a kind of constant battle. One doesnt want to imagine that one could fail....
xxx... Today I painted as much as possible, in the afternoon Micki came, played Monopoly with the children. We had supper together. My Mother came to pick her up and then we all sat together at supper and listened to Penny Lane. It is beautiful and peaceful after so much bitterness, reproaches to each other and rage. One cant wish for anything better than that during the day everybody does his work and that in the evening one can sit a little together...
Christiane Pflug to Michael Pflug, Toronto , 1968
...The bus to Ottawa took five hours. The red evening sky above the black pines and the white snow was so beautiful, I still see it in front of me. It stayed for so long, for the entire first three hours, new hills, pointed pine trees, Lorraine and Don peaceful, all quiet, one sleeps a little and dreams and then looks out again until one is at home. Suddenly so many images of myself as a child, pine trees, the red skies at dusk, snow, quickly one wants to forget everything, to throw away the awful millstone. But one cant get rid of it and so mourningly one carries on. But do I have to feel forever so loaded down? No feeling of lightness, of happiness that is not overshadowed, a misunderstanding, a wrong step, and already its dark and doesnt clear up again. The red sky is so painful, the pine trees are so pointed, how can one endure? ...
xxx...Two paintings are called "The Light that Never Fails" . On one, one sees the sun through fog and the wind, water and smoke and the hair of a woman. Everything is heavy greys and sulphurous yellow. The blue car and the reddish folds of the cloth were so beautiful and the many grey paintings with pale blue around them or little yellow and violet with grey. The painting is so majestic and colorful and everything is so enormous, after a while it looks as if all the objects are stepping out of the painting and one could take them into ones hand one by one...
Michael Pflug to Christiane Pflug, Chicago, 1969
... I dreamt of sitting in an assembly with my mother. An actor disguised as death approached us. I turned to my mother to reassure her, when the lights went out. I felt him touch my throat and blow coldly into my face. ...
Christiane Pflug to Michael Pflug, Chassy, Burgundy, August, 1970
Today we want to go to Vezelay, and we are just trying to get ready, with difficulties. Yesterday I washed out our blue jeans which was difficult in the small basin, but finally they hung in the orchard between the grass and purple plums and dried quite nicely in the sun. The children are getting along quite well. Ariane is very sweet and beautiful, with fair skin and long dark hair, and dark eyes. Every evening they play hide and seek in the whole house, very noisy, and then they go to bed, Esther and Ursula take turns, sleeping in Arianes and my room. It is difficult to find time to write, I spend much time translating for the little girls, and getting our things washed, it is true that people here are not so hung up about having everything so constantly washed. The house is very simple and roomy, the old stable is not even used yet, and the modernization goes only very slowly. The girls approach every dog, especially shepherds, usually neither people or dogs are used to such affection, but yesterday we made a beautiful walk, and walked by an old farm and found a beautiful and very tame shepherdess which belonged to a very nice man. That was a very friendly meeting. After that the girls took turns on the family bike. The wood pigeons called from the walnut trees, and a little river reflected the beautiful hills. The sun is just warm, never so hot, but the villages are melancholy, the people look sad and neglected. The man who had the shepherdess was the first happy person we met. We are getting ready, this is not a very good letter but we better mail it now, at least the children are writing a lot. We go to Munich on the weekend.
Christiane Pflug to Karen Lavut and Heinz Kornagel , R. R. #1, St. Charles, June 29, 1971
...It is insanely hot and the bugs are tormenting dogs and people, we have a reasonably good time, the house is beautiful and quite spacious. The main room is the kitchen, with a wood stove and some self made furniture and kerosene lamps. Upstairs is a big room and two small ones, mattresses and duffel bags everywhere; we are trying our best to keep messes in assigned corners, though.
xxxOur dear friends (Freakbrothers) are in good shape and happier than in the city. Yesterday they went to a cattle auction and bought chickens. The auctioneer says: "One black hen, the lot for so much," so you assume there are more hens in the box. But no, they are seven roosters and seven hens... this was not planned.
xxxOur dear friends have a huge dog, part Newfoundland, part collie, big as a Newfoundland but amber colored, like a collie. His name is Newfie... Our dear dogs are great fighters and enemies, they fought fifteen minutes after our arrival... I tried to pull Nemo away by the collar and got my hand into Newfies mouth, who was going for Nemos neck, got it out in the nick of time...
xxxThe next day they had a horrible fight and had to be separated with water (which has to be gotten from a well; luckily a pail was at hand). Nemo had bad cuts in his forepaw and had to be taken too a vet thirty miles away, who stitched him up. Nemo does not like medical treatment and was horrified at the razor (electric) that takes the fur off the stitching area. He got a local anaesthetic, but it took Michaels and my full strength to hold him on the table. Now we must make sure that one dog is in, one out and this is changed around...
xxxEva came Monday morning. The girls are happy here and have said they do not want us to rent a cottage. (Thank god!!! One of Michaels ideas.) The housekeeping is a bit of a catastrophe, but people really dont seem to mind, except for poor Michael, who is suffering a bit, especially when the dogs drink out of the pails with the drinking water...
The day is a bit long, and the hours, when the glare and heat are a little less, are so spaced apart. I would like to make a few little drawings, but again, the hours when the light is good conflict with social obligations like cooking the dinner. But this cannot be avoided; the boys, who after all are working, cannot be expected to do it, and people cannot always eat sandwiches and snacks, especially as the food up here is not very good and it takes some time and imagination to shop and cook.
xxxI would like to sleep outside, or in one of the barns, but the mosquitoes are absolutely rabid... So we are all cramming into the house and trying to sleep until the dogs wake us up and then the kiddies and then the day starts all over again...
xxxThe car... is right now ailing, and repaired by Jerry, who is such a good kid, but somehow overshadowed by circumstances...
xxxNemo still has to be walked because he does not take off alone, which is good, because he might chase cattle.
So I take him into the fields and little woods behind the house. The fields are full of daisies and beautiful field flowers. There are great rocks covered with moss (the rocks are flat and very nice to walk on). The moss is soft but firm, it would be the ideal place to sleep, if it were not for the skeets...
xxxIn the evening, which is the most beautiful time of the day, there are the nicest little glow worms. The nights are much darker than in the city, and the glow worms really stick out. If they fly above the horizon, you could almost think they were shooting stars...
xxxIf only I could do some drawing, lets hope...
xxxNow the car is ready and we are leaving, so long... thanks for looking after the house, see you, love Christiane.
Christiane Pflug to Karen Lavut, August 4th, 1971
It was so nice to talk to you yesterday, everything already seems a bit better. Partly also, because I know that Michael is well. I was already thinking that he was mad at me and was not picking up the telephone for that reason. (We have had all this!)...
xxxLife is quite beautiful and peaceful, all the little plants in the woods and the moss-covered rocks are as beautiful as on the first day...
xxxUnfortunately I really do have problems with the girls, besides their obvious hostility towards me. I had also decided to let them develop their relationships and social life here without me always so obviously sitting on them, being in evidence. In practice this looks like this: they sit upstairs with Jerry and Bushy... in a nice, cozy little room and talk and talk and talk; and this is very fine except for the fact that sometimes I would like to join, but know that I am not really welcome and also that my presence already makes them somehow unfree and oppresses them. But who can always be so unselfish and tactful and considerate? Except for the deplorable fact that I am their mother, we would probably get alone fine. If it is true that every boy has somehow to kill his father, the same is true of the mothers, who survive in peoples imagination and dream world as horrible, oppressive hags, and I feel daily how I am made to join this company; but I do not want this. Also, life is not really ended for me neither, I refuse to become something fixed, that is denied further development. It is all so extremely bitter and hard to take; the past year or so has made me age more than ten years. I never thought that we would not live with some measure of harmony and goodwill when they became adolescents or adults... The best would be to separate; I do not really think I want to live with them any longer, but this is impossible for practical reasons. I told them that if they think they are stuck with me (parents), we also are stuck with them. If they would like more freedom and self-determination, so would we, or certainly me. If they feel that home has become intolerable, some sort of straight jacket one thinks about only in terms of escape, the same is true for me. ( Incidentally, they assure me their feelings are not like this, but then, why do they act so strangely?) Sometimes I think anything would be better than this, and I may still end up at the Scott Mission saying, "My kids dont want me." But we have to stick it out, no alternatives either of us can see. Meanwhile I am there only in negative capacities, not saying anything, not demanding, not interfering, not existing and certainly totally unwanted and superfluous...
xxxUnfortunately I also cannot really do any drawing, because I am quite upset by all this and certainly scared of the future...
xxxA day like this is nice, Esther still sleeping, Ursula out for a walk. I discovered a nice little birch forest and will go there now, trying to make a little drawing. I made one, which looks quite uninteresting and mediocre, though the others are quite impressed. Ursula is strangely enough still interested in my drawings, comes around, says, what have you done today, makes very intelligent comments. It is interesting that on this drawing the part considered best is some vegetation in the foreground which is less lifelike or recognizable than little houses in the background, but everybody seems to think of the vegetation as the best part...
xxxEva was here for a couple of days, and was very nice and easy to be with and offering some emotional support. But in the meantime I am so paranoid and suspicious that I think, Now AHA, they pity me, I dont want that! So what do I want? Relationships with people on an equal basis, that people are as interested in me as I am in them. No pity or other demeaning factors involved. Well, others have wanted that, too, seems hard to come by. And there is always that element of culture shock, too. It is true that the girls do absolutely nothing of the things I did at their age (they sure miss nothing). I admit that sometimes I am quite envious. Bushy was starting to read Siddhartha by Hesse during lunch hour, could not make any progress and reads now a book about fishhawks. And that siddhartha shit, as they would say, once really impressed people. It is an intolerably pretentious and teacher some little book, I think. It is sad that I am not younger and fitting better in with what young people do today. It really attracts me, and the boys do live well together and are very nice and patient with the girls, it really impresses me. Nobody ever quarrels, there are occasional tensions, but they are usually resolved...
xxxDuring the week they do not have much time, but on the weekends they live beautifully; go swimming, make a big fire on the rocks and sleep there... they bought a cow, which has enough grazing and hay from this farm, and provides us with very nice milk, twice daily... Fran has pigeons, which fly about and sit on the house. In the evening he sometimes goes through pigeon journals and makes little drawings of them.
xxxNo scenes ever, except for me and the girls (one only, when nobody was around). Sometimes I do think I could come closer to a quieter life, but then again something happens that shows that there is still quite a distance to go.
I say goodbye now, regards to Jan and see you soon, Christiane.
Christiane Pflug to Karen Lavut, August 30, 1971
Everything is a little better now. The girls have settled down a bit, Michael also thinks so; they are in very good shape. I have started a big drawing which I hope I will be able to finish by Wednesday. That is the reason why I cant come in with Michael tomorrow. I take the train on Wednesday morning and arrive at 5:20 in the afternoon...
xxxFor the drawing, I leave [the house] after breakfast, walk half an hour to that birch wood and sit there all day. When the weather is warm enough, it is so quiet and beautiful. I sit there all day, sleep a little on the mossy ground, and before I know it, it is evening and time to go back. Then I make a fire and cook dinner, usually mashed potatoes and salad, which everybody likes. I can hardly believe how fast the time goes in the birch wood. The sun just moves behind the trees and I hear the little partridges saying chuck, chuck, chuck. The other day I saw a little mole moving under the cover of dead leaves, without lifting them up.. I saw its grey fur for a moment...
xxxThe boys sister is here, Helen, and the girls get along extremely well. In the morning they sometimes milk the cow, in the afternoon they sit in a big pine tree and play on Helens flute. A beautiful sound, floating over the meadows and little woods...
xxxThe boys mother was here for a day, a somewhat sad experience. It was never clear if she would let Helen stay, but finally she did. So everybody is happy about that...
xxxMichaels mother and nephew are due...
xxxNow I will go to bed. Michael is leaving tomorrow morning, and see you on Wednesday?
xxxThanks for your letter, which was as good as a talk, though this is something I really look forward to. In the latest Time is an article on Ivy Compton Burnett and a quote: [from The Last and the First.]
xxx"It is a most welcome idea," said Madeline. "We have been looking forward to the day."
xxx"We would have done so," said Osbert, "if we were able to look forward. The faculty has faded through lack of use."
xxxI thought this was lovely.
xxxGood night now, and see you soon, Christiane.
Christiane Pflug to Regine Faust, Toronto, August 24 1971
Many thanks for your letter, which I read the day after my arrival, during work in the garden. Im glad, that the weather and everything else is nice, one really can use it, send my best regards to Paul and Emy.
xxxThings are going well with Luise and Tobias . Luise is much milder and less critical and probably also happy that somebody has a little more time for her. Tobias is delightful, happy and a friendly child, very thoughtful, solace for my wounded soul,
xxxthe Mietzen are still rather awful. Helen McDermott is here too and the three of them are kind of an opposition party, Im only housekeeper and buyer and chief cleaner and bed maker, and now that Helen is here, I would prefer to be on my best behavior, because she has a funny old woman of her own.. Mothers at the moment are not highly rated. I also would love to be an ex-mother and would love to move into the often mentioned little house. With a dog, painting materials and a record player, but for practical reasons that is not possible either. Does that sound too negative? But at the moment the best is that one doesnt expect anything, does everything, and then goes to paint instead of whining or expecting emotional support. If the household wasnt still always a time consuming and a boring affair, one could feel more independent. Oh well. Oh well, the best is to keep out of everything, which has good effects. When the girls are here, I dont bother them, when Michael and mother talk with each other I withdraw. If the conversation heats up, I havent heard anything. It is good that I have the dog now, we love each other as before, an ideal living arrangement, who would have thought that!! The girls bother less with Tobias than I had hoped, and Im very sorry about that, even though one can understand it to a degree. Even though Ursula and he are of the same age, the girls are interested in very different things and Helen is already 15 or 16. But now he went in a good mood and without hesitation alone and with the dog to the island. He is really delightful. For the first time I regret that I only have girls, it seems to me that it would be a bit easier to get along with sons or young men. With the girls it is really a plague at this time, Na Ja ...........
xxxMichael and Jim have bought something, a little more expensive than they had intended, $7, 500 . They often come here, Jim is in a better state since a long time and besides the fact that the bank loan has to be paid off now, one has a good feeling about it. Next weekend Michael would like to go there, but I will stay here with mother. I also have a lot to do for the exhibition, they will start to pick things up on the 3rd of September.
Christiane Pflug to Lorraine Batra, Toronto, March 24, 1972.
I am just reading your letter again, it is quite cold and sunny outside: a frustrating search for a pen has not yielded any and now Ursulas friend Karin lets me use hers.
xxxLife is quite hectic and exciting with all the young ladies; right now is the week of winter break, but it is remarkably quiet, Esther and Jerry went to see some friends on a farm near Port Hope with horses, etc. so they should be happy.
Ursula is here with her friend Karin who sometimes plays the guitar and sings. All these girls are incredibly lovely and beautiful to look at, such a beautiful stage in life where everything is still possible.
xxxMichael is terribly busy in the hospital but it is hard, if not impossible to cut down on work, so we try to go for walks at night and on Sundays. Painting isnt going too well right now. I cant seem to concentrate properly on the other hand I should hurry up because of the "vanishing snow". The problems of living well with friends and family seem to catch up with us, despite the fact, that we think we made efforts and try to apply ourselves in a way that makes sense, well, no deal. The only constant thing is a nice walk to the park and playing with the precious animal, who loves the snow and has a wonderful sense of play, of diversion and then resting on my bed, very enviable.
xxxThis is not meant to be a gloomy letter: and it is not becoming one I hope, Im just a little tired and disoriented. I just realized that your visit would partly coincide with Easter weekend. We would like to spend sometime on the farm, so you must let us know when you are coming and that we can coordinate things properly. I hope "Bunda Baby" is well and making progress, Lynn showed us a very lovely picture of him and you, how small they are and what a beautiful and hopeful moment. Evas mother has another baby, Allison, such a beautiful small child already. They are very happy and take ever so good care of her, everybody sits in front of the fireplace and takes turns holding Allison. She thrives. I dont know if you know that Micki is living with us. After the necessary adjustment we are getting along very well, and have done many nice things together, like going to the Colonial to hear John Lee Hooker or going to the River boat to hear Sonny Terry and Browni McGhee etc.
xxxNot so long ago everybody went to the Island to a dance. The girls know the members of the band, everybody had a good time, danced, and raved to me as they danced by. Later on I went to the ferry over the ice, the stars were bright and the little houses very small and the city far away across the icy lake. The city ....... If only things could develop a little slower, a certain character of intimacy preserved, but despite peoples efforts high rise is going to do away with us all; the aldermen in city council who really represent the people are still in the minority, despite the efforts at the last election.
xxxMeanwhile our taxes go up again. It could be that a growing sense of how little influence one has on anything contributes to a certain loss of faith which affects my painting. In other words: old age already, a little fast, press on regardless as Ralph Greenhill says.
xxxNow off to the park and to do some painting, despite everything, let us know when you come.
xxxSpecial love to Galie, regards to Vinod.
xxxRegards to Lynne if she is there.
P.S. Thank you for the beautiful article see you soon.
Christiane Pflug to Luise Pflug, March 27, 1972
Many thanks for your two letters and in the meantime we also have talked on the phone. I hope that this letter reaches you before leaving for the Bavarian forest.
xxxPlease excuse the delay, but life with "les jeunes filles" et "les jeuns gens" is not always so easy and together with a difficult painting it can get very complicated and interferes with the concentration necessary for letter writing. We just had a week vacation and Esther and Jerry spent a few days on the farm of friends who had a property close to Port Hope, an old farmhouse, horses etc.
xxxThat gave us a few quiet days. Ursula was at home but she is so quiet, that sometimes it is uncanny. Michael had just been a little embittered about too much noise, the disorder etc. and a few days rest were good for him. We are still in the house, after a few initial hurdles it works quite well now, we just had a nice dinner with Peter and Micki who comes once a week in the evening when my mother goes to the theosophical talk. And so everybody has to get used to each other and has to pay attention to the individual sensitivities, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.
xxxThis afternoon Bernice Smythe visited. She brought along some of her monoprints to a small frame shop in this street. She was very nice and cordial and I showed the new painting with a black flag and the framed drawings and she talked about the children and about a small exhibition which she will have soon and about the sad sale of their shares in Maple Leaf Gardens: after the brother Smythe died during his detention (for withholding taxes and use of company money). The remaining owners forced the family to sell their shares, for the old father who had built up everything probably a bitter moment.
xxxTomorrow morning Michael flies for three days to New York to Anton, he really needs a vacation and the stay in New York will hopefully be good for him. After that with Easter, we had intended to go to our wood lot, but the McDermott family plans to come there and then it is probably too much for us and for them, especially because the girls are then especially difficult, now, we will see. It is difficult when one has to sit together and one does not have a place to get out.
xxxI regret that Reinhard and Ulla are now thinking of divorce, but when it does not work at all anymore it is perhaps better? How to solve everything in practical terms will probably still be quite difficult.
xxxIt is so nice to hear Tobias on the phone. He has such a nice voice and nothing depressed about him. He is most welcome to come here in summer and we would be happy if he did.
xxxWe saw a beautiful film "the last picture
show" by a man named Peter Bogdanowich. It plays in Southern
Texas and is in black and white, we went with the girls, Ursula
was allowed in thank God, and Eva and Gerry, that was a beautiful
harmonious evening. Now to bed. Many regrets to Brigitte and Tobias
and a nice day for you.