6.02.2011

The Juice of a Few Flowers


Near the beginning of the last century, 16-year-old Gerald Murphy met beautiful 20-year-old Sara Wiborg at a party in East Hampton. Eleven years later in 1915, they were married. In June of 1921, Gerald and Sara and their three young children, Honoria, Baoth, and Patrick, set off for Europe. They wished to escape the 
snobbish, elite world into which they were born (which, one must keep in mind, supported them) and the strictures of their parents. Gerald had always been aware, and often troubled, that he was not exactly the typical hearty American male. It turns out they were both looking for the inspiration of a fresh and fertile creative landscape.


They found that inspiration in Paris. The Murphys quickly found themselves embraced by the city and its most talented international residents. They were called the Golden Couple: worldly, artistic, bohemian, glamorous.

Gerald and Sara thrived among this wide and eclectic circle, finding their roles 
as friends, sponsors, confidantes, muses, and co-creators as modernism in all its forms bloomed around them. They never asked for favors in return, but they actively supported the careers of such “unknowns” at the time as Ernest Hemingway, Fernand Léger, Cole Porter, John Dos Passos, Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Archibald MacLeish, John O'Hara,  Jean Cocteau and Robert Benchley.

Gerald developed into quite the dandy...his resort wear even inspired Coco Chanel. He “arranged himself like a work of art,” says curator Deborah Rothschild, in clothes that were varied but “always informed by the highest aesthetic sensibility.”  Murphy's looks were distinctive but he definitely wasn't handsome. There are few images of him smiling...he always deprecatingly described his own face as an Irish moon face. Hats played a key role in Murphy’s wardrobe, which his daughter later explained was because of his thinning hair and the chubby appearance of his cheeks.

Picasso adored Sara, as did everyone else, and admired Gerald’s idiosyncratic flair. Sara's penchant for wearing pearls draped down her back while sunbathing inspired drawings and paintings of the period as well as Fitzgerald's prose. Sara with her famous pearls:


During a walk soon after they got to Paris, Gerald caught a glimpse of paintings by Picasso, Braque, André Derain, 
and Juan Gris in a gallery window. “If this is painting,” he announced to Sara, “then this is what I want to do.” Gerald (and Sara as well) began to study modern art under a Russian artist. Between 1924 and 1929, Léger, a major influence, encouraged Murphy's shared enthusiasm for mass-produced objects, advertising, and design. His first works, displayed at the 1923 Salon des Indépendents in Paris, “Turbines” and “Engine Room,” portrayed the dynamism and precision of machinery.  The next year, his 18-by-12-foot canvas “Boatdeck” literally overshadowed everything else in Salon. In its depiction of an ocean liner’s towering smokestacks, rigging, and ventilation funnels, the piece reveled in pure geometric forms and flat, poster-like expanses of color. It was a sensation. (Like many of his smaller works, these larger works have been lost.) So 40 years before Andy Warhol, pop art was born.  Murphy painted 14 pieces, but only 7 survived. Although this is a small body of work, he has been recognized as a significant artist. I thought you might enjoy a slideshow of his work:

Photobucket


Now I certainly don't want to leave out Sara. She was considered one of the great American beauties of her generation.



She became muse to Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a number of others. The Murphy's generous hospitality, spontaneity and extraordinarily adventurous spirit made them the trend-setters of the time. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quipped about the Murphys saying: “The rich are different from us.” But the Murphys weren’t really filthy rich, just well off and knew how to live with great flair and style.



In 1923, Gerald and Sara bought a seaside chalet at Cap d'Antibes in southern France, named it Villa America and continued to host this elite circle of friends who defined art and literature in the 1920's. The trendsetting Murphys transformed the French Riviera in summer into a chic, if not mandatory, destination. Equal parts artistic salon and lavish family picnic, Villa America embraced everyone for whom Gerald and Sara cared.  They spent their time sunning on the beach and enjoying impeccable dinners under the grand silver linden tree in the garden of the villa.




But before every delightful dinner at Villa America, there were cocktails. 

Cocktail hour became quite a performance with Gerald at the bar and he was very mysterious and secretive about his concoctions. When someone would ask what was in this or that drink he would always answer: "Just the juice of a few flowers."  Murphy eventually turned this favorite description of  "Juice of a few flowers" into  a cocktail. It was made of freshly squeezed juices -- one ounce orange, one ounce grapefruit, a half ounce lime, a half ounce lemon -- together with an ounce of gin. Gerald Murphy's instructions:
"The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a sprig of mint in each glass."

A little side note: Have you ever seen the 1940 movie "The Philadelphia Story"? (There was a musical remake in 1957 called "High Society" starring Grace Kelly, which was her last film before her marriage.) The original starred Katherine Hepburn. In one scene, a woozy Tracy Lord, played by Katharine Hepburn, has a hangover and her ex-husband, played by Cary Grant, makes a Stinger for her as a hangover remedy. Hepburn asks what's in it, and Grant replies: "The juice of a few flowers."



It happens that Philip Barry, the author of "The Philadelphia Story," was one of Gerald Murphy's closest friends and had taken particular note of Gerald's way with a cocktail shaker, which Barry described as being "like a priest preparing Mass"  and so wrote that famous line into the script. Murphy would later give his painting "Cocktail" to Ellen Barry, Philip Barry's widow.  (It now belongs to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.) Murphy arranges the tools of pleasure (a silver shaker, corkscrew, cocktail glass, 
and five cigars) with a presentational precision that reflects the seriousness with which he approached the ritual of mixing drinks. (See the above slideshow.)

Many years later, in 2008, I watched Ina Garten make a drink  she called
Juice of a Few Flowers and I smiled and knew I had to try it. You're going to love it. It’s a drink with a tart citrus punch and a nice kick of vodka. An ice-cold glass, a sugared rim, a sprig of mint. Pretty darn close to Gerald Murphy's description.

Juice of a Few Flowers

2008, Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics




Ingredients:

1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)
1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1 cup (250 mL) vodka
extra lemon juice
granulated sugar
fresh mint sprigs

Method:

Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice and vodka in a pitcher.
Dip the rims of 4 martini glasses first in a dish of lemon juice and then in a dish with sugar. Set aside to dry.
Pour the cocktail mix into the glasses, garnish with mint and serve.

And just in case you'd like to read the end of the Murphy story:


The Murphy's  were the inspiration for Nicole and Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece “Tender Is the Night” , which caused a rift between Fitzgerald and the Murphys, although they remained supportive of Fitzgerald for many years, through all his drunken episodes.

Another old friend, Ernest Hemingway, in his posthumous memoir, ''A Moveable Feast,'' called them rich ''bastards.''  (Hemingway’s hunger to bolster his own machismo led him to grow more suspicious of 
Murphy’s sexuality over the years of their relationship.) 
There were some deleted passages never published in which Hemingway unforgivably, considering their generosity to him, commented, ''They were bad luck to people but they were worse luck to themselves and they lived to have all that bad luck finally.'' 
Gerald Murphy reacted by saying: ''What a strange kind of bitterness -- or rather accusitoriness . . . . What shocking ethics! How well written, of course.''

The bad luck Hemingway referred to was the unexpected deaths of their two sons. (As if to bargain his first ill son back into health, Gerald abandoned painting in October 
1929.) Which makes the first photo above very poignant. The second piece of bad luck was the near bankruptcy during the Depression of his family's business (Mark Cross) which forced Gerald's grudging return to America to save, and spend the rest of his life preserving, the family business.

So as an elderly man, Gerald lived the life he had fled as a young man, going to an office and lunching every day at Schrafft's.  Sara threw herself into volunteer work with children. The hospitality of their home  in Snedens Landing, just up the Hudson from New York City, seems to have been a sweet but pale afterimage of their former salon.  Five of Murphy’s works were among the “American Genius in Review” exhibit mounted 
at the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art in 1960. From then on he found himself the object of serious critical interest. He supposedly announced at a family luncheon, “I’ve been discovered. What does one wear?”

Gerald died October 17, 1964 in East Hampton, courtly to the last; his final words to his wife and daughter were “Smelling salts for the ladies.”

Sara died on October 10, 1975 in Arlington, Virginia.


  

Additional reading about the Murphys...I loved both these books:
Living Well is the Best Revenge and Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story. And if you haven't already, you certainly should read A Moveable Feast.
Photo and informational credits: 
 http://identicaleye.blogspot.com/2010/03/summer-by-sara-gerald-murphy.html
 http://theerrantaesthete.com/2009/02/16/the-golden-couple/
 http://mondo-blogo.blogspot.com/2011/05/gerald-and-sara-murphy-superfreaks.html

 Some photos by Man Ray
http://www.ucpress.edu/content/chapters/10873.intro.pdfhttp://www.nytimes.com/books/98/05/24/reviews/980524.24allent.html

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2007/08/06/070806craw_artworld_schjeldahl
http://nymag.com/arts/all/features/17561/
http://www.dandyism.net/?p=1080

http://www.ucpress.edu/content/chapters/10873.intro.pdf

48 comments:

  1. That was fascinating and I loved looking at the old pictures! That drink looks very tempting!

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  2. Barbara is an amazing post and love the old pictures and the drink look delicious! xgloria

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  3. What a great post, I enjoyed the story and would definitely like to read more so thank you for the links to the books. I know I would love that cocktail.

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  4. What a wonderfully enjoyable post Barbara. Loved discovering about the artworks (we're planning a trip to NYC later in the year and I was undecided whether to visit the Whitney due to time constraints). Thanks for the links too. Makes me want to settle down with a good book and the juice of a few flowers :) Enjoy the weekend.

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  5. A wonderful post! So interesting. an artist I didn't know...

    That drink Looks fabulous and so refreshing!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  6. Oh Barbara... lovely post.. magnificent pictures. I went through a Fitzgerald phase and loved making those drinks and having mad parties... too much fun. Didn't know the Barry association... lovely homage to the murphys... captured in a glass. Can't wait to make it!

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  7. What a fascinating post, Barbara. I love to hear stories from that era. I'm not much of a cocktail person but this one looks delicious.

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  8. absolutely fascinating - LOVE discovering new (to me) artists - especially contemporary art; i'm very, very new to the whole 'art' scene but am enjoying the process. i may have to make this cocktail this weekend!!

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  9. How funny that you mention F. Scott Fitzgerald -- as I was reading this post, The Great Gatsby (one of my favorites) kept coming to mind! Love that era, and Gerald and Sara sound like an amazing couple. I wasn't familiar with his art before this, but it was love at first sight, so thanks for sharing it with us, Barbara! And I love the name of that pretty cocktail.

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  10. Fitzgerald is perhaps my favorite American author. I knew the Murphys inspired Tender is the Night, and I knew a bit of them, as a first cousin of my great aunts (??) was a friend of Sara's. To support Hemingway's accusations, my ... cousin of sorts... died in her home and wasn't found until 27 days later. I adored her and miss her still.

    I'm adding those books to my reading list, along with my FSF favorites.

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  11. The reason I first starting reading your blog was the name. Hemingway is one of my favorite authors and Moveable Feast one of my favorite books!

    I stayed around for the writing and the food however.

    I just love your recipes and having lived in So. Fla. for many years (and the fact that my name is Barbara) kind of cinched the deal!

    Thanks for the background info, I loved it!

    xxoo,

    RMW

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  12. Thanks for all the story and memories..Why? In order to graduate as an English teacher, I had to write a paper about Tender is the Night...That novel struck me in a special way...I do agree with Fitzgerald in the sense that this world is made up of the "users and the used", and I had a very sad experience recently with a person I loved enormously and I thought she was my friend...my dearest friend!! but no, I was only "the used" ...the person that was good to have close by, when she was in need....and then, forgotten! Since I can be very fragile in spirit, this experience has been devastating for me, because for a friend, I give my life...but (late in life) I learn that everybody is not the same...
    Sorry!! It seems like a psy's session ;D
    I need your cocktail !!!!

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  13. wow, you had me hanging on every word, this was so interesting to read. what fascinating people!

    love the cocktail, and the history that comes with it!

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  14. Fabulous post!

    I foresee one of these in the very near future...

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  15. Oh, Barbara, This was a fabulous post. I just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain about Hadley Hemingway and Ernest when they lived in Paris. Gerald and Sara Murphy were mentioned near the end of the book, as was their Villa America. This whole era fascintates me. Thank you for the history lesson and the beautiful old pictures. The drink sounds very special. By the way, I made your cherry clafoutis yesterday and it was a great success. I will be blogging about it soon. Thank you for so much; Great food and great reporting.

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  16. What a splendid story, Barbara! My heart feels lighter just reading about these delightful, quirky, free spirits. :-)

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  17. A fabulous story Barbara and goes to show that truth is every bit as interesting as fiction! :) I think I'd love this cocktail ;)

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  18. What an interesting story and one that I did not know before. I loved your details and photos too and the cocktail sounds delicious!

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  19. DEAR, DEAR BARBARA! This is a MOVEABLE FEAST of lovely lives making a mark into our culture with such panash!!! I thank you for this delicious trip into the past..OH THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN...or rather IS the perfect PARIS LINK PARTY POST!!!! Paris is always involved in the lives of people who are movers and shakers in the ART and CULTURE WORLD! THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT me in Provence...such delicacies to enjoy there!

    Have a super weekend, Anita

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  20. This was so interesting!! I read the book "Flapper" which talked a lot about all of these people. It was fascinating.

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  21. wow fun post and so well written really enjoyed it

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  22. What a great story, and so well told. I love the history behind the name and the lifestyle of the era when it was invented. I will be thinking of this when I make my own cocktail from the juice of a few flowers!

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  23. Incredible post, Barbara! I had heard faint stories about the Murphy's growing up on Long Island and visiting the Hamptons. Never did I put the entire story together. Cheers!

    Thank you so much for sharing...

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  24. Telling you Barbara how much I enjoyed this piece is hardly enough. What a fabulous read and a magnificent slice of a history that was extraordinaire. What's really interesting is my timing for watching yesterday afternoon, 'High Society'. I could watch it over and over again. I must try a Juice of a Few Flowers, I must!! Have a great weekend and cheers!

    x Deb

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  25. Boisson rafraîchissante et un très beau billet nous faisant rêver d'un monde qui n'existe malheureusement plus.
    Heureusement qu'il y a encore des photos.
    See soon.

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  26. Those were the days. It would have been such fun to be one of their friends. Great story Barbara.
    Sam

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  27. what collective and beautiful photo shots.
    hope you well.

    Thanks for the visit.

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  28. Love your post today...the vintage images are adorable. hugs. xoxox

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  29. Barbara, thank you so much for this. When, I started reading, I had not idea how much I would enjoy this. Wonderful! Marvelous! Amazing!

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  30. there are no so many blogs on cocktails so thanks for this post !!pierre

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  31. I really enjoyed this post. I loved reading about this couple and their lives. What incredible friends they had, and what amazing people they were themselves! Thanks for sharing their story.

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  32. That picture of them dancing on the beach is beautiful! So much movement! This was such a lovely post - I'd never heard of them but they seem to have been so significant in their time! And that cocktail sounds just my affair. Thank you!

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  33. I was sure that as I read on, at one point or another, I would find that you were somehow related to one of these two people. But, no. Finally, I saw from where the idea grew and enjoyed the read, immensely.
    :)
    Valerie

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  34. Such an interesting read, Barbara. I never heard of them, though I read tender is the night and seen philadelphia story. I noticed that behind Sara wearing her famous pearls on the beach, there's a lady knitting.:)

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  35. Hi Barbara,

    What an interesting post and loved finding out more about this fascinating couple and seeing the old photographs.
    The paintings are amazing and to think that pop art had started so long ago.
    I like the sound of the Juice of a few flowers, will be such a wonderful summertime drink. Thanks for sharing and hope that you have a lovely week.

    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  36. Loved this piece! So interesting and such a great snapshot of that unique period in history. It made me want to read all these authors again. Plus, COCKTAILS! Perfect.

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  37. Great read, Barbara! You sure know how to put a recipe in context!

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  38. I love these old photos. Thanks for this recipe and the story behind it!

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  39. Barbara, love the post and the pictures...the story behind the drink sure makes this drink very special...
    Have a wonderful week ahead :-)

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  40. The Murphy's story is absolutely captivating! I'm always fascinated by this time period, and would love to check those books out that you recommended. The cocktail is just lovely!

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  41. your photos are absolutely priceless keepsakes--i'm so glad they've been kept long enough to make it onto a scanner and into a permanent, mold-free album! :)

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  42. this was a delight to read, Barbara--informative and entertaining. I did not know about the Murphys, or the"juice of a few flowers." the cocktail looks so refreshing, and the photographs you selected were great to see. Sara was, indeed, a beauty.

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  43. Wow wow WOW. I cannot imagine living and playing amongst that crowd. What a story. I'd love to read more. Thank you for posting this!

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  44. What a lovely post! I am a bit obsessed with Gerald and Sara so was VERY happy to stumble upon this pieces. I have the ingredients and was already planning to make Gerald's famous cocktail, this evening. Amanda Vaill's book, "We Were All So Young" was definitely my favorite, but I've read Calvin Tompkins' "Living Well..." and "A Moveable Feast" and I just finished "Letters from the Lost Generation" which was a total joy to read the actual letters exchanged between the Murphy's and their friends. I also found the apartment they first lived in on a recent trip to NYC. It was literally at the back door of her parent's 5th Avenue mansion. It is not surprising she needed to leave the country to get away from her controlling mother! I will be doing a post myself before too long. You will have to let me know what you think.

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  45. Fascinating....just fascinating! What an instriguing couple, and a great love story.It's amazing how they found talent . To have so many extraordinarily talented people in one group is an extra ordinary event in itself. So tragc about their sons though....must have broken their hearts.

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  46. What a great story. It's sad that I have never heard of him as an artist. I think the works are brilliant! I love the self portrait. What a shame that he gave up his art. I have read "Moveable Feast", but it's been quite awhile. Maybe it's time to read it again.
    Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits

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  47. Ah, what a nice visit to the good life. Merci! Are you familiar with another muse of the time, Kiki? There's a wonderful book about her titled Kiki's Paris, which reads like a who's who of the time. http://www.amazon.com/Kikis-Paris-Artists-Lovers-1900-1930/dp/0810925915

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  48. Put Kiki on my Amazon wish list...kind of pricey, but looks fascinating! Thanks for commenting, Tom.

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