“I am not sure where my love of France and all things French stems from. Possibly from having French forebears on both sides. But I do know that when, aged seventeen, I heard David Frost’s choice of Edith Piaf’s Non, Je ne Regrette Rien on Desert Island Discs, I was electrified, and embarked on a love affair with that country — and particularly its popular music, known as the chanson — which continues to this day.
What I did not know then was that 20 years later I would end up marrying the man who produced that compilation for EMI, the record collector and French specialist Ralph Harvey, and that together we would embark on an extraordinary collaboration involving several high profile television programmes and a series of record and CD compilations for which Ralph produced the sleeve-notes and I was privileged to prepare the artwork. This, of course, in addition to exhibiting with other organisations as well as the SGFA.
Part of the professionalism I gleaned from Ralph was the notion of specialisation. That was totally foreign to me as an artist and a person, and very difficult for me to master. But I could see the value of it, and began to focus on painting Paris. Thus began a series of visual hymns to the city I love. This painting is one of those hymns, and has a particular story.
Last year Ralph had a stroke which effectively ended our collaboration. Could I carry on? I decided to take a solo trip to Paris (weeping as I boarded the Eurostar) and ended up in the Boulevard Montparnasse, home to the legendary Art Deco literary cafe, La Coupole.
Almost opposite it is another café, ‘La Ruche’ (French for ‘beehive’). I settled down and looked furtively around me, clutching my i-Phone. Two things struck me immediately: the two gentlemen chatting in the corner, and the splendid girl in the foreground, checking her smartphone and surrounded by the debris of her afternoon snack.
I approached the gentlemen to ask if I could photograph them and was crisply refused: whereupon I did so surreptitiously! The girl did not present any problems. I must point out that my paintings are usually combinations of photos and drawing, as I organise the raw material to its best effect.
As a watercolourist, I have foresworn insipidity, and aim for vibrancy. This scene, so redolent of the contemporary city, fits the bill nicely.”
Editor’s note: Café ‘La Ruche’ was selected for DRAW 13, the 92nd Annual Open Exhibition of the Society of Graphic Fine Art.
Profile of the artist
Pat Harvey SGFA FRSA is a watercolourist specialising in Paris, London and floral subjects. She has exhibited widely, including at Brighton Festival and the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, and her work is in collections in France, Sweden, the UK and the United States. In conjunction with her husband, record producer Ralph Harvey, she has produced many illustrations for CD albums, including the French repertoire of EMI.
Pat is also a writer and researcher on art and French culture. She has collaborated on several high-profile television programmes, including a South Bank Show, “Hear My Chanson” (1996) and BBC4 documentary “Edith Piaf: Singing Her Life” (2006). She is a qualified and experienced Adult Education tutor who runs regular courses in her Sussex riverside home and currently writes on art for Third Way and Church Times. Pat is a Council Member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art and its Media Liaison Officer, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. For more about Pat’s work and her art courses please visit her web site at www.patharvey.co.uk.