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A Life Well Lived – Madame Nottale – a remarkable woman.

Madame Nottale died a few weeks ago.    Selfishly I would have loved to spend much more time with her, however at 94 years old she was ready to move on.     I feel a deep sense of gratitude for having known such a wonderful human being, whose life was indeed well lived.

A recent photograph of Madame Nottale with her daughter Claudia. 

P1050879When Claudia Nottale came to stay with my family in the States in 1978 she was just seventeen years old.    I had no idea at the time that she would become a life long friend.

Claudia Nottale – 17 years old – oil on canvas

10996105_10153048192965396_8451570209771699384_o-2In 1984 on one of my trips back to the UK and Europe to visit family and friends, Claudia’s Mother  invited me to dinner at her home in Marley le Roi, not too far from Paris.       I will always remember the first moment we met.        Her warmth and love shone through.

So much could be said about her life….Mother of seven remarkable children, nurse, friend to so many, lover of nature and in her latter years when she had time for herself….the brilliance of her painting and  writing shone through.

Portrait of Madame Nottale in 1985…..watercolour/gouache


She was a woman who exemplified what it is to live life well.     She exhibited great courage and at the same time compassion for others. – I would say that she spent much of her life alleviating suffering in others in tangible ways as a nurse and Mother and in less tangible ways simply by being who she was.    For to be in her presence was indeed a beautiful experience.

Madame Nottale drawing me September 2015


She loved colour and chocolate…….two things we had in common:)    During her latter years she painted and wrote every single day.    The walls and every other surface in her room were covered in her work.


Three  years ago, I made this watercolour of her….which I feel demonstrates her letting go of worldly worries and coming home to her true calling…..that of being an artist and writer.


Deeply spiritual, and an inspiration to all……Madame Nottale must surely be in a heaven with unlimited paints, paper, brushes and pens…and of course surrounded with beautiful flowers and hummingbirds:)

A special moment with Madame Nottale……


‘There are always flowers for those who want to see them.’     Henri Matisse.  

Moon, Mountains and Magical hummingbird – inspired by a drawing by Madame Nottale. 

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A Bientôt



The arrival of Claudia

One of my favourite sayings is that ‘none of us is ever creative enough to know how things will actually work out’ – which is why during my more enlightened latter years, I try not to force issues, but rather allow life to evolve.

This brings me to another story about the arrival of Claudia into my life during the summer of 1977.

Oil on canvas of Claudia aged 17.


In 1977, I was living with my husband and two children just outside of West Chester, Pennsylvania. My son was eleven and my daughter two years old.

Friends told us of a young French girl who wanted to spend some time in the United States to better her English, and who would make an excellent au pair.     We agreed to be the host family for Claudia.

We drove to JFK airport filled with anticipation as well as a sign which would alert Claudia as to who we were.

I remember the moment she came down the stairs and how we all immediately jelled.    By the time we reached home, it was as if we had always known one another.

From that day on, Claudia became a life long friend and muse.    

I could write reams about Claudia….her work as an actress and director of theatre…her family and the many wonderful times we have spent together, but let it suffice to say, that our meeting was a very special one and once again proves the point that we never know who or what is just around the proverbial corner.  

Magical Hummingbirds have always surrounded this very special friendship.   


A bientôt