In the early summer of 1817, a group of French settlers arrived in the wilderness of what would become southwest Alabama. They were Bonapartist exiles- among them Napoloeon’s foremost generals and aristocrats, forced to leave France after his final defeat. Where the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers meet, they founded the town of Demopolis, but their efforts to cultivate a ‘vine and olive colony’ there were doomed from the start.
This story brought me to the South in 1988. Back then, I wanted to write about it. Only late this summer, decades later, did it occur to me that I should paint the story instead. Or rather the symbolic figure of one settler- Madame Raoul, the Marchioness de Sinabaldi. And it was important for me to paint the myth more than anything- how I imagined, how I dreamed of her story as an immigrant in the New World.
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