Today in our series of portraits on the women of CASA Colette the one who names our pastel green-blue color.
Sidonie Gabrielle Colette was born on January 28, 1873, in Saint-Sauveur, France. She is the daughter of Sidonie Langlois, a widow remarried to Jules Joseph Colette, a former captain, leg amputee, who became a tutor. She grew up in a loving and cultured family. Raised by a mother whom she adores and a father who introduced her to literature and gave her lessons in writing and style.
But money was scarce and at the age of 20 Colette found herself married to Henri Gauthier-Villars, known as Willy, a union which allowed the family to have one less mouth to feed. A 34-year-old man who has aged too quickly, Willy is not the ideal match, but being an art critic, he introduces Colette to the worldly and cultural Paris of the time. Colette then leaves behind her rural life and her happy childhood to become a city dweller, although she will always retain her country accent.
It is in this new life that she starts writing, while Willy encourages her to write down her childhood memories. Thus was born what would become the Claudine series that Willy took over by first publishing them under his name. The Claudines caused a sensation, but Colette, not being the owner of the rights, got nothing out of it. She then wrote a Claudine goes away in 1903, before leaving too, leaving Willy in 1906.
An emancipated woman, Colette led a libertine existence for several years. During this period, she had all kinds of affairs, including several with women; the relationship she maintained for several years with Mathilde de Morny, known as Missy, a marquise who displayed her homosexuality and dressed as a man, being the one who caused the most scandal.
Colette entered the world of theater and music hall, as an author and actress and also continued to write, this time under her own name. She published among others L'Ingénue libertine (1904) and La vagabonde (1910), novels always more or less autobiographical and often marked by the theme of bisexuality.
This era ends as Colette approaches forty, as she launches into journalism, without putting literature aside, and as she meets and falls in love with Henry de Jouvenel. Her mother died in September 1912, but Colette, too caught up in this love story, did not even go to the funeral. In December, Colette married Henry de Jouvenel and in July she gave birth to their granddaughter, Colette de Jouvenel.
Colette continues her career as a writer, her life inspiring her work and vice versa. And while several of these books, Chéri and Le wheat en herbe, begin to tell of affairs between older women and young men, she begins one with her stepson, Bertrand, aged 17.
She meets, following a performance of the theatrical adaptation of Chéri (where she plays the main character), the man who will become her future and last husband, Maurice Goudeket. This is the beginning of a new story and new stories. In particular, she wrote a book about her mother, which continued a line of novels depicting her family.
Colette was then a recognized writer, elected in 1945 to the Goncourt Academy, as well as an important public figure.
27She ended her life in her apartment at the Palais-Royal, weakened by arthritis which bothered her to the point of increasingly preventing her from writing. Maurice, whom she speaks of as "her best friend", stays by her side until the end.
She died on August 3, 1954, at 9 rue de Beaujolais, in Paris. A respected writer, although controversial figure, Colette is one of the rare women to whom the Republic granted a national funeral. She is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.
Today, a museum is dedicated to him in his native village, and his childhood home is now open to the public.