Lisette Georges

Art World Figure

    Lisette Blumenfeld Georges, who with her husband, the painter Paul Georges, entertained some of the leading artists of the time at their Sagaponack house, died on Monday in New York City as a result of complications of Crohn’s disease. She was 89 years old.
    Lisette Blumenfeld was born in May 1922 in Amsterdam, the eldest child of the artist Erwin Blumenfeld, who became a successful photographer noted for his Vogue magazine images of Audrey Hepburn, and Lena Citroen. The Blumenfeld family lived in Zandvoort on the Zee, and then in Ardenhout. Mrs. Georges was a model and assistant for her father, recalling time spent once in a darkroom closet under the stairs. A portrait by her father of her legs, titled “Lisette’s Legs,” graced a two-page spread in Vogue, the first of a series of images in Vogue by Mr. Blumenfeld featuring his daughter.
     When she was 14, in 1937, she, her mother, and two younger brothers joined Mr. Blumenfeld in Paris. She spent her first year in France cutting classes to go to the cinema, then dropped out of school, continuing to work for her father. She and her family frequently dined at Cafe du Dome in Montparnasse, where they rubbed shoulders with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, and other famed artists of the day.
    Their life was to change with the onset of World War II.
    The Blumenfelds were sent to several concentration camps. Mrs. Georges, by then 18, was sent to one in Gurs. After six months, however, she and the other members of her family were freed to join one another and go to Marseille, where they were aided by Varian Fry, an American who ran a rescue network that saved thousands from the Nazis. With his help they obtained visas and bought passage to America in May 1941.
    However, their ship was held in Morocco and the family was again interned. They were finally allowed to board a Portuguese ship and arrived in New York on Aug. 9 of that year.
    Mrs. Georges learned English by going to movies every day at the Museum of Modern Art. Her first English phrase, according to her unpublished memoirs, was “ham and cheese on rye.”
    New York City was a haven for her in more ways than one. Mrs. Georges explored the city from the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to cafe society in Greenwich Village. After the war, she returned to Paris to work for Life magazine. It was there, at a party, that she met the man who was to become her husband. They were married on Jan. 23, 1950, and lived for the next two years in France. Their marriage lasted until 2002, when Mr. Georges died of a heart attack.
    “Lisette introduced Paul to the music of Bach on their first date,” according to a statement from her family and friends. “And throughout the 52 years of marriage she was the consummate artist’s wife and partner, dispensing with comforts of any kind save music and literature, and sacrificing her very being for the sake of her husband’s work and creativity. She was impervious, imperial, and unflinching in her belief in her husband and the greatness of his paintings.”
    The year 1954 found the couple living on East 11th Street in Manhattan, with Mr. Georges designing sets for Tennessee Williams plays and Mrs. Georges giving birth to their first child, Paulette Theodore of Marseille.
    The couple soon started spending time on the South Fork, summering in East Hampton and Sag Harbor, before renting a house without running water near Poxabogue Pond in Sagaponack. Over the years, the couple divided their time between Walker Street in Manhattan, where they created one of the first artist live-and-work co-ops, and Sagaponack.
    After their second daughter, Yvette Deeton of New York City, was born in 1960, they bought a house on Sagg Road, where they lived until 1985 when they returned to France. During the last decade, Mrs. Georges worked sporadically on her diaries and memoirs, while continuing to visit New York.
    In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Georges is survived by three granddaughters. No information on services or memorials was available by press time.