Robert Couturier at home with the babies in Connecticut, his favorite place on earth. (2018)
You, dear Robert, were the first to call me a poet, and I've loved you ever since, as you've been a mentor of sorts to me, tell us what Jimmy Goldsmith meant to you.
Jimmy was the father I never had, forgiving, supportive, and kind. He was a fascinating man always supporting, immensely cultivated, always curious about world events with opinions of his own, often controversial but honorable. Jimmy was a huge support to me from the very start. I visited him just before he died. It took me a while to recover.
Living room in Paris.
Robert, age twenty-one, at a wedding in Paris.
Where would we find the ten-year-old Robert? What made you happiest? How did your childhood influence your aesthetic?
At ten, I was already at boarding school and had been for three years. I think I was sweet and quiet, very bad at sports. I read all the time. Having grown up in a relative emotional vacuum, I related to rooms, objects, and art more than I did with people. I guess I was quite introverted and fearful of the outside world.
Robert, looking mysterious at thirty-three.
Living room in an apartment on 5th Avenue in NYC.
You were very close to your maternal grandmother, please tell us about your time with her?
My grandmother was quite stern, not the mushy, loving, hugging type, but she was loving and supportive as well as highly educated and intelligent and had only one desire for me which was to excel in whatever endeavor I chose. She saved my life by taking me away from punitive abusive parents, and she is the one who paid for all my studies, boarding school and university. I loved her, and I recognize today that she loved me inordinately, in her discreet, shy and nonphysical way.
Robert dining at twenty-one.
What training have you had? Would you do it the same again?
My grandmother did not believe in state-run anything, schools, colleges, or universities, so I went to a private boarding school for 11 years and then five years, plus one preparatory interior design/architecture school. I wouldn't do it again as I would probably have preferred going straight to architectural school, one of my favorite subjects was descriptive geometry which is hardly a decorating discipline. But it is what it is, and I don't regret it.
In Kent, you live in a home you created, drafting from conception. How do your Connecticut home and your Soho, NYC home fulfill you in different measure?
NY is my professional self and Connecticut our, Jeffrey and mine, private universe. Both worlds are quite different and detached from the other.
Robert, celebrating with his best friend, author Cecile David-Weill. (1998)
Robert's living room in Connecticut.
It could be said Bach is your musical idol, what does he mean to you? And what are your favorite pieces by any composer?
Bach is probably now what I listen to 95% of the time. It is to me, perfection, balance, pure and mental joy. There are too many favorite pieces by too many different composers. But as a complete musical experience of depth and breadth I would put "Saint Matthew's Passion" as number one and then Parsifal as number two, as an ensemble of works I would put Bach's cantatas 220 of them, and then Wagner's Tetralogy.
—Dear reader and Robert fans, I logged over the years, many of those favorite pieces which Robert shared with me. All is not lost!
J. S. Bach, Erbame Dich -Andreas School, "Matthaus Passion" (39Aria A)
Franz Schubert, Piano Trio op 100 in E Flat, D929
Franz Schubert, "Standchen Serenade"
Beethoven, "Hammerklavier" Sonata, no 29 in B Flat op. 106, Adagio Sostenuto
Beethoven, 29th Sonata (Peter Serkin)
Beethoven, Romance No. 2 in F Major op. 50
Beethoven, 6 Ecossaises, WoO 53
Vivaldi, Nisi Domini RV 608 IV. Cum Deduit
Vivaldi Gloria -2- Et in Terra Pax (Orchestra de Chambre de Lausanne)
Mozart, Great Mass in C minor K427 (417a)
Mozart, No. 3 No. 4 K. 218
Mozart, Sonata in B Major "Don Giovanni"
Monteverdi, "Zefio torna," Nuria Rial (soprano), Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) L'Apreggiata
Monteverdi, Si dolce è'l tormento - Jaroussky (Pluhar)
Albinoni, Concerto No. 29 in D Major
César Franck, Violin Sonata A Major
Mendelshon, Cantos Shalom, "Kol Nidrei"
Pergolesi, Stabat Mater - Final movement (Quando Corpus Morietur)
Handel, "Zadok the Priest" (Monteverdi Choir)
Zino Francescatti, violin (Saint-Saens)
Chopin, Variations Op. 2
Fiddler-Yiddish Song- by Misha Marmar
—Don Quixote Grand Pas Kitri Variation (A ballet he loves), and Robert hasn't said so, but the first opera he attended was Rossini's, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with his grandfather, and he cried through most of it at seven years old.
Robert, Jeffrey Morgan, and I in Connecticut, after having dinner in July when we first met in 2008.
What did your new life in the USA reveal to you? What were you glad to lose and what if anything did you miss?
I have always lived here and there. I have been coming to New York City since I was a child, one grandmother lived here part of the year, and the other had visited many times. I loved the freedom, the creativity, and the anonymity of NY, even if I preferred the beauty, the elegance, and the refinement of Paris. PARIS was who I was and NY who I would become. I knew that I could not evolve into being who I thought I was destined to be by staying in Paris. So at the end of one of my trips here I decided to stay. And that was nearly 40 years ago.
Guest Bedroom/ Office in a Midtown High-Rise.
What does your sculpted garden give you?
My garden is the extension of the inside of my house in Kent, the while being a parenthesis in time, an imaginary world apart from the rest.
What visions for the future of humanity and art do you have?
I have no personal vision about the future of humanity only a distant and faint hope that we won't destroy ourselves while blowing up this amazingly beautiful earth. I am not an optimist that way.
You once said Le Petite Trianon was a building you couldn't live without, how does it inspire you?
Le Petite Trianon is the perfect emanation of the 18th century. A work of art that is greater than the sum of its parts. And for that reason, it is an inspiration.
Robert, celebrating his birthday with Mercedes Bass in New York City, 2016.
Marsh Court Library in Hampshire, England with Golden Ribbon Light by Ingo Maurer.
If you could spend an afternoon with anyone past or present, who would that be?
What are you reading presently? Are there authors you repeatedly return to like an old friend? I credit you with teaching me the meaning of being Proustian.
I am reading Daniel Mendelsohn's An Odyssey which I love and have almost finished, and Yuval Noah Harari's A Brief History of the Future which I find deeply fascinating if quite unsettling. I am reading Balzac as well which I find so informative on humanity! And then when I am really tired, I reread the odd Agatha Christie!
Dogs, and more dogs, you live for your beloved Shih Tzu. What lessons in life have they taught you?
Dogs are the better part of ourselves... they make me so happy and so content. Not sure they give me lessons in life other than that the state of humanity isn't so happy and that intelligence or conscience is the surest way to unhappiness or rather discontent.
Robert in France, visiting with an old friend's Hubert.
I make an effort to remind you to stop and rest! You are a doer and achiever; it's hard to shut you down. When you grab a slice of serenity, what does that slice of time equal?
Sadly I think I never will, it isn't in my nature, but three hours a week I do yoga, for three hours I stop thinking about outside circumstances!!!
Who are your gods in the art world?
—Praxiteles because in a world that did not know perspective, he saw in space so beautifully!
—Rembrandt and Vermeer.
—Johan Sebastian Bach
Robert Couturier: Designing Paradises by RIZOLLI, 2014
Thank you Robert!