43 Rue Liancourt, 75014 Paris, France
Shirley Goldfarb (August 4, 1925 – September 28, 1980) was an American painter and writer. Le Goubernement, a six-episode fiction imagining the destiny and work of women, lesbian, queer, trans and non-binary artists who lived in Paris from 1910 – 1980, Artist Liv Schulman created a series of films: Le Goubernement, a six-episode fiction imagining the destiny and work of women, lesbian, queer, trans and non-binary artists who lived in Paris from 1910 – 1980. The episodes traverses and overlay over 70 years of history and hosts the stories and fate of artists that were erased from the great twentieth century modernist narrative including Shirley Goldfarb.
Goldfarb was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania. In 1949, she moved to New York City, where she received a scholarship to study at the Art Students League of New York from 1952-1953. She also studied in Woodstock, New York under the guidance of Nahum Tschachbasov, and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In 1954, Goldfarb moved to Paris, where she spent the remainder of her life. She was the wife of artist Gregory Masurovsky.
Among the regulars at the Cafe de Flore, she was a friend of David Hockney. Her curious appearance singled her out. “She was a most extraordinary woman,” Jack Hazan remembers. “She always dressed as a beatnik with long black dyed hair. She had massive bulging eyes all mascaraed up and she always wore the same clothes—a roll-neck black sweater and jeans with high-heel clog boots.” Goldfarb had come to Paris to fulfil her romantic dream of being an artist living against the backdrop of the city of artists. She had taken a tiny studio in the Rue Liancourt in Montparnasse, where she lived with her husband, Gregory Masurovsky, a graphic artist, and a wiry little Yorkshire terrier which accompanied her everywhere. Here she would work on large abstract-expressionist paintings executed using a brush/palette-knife technique. “I paint a square every day,” she used to say, speaking French with a strong American accent, by which she meant a one-inch square of paint on the canvas. For twenty-five years she sat every day at the Café de Flore, in her latter years writing a journal, posthumously published as Carnets Montparnasse, 1971–1980. Though her intensity and her social ambition made most people run a mile, Hockney adored her. “I thought she was funny,” he recalls. “She liked mocking things, and we became quite good friends. I used to dine at the Coupole a lot and Shirley would come looking for me, and when she found me she’d sit down at the table and if she ordered lobster I knew I would have to pay for it. People used to think she was taking advantage of me, but I said, ‘Well, if I was in her position I would do the same.’ She had no money and in those days you could live in Paris like that. She told me sometimes she would sit down with no money at all and somebody would come along and pay for her. She and Gregory lived very modestly, but she thought they were privileged living in the most beautiful city in the world.” Fascinated by their relationship, Hockney naturally saw them as a subject for a new double portrait. They had lived in two tiny little rooms for over twenty years, Gregory, who was very quiet and reserved, having the windowless back room, out of which he could not go without passing through Shirley’s room at the front. “Their relationship is a weird subject,” Hockney wrote. “He can’t go out of the building without her seeing, but she can. They are married but they are apart.” Shirley Goldfarb and Gregory Masurovsky by Hockney, painted in acrylic after a drawing, showed their curious living conditions, with Shirley seated on a chair in her studio, while Gregory perches on the edge of a single bed in his cubicle.
In 1994, a compilation of Goldfarb's journal entries were published under the title Carnets: Montparnasse 1971-1980. Goldfarb was noted for her technique of applying spots of paint to her canvases with a palette knife, in the style of abstract expressionism, with minimalist tendencies.
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