Champs Elysees depicts the beautiful Roberta (Bobby) Paflin, who Fergusson met in 1932 shortly after moving to a new studio in Paris at 6 Rue Ernest Cresson in Montparnasse. Like Anne Estelle Rice, Bobby was a young American artist who had moved to France to record the latest Paris fashions for several American magazines. Her interest in fashion is here demonstrated by her sculpted hairstyle and elegant hat and by the dazzling background of the place in which fashionable women promenade, the pleasure gardens of the Champs Elysees. Fergusson painted several paintings of Bobby, including The Ochre Coat also of 1933 (Fergusson Gallery, Perth) and a number of portraits with the background of the Luxembourg Gardens. At this time Meg Morris spent much time in London at her dance academy and Bobby replaced her as Fergusson’s most prominent model at this time. Meg’s confidence in her relationship with Fergusson meant that she felt no jealousy towards the attractive and glamorous Bobby and when Meg began to spend more time in Paris the two women became great friends remaining close as late as 1954. When Meg was writing her biography of Fergusson in 1973 she was still in correspondence with Bobby.
By the 1930s Fergusson was a wholly modern artist with a modern outlook upon life. Rather than gaining his artistic inspiration from historical art, he imbibed the spirit of his own age and the new approaches to art, philosophy and fashion that were so strong in Paris at this time. His art was bold, confident and modern and this was reciprocated by the character of its creator. When Fergusson sought a new studio in 1932 he did not restrict himself to the old artists studios full of the nostalgia of the past and chose a studio on the seventh floor of a newly erected block of flats near the Lion de Belfort at the top of the Boulevard d’Orleans. This is indicative of Fergusson’s desire to live at the heart of the modern Paris and his choice of young, vital friends like Bobby Paflin also reflected this same desire. As Meg wrote many decade later; ‘Fergus was very happy and painted a lot in that studio’ (Margaret Morris, The Art of J. D. Fergusson; A Biased Biography, 1974, p. 169). This was a period of great critical success for Fergusson, shortly after a highly acclaimed exhibition at the Petit Gallery in Paris, which the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had supported and from which Fergusson’s La Deesse de la Riviere was sold to the French Government to hang at the Luxembourg Gallery.
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