In researching Coco, I was flung among the waves of uncertainty about her. On one wave I would be swept up in massive intrigue about her strength and claim to fame, only to plummet underwater with the uncertainty about her ethics, opinions, and certainly some parts of her later history.
As I drew the remnants of her life, her opinions and history seemed to be at battle with each other, and as the days went by as I painted her in my lakeside sublet apartment in Rogers Park Chicago, the waves quietly settled with the history of who she was.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, was born in Saumur, Maine-Et-Loire, France in 1883. She was one of 5 siblings to in an incredibly poor community. Her father, Albert Chanel, was a street vendor mainly selling undergarments and work clothes. He was a transient, often trying to score a sale in various towns to feed his children. Her mother Eugénie “Jeanne” Devolle, was a laundry woman at a charity hospital and poor house.. and while she wasn’t married to Albert whilst having her children, she would marry him later on (by family persuasion).