Arts / Galleries

The Mysterious Life of Coco Chanel and Her Surprise Connection to a Dallas Couple

BY // 12.17.15

The life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is a mysterious mix of fact and fiction. The French fashion designer, one of the most influential women of the 20th century, kept many details of her life obscured from public knowledge, from her poverty-stricken childhood to her myriad lovers and her true age. Perhaps the clearest glimpse one has into her psyche is La Pausa, the villa she constructed in 1928 in the hills of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

In a new book, From Chanel to Reves: La Pausa and Its Collections at the Dallas Museum of Art, authors Olivier Meslay (DMA associate director of curatorial affairs) and Martha MacLeod (DMA curatorial administrative assistant in the European and American Art department) explore the villa’s importance both to Chanel and to Wendy and Emery Reves, the Dallas couple who purchased La Pausa in 1953.

The connection? Thirty years ago Wendy, on behalf of her late husband, Emery, gifted the DMA more than 1,400 works of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and modern paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative objects from La Pausa — many of which belonged to Chanel.

The museum’s late architect, Edward Larrabee Barnes, constructed a 16,500-square-foot, five-room replica of La Pausa to house the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. The DMA’s new publication takes a deeper look at the collection and at La Pausa. An excerpt: “The villa is full of architectural quotations reminding [Chanel] of the darkest, or at least the most impoverished, days of her life … It is therefore striking to see how many of the architectural details found at La Pausa are drawn from the Aubazine convent.”

From darkness, indeed, came light. $15, exclusively at the DMA Museum Store, 1717 N. Harwood St., 214.922.1256

The replica of Villa La Pausa at the Dallas Museum of Art, which houses the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
The replica of Villa La Pausa at the Dallas Museum of Art, which houses the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection


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