Fact or Fiction!

We had arrived in a Fairytale Land!

It was . . . . Palm Beach, Florida . . . and it was January ! !

         “La Floridienne” acrylic on canvas ©SIMBARI

Our first two days were spent on the beach or by the pool. Nicola was in heaven, soaking up all the Sun he could manage, and getting back his permanent tan of the summer months.

Being fair-skinned, I decided to take it easy, in the Sun department !!

So I went with Ethel Vigouroux, our generous hostess, to the famed shopping street of Worth Avenue. I could not afford to buy anything but I enjoyed looking at the most exquisite linens and silks, then jewelry, that the world had to offer, while Ethel bought ‘little things’ for the house.!

“White Beach”
acrylic on canvas

Worth Avenue has many times been likened to Via Condotti in Rome, or Old Bond Street in London, but really it was quite unique and breath-taking in its quiet simplicity and elegance. Sadly, this aura of just Being-there-for-you has long since gone; replaced by a Mall feeling, with an attitude!

The Sun and the sea-air gave a timeless quality to each moment! No hurry. No stress. It was, indeed, a different world. Wealth of the sort that Palm Beach had then, was ‘accepted’ as the norm; no need to ‘show off’!

                 “Sardinian Straw Hat ” acrylic on canvas ©SIMBARI

Ethel took me to visit the famous Flagler mansion (later to become a museum), which was still grand and fabulous.

Then we went to see The Palm Beach Galleries. There was great activity and preparation going on for the ‘grand opening’. It was obvious that we were in the way! So, Ethel took me to lunch at the elegant Everglades Club, right next door. My excitement was overflowing and it was hard to think about food! I had to keep pinching myself for I was sure I would wake up soon - - - - no dream I had ever had was quite as superb as this. . .!


Nicola’s paintings were being hung for the evening’s event and I had never seen such a perfect setting for his work.

“Piazza del Mercato”
oil on canvas

At that time, he painted many scenes of Italy as it was then, beaches with women carrying drift-wood on their heads, Carabinieri on parade,

peasants with carts and horses, bicyclists racing through a southern Italian hill town, buffalo in a river scene and sometimes me, reading, sewing, gardening, or arranging flowers!

“Carabinieri in Galleria”
tempera on canvas

These small works of art were strong and exciting, and the colours echoed the softness of his mood, or his love of the Calabria of his first youth, and his great zest for Life.

If I close my eyes, I can still see the painting of two Calabrian women sitting on horse back, and staring back at me with such pride and strength . . .

I often wonder who has this work!

This is and was SIMBARI.

For me it is an early masterpiece, showing an artist with extra-ordinary talent; once seen it cannot be forgotten. No Simbari Blue, no soft whites and magentas, it was Calabria in the raw
with all its drama!

“Calabrian Women”
tempera on board

Ethel and I went ‘home’ - - -
I went to the pool to tell Nicola about the gallery
and just how incredible it all was!

Nicola was chatting with friends. . .
how like Nicola to have found ‘friends’ immediately!
His charisma seemed to be a magnate for all sorts of intriguing people!

         “La Spiaggia” acrylic on canvas ©SIMBARI

Franz Bueb, a handsome European portrait painter, introduced himself to me, and asked if I would sit for a portrait! What a line!

Then I turned to see that the other man was Piero Aversa, a long-time friend of Nicola’s, who was also an artist; this was a pleasant surprise for us; we had all three spent a week in Capri together that summer!

There was a lot of laughter and nonsense talked and we were in high spirits when we finally went with George to the Opening of the Gallery and Nicola’s first One-man Show in Palm Beach.

There were to be many, many more in the following years, and Nicola was to become renowned as Palm Beach’s ‘discovery’ . . . and there are some who believe that HE is a SHE, and that person is from Florida!

To tell the truth, the ‘happening’ still has a dream-like quality about it.

Everyone seemed to love the paintings and, before I could take it all in, ALL the paintings were sold!

We were being invited to this party and that event, it seemed that no luncheon or evening or gathering would be complete without us!

acrylic on canvas

George said that we must stay on, and suggested that Nicola take over the pool-house and paint to his heart’s content. We did not need to be asked twice!

The pool-house became the meeting place for everybody (or so it appeared).

Franz and Piero were permanent fixtures, as were the beautiful young girls who wanted to be ‘painted’ . . . and Nicola invented a song, as he danced around, laughing and ‘creating’ - - - “Oh, I do love to paint by the swimming pool” - - - !

I bathed in Nicola’s reflected glory and Ethel was there to keep my ‘feet on the ground’. Of course, I had one problem, my ‘wardrobe’ was very, very small, and I was always trying to invent something new to DO with my two ‘good’ dresses; but nobody minded that I wasn’t dressed in the latest ‘model’ and I soon forgot the awkwardness I had felt at the start. I learned never to wear jewelry (I had one or two pieces left to me by my mother) to a function, since how could I compete with the Tsarina’s emeralds set in diamonds, or Marie Antoinette’s necklace of pearls! What magnificent jewels they were; adorning the superb creations designed by Dior, and Oleg Cassini, and other top designers of the period.

         “The Croquet Tournament” acrylic on canvas ©SIMBARI

To have known, then, that all too soon THIS Palm Beach would exist no longer - - - but perhaps that is the point!

We truly enjoyed those unique moments, they are like a
wonderful Fairytale Dream - - -
I can never forget the welcome we were given, the happiness,
the feeling of being in the right place at the right moment!
For me, the Palm Beach, of then, was like stepping into a world
of Possibilities.
Nothing was Impossible!

The Collectors who bought those Early Simbaris were among the most exalted names in America ; Art Collectors who went on to endow great Museums with their Collections and money to create new museums. They gave their ‘stamp’ of approval to this young man who had come from a simple background with an amazing talent.

Nicola loved everything about life, and in every work it can be seen and experienced.

A magician. A maker of dreams!

His fascination for the ‘theatre’ of Life and the simplicity of the Everyday can be seen throughout his career of 60 years.

Yet, the pure Joy experienced in his expressions of
love for an Italy long gone,
and a Palm Beach that is no more, bring that beauty back
to life again memories of Once-Upon-a-Time. . .

Fact or Fiction? Sometimes I wonder!

© Elfrida 2010

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