In the Circle of Friends in Paris

Who were Fontana, Sand, Delacroix, Viardot?

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Paweł Bień (Chopin Institute)

Postcard showing the Salon of Fryderyk Chopin in Paris (20. Century) by The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Workers' Publishing Cooperative "Prasa"The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Chopin in Paris

Fryderyk Chopin's charm lied not only in his compositional talent and piano virtuosity, but also in his personality. Those who knew him appreciated his sense of humor and broad intellectual horizons.

It is therefore not surprising that many of Chopin's friends often visited him in his Paris apartment. He met some of them in exile, others were former schoolmates, also forced to emigrate.

A view of the Kazimierzowski Palace, the headquarters of the Cadet Corps (1785) by Zygmunt VogelPolish History Museum

Julian Fontana

Julian Fontana was a man of many talents. He met Chopin while still studying at the Warsaw Lyceum, later they attended the Main School of Music, although Julian was also preparing to study law. In 1830, he took part in the November Uprising. That, in turn, forced him to emigrate.

Portrait of Julian Fontana (20. Century) by Stanisław Tomaszewski-MiedzaThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

A friend, pianist, composer, secretary and copyist

Fontana lived in Hamburg, London, even briefly in Cuba and the United States where he promoted his friend's work. Until 1841, he was Chopin's informal secretary, he would play four hands with him, rewrite his manuscripts and even suggest minor corrections. 

As a token of gratitude, Fryderyk dedicated the Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40 precisely to him.

Portrait of George Sand (1839) by Narcisse Edmond Joseph Desmadryl after Auguste CharpentierThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

George Sand

George Sand was the author of several dozen novels, short stories, plays and essays. Her controversial way of being, courage to take up difficult topics, struggle for women's access to the world of culture earned her the reputation of an eccentric emancipationist. 

Portrait of George Sand (1837) by Luigi CalamattaThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The first impression

Her face is unlikeable [...] there is something repulsive about her. – Fryderyk wrote to his parents in 1836, after having met Sand for the first time.

However, fate played a trick on the composer who was in a relationship with the writer until 1847. It was in Sand's summer residence in Nohant that great masterpieces of Fryderyk's late period were created.

George Sand's Garden at Nohant (ca. 1842–43) by Eugène DelacroixThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Summer in Nohant

Chopin spent many an evening discussing music and painting with the French master of the palette Eugène Delacroix, who highly appreciated the work of the poet of the piano. Delacroix also visited George Sand and Chopin in Nohant several times.

LIFE Photo Collection

The unfinished masterpiece

In July 1838, Delacroix began working on a joint portrait of Chopin and Sand. The unfinished work was cut in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The part with the likeness of the composer is now held in Paris, and the one depicting the writer – in Copenhagen. <br> 
 

Portrait of Pauline Viardot (between 1825 and 1845) by Louis von Fischer after Louis Hector François AllemandThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Pauline Viardot

Chopin loved opera and was also friends with singers. One of his closest people was Pauline Viardot, a French mezzosoprano of Spanish origin. Fryderyk appreciated not only her voice, but also her sense of humor. 

Fryderyk Chopin reading the newspaper and Maurice Sand drawing View 2The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Chopin reading a newspaper

Pauline Viardot-García made caricatures of her friend, some of which, like this one, have survived to this day.

Eine Matinée bei Liszt (1846) by Joseph KriehuberThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt, who held Fryderyk in great esteem, was mentioned among the greatest composers of the era, along with Chopin. It was precisely Liszt who published his first biography three years after his friend's death, devoting much attention to mazurkas and nocturnes.

Sketch for the painting Szopen [Chopin] (1899) by Wojciech WeissThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The blurred lines

Despite so many friends and acquaintances, Chopin was often buffeted by loneliness. A year before his death, he confided: I can't breathe, I can't work. I feel alone, alone, alone, though I am surrounded. 

We do not know what he wrote after those sentences. The following seven lines of the letter are very meticulously blurred.

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