Cruise Guide: Arison book a special tribute to art, life

By Mike Coleman

The late Ted Arison may have been the pioneering founder of Carnival Cruise Lines but it’s his wife, Lin, mourning the loss of her beloved husband who is now carving the family surname on a remarkable new venture.

Shortly after Ted’s passing in 1999, when sorrow-filled days seemed to only worsen, Arison and her 15-year-old granddaughter Sarah set out on a month-long journey unaware of the transformation it would soon have on both of their lives. 

They found themselves immersed in the picture-perfect villages located just outside of Paris, places which once inspired the likes of Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot and Van Gogh. And, it was here, in the beautiful countryside of Auvers, Arles, Giverny and Mont Sainte-Victoire that grandmother and granddaughter would each have a spiritual awakening resulting in Travels with Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections.

Part memoir, art book, biography and travelogue, Arison deftly gives new and spirited relevance to the art, personal and communal lives of the Impressionist painters. Reproductions of classic paintings are imaginatively paired with collaborator Neil Folbergs contemporary photographs. Together, author and photographer shed new light on a fascinating period.

The 245-page book, published recently by Abbeville Press, also attempts to de-mystify the life – albeit a brief one – of Van Gogh. He’s laid to rest in a cemetery in Auvers-sur-Oise, the charming village which served as such an inspirational backdrop to many of his peers. It was here that Van Gogh became the most prolific at his easel, painting some 70 scenes in the final 70 days of his life. And it was here where his depths of despair became unbearable. He died in a lifeless, attic room above a bar in 1890, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was just 37.

Observing such a tiny room, and the hallowed artistic ground which surrounded it, Arison began dealing with her own personal loss. In her quest to rediscover the lives, dwellings and paintings of her subject matter, she debunks long-held myths about Berthe Morisot, befriends twenty-first-century descendants of some of the masters, and finds inspiration in their mutually-supportive relationships. 

Twinning the lives and struggles of the artists with the personal discoveries they inspired in her, what emerged was not just a special book but the re-birth of a soul destined to proclaim her own singular talents.

The exposure to Van Gogh’s work and that of the Impressionists, she said in an interview, only served to deepen her empathy towards their dogged independence. It also helped to foster her own determination and artistic vision. 

As such, she has since renewed her commitment to using the creative resources at her disposal to make a significant difference in the lives of up and coming artists, especially through youngARTS, a pioneering project she and her husband founded 26 years ago. Sarah, now 23, whose interest in the arts was stimulated by her encounter with the French countryside and the Impressionists who called it home, now heads the Arison Arts Foundation.

The book testifies to the universality and continued relevance of the work of the Impressionist painters. It’s also a special tribute to the triumphant power of art and to a woman’s indomitable spirit to overcome the pain of her own profound loss.

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