Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? It's a conundrum that most people have pondered at one time
or another. But for David and Francesca Rappaport, life
is art. Married for 63 years,
David, 87, a celebrated contemporary painter and cherished humanitarian,
and Francesca, 83, have created a life that is nothing short of
a masterpiece. The Rappaaport's everlasting bond is a breathtaking
inspiration and a testimony to what can be achieved, especially
when considering that they couldn't even afford to get married when
they wished to...
David and Francesca, New Yorkers who winter in the sunny climate
of Palm Desert, California, The Rappaports were affectionately known
as "The Rothschilds of the Clothing Business" after David
established Damon Creations in 1942, with a borrowed $700. He designed
and sold exquisite Italian knitwear and silk neckwear. Later, Francesca
joined him in the business, creating a fashion line called "Francesca
of Damon." "Unusual, but always in good taste," is
David's succinct and ingenious catchphrase to sum up Damon Creations.
It's interesting to note that Francesca was a top designer in an
era when women didn't hold influential positions in the business
world -- especially when the woman in question had three sons. "My
friends couldn't understand my desire to work," she recalls,
"because I had a husband who was doing well. But I wanted to
accomplish something for my own self-esteem. At the age of 40 when
I started designing, I couldn't even draw a straight line. Not to
be discouraged, we hired an artist to put my ideas on paper. After
some time, I learned to do it myself. If the desire is strong enough,
you can accomplish anything."
aspirations turned her into a favorite with Vogue and Harper's.
All the best department stores, including Bergdorff Goodman, Sak's,
Neiman's, I. Magnin and Nordstrom, as well as specialty boutiques,
all carried "Francesca of Damon
designs. She made personal appearances representing her in-demand
fashions. Nowhere however, is the drive to succeed more evident
than in David's tremendous spirit. His rags-to-riches adventure
with Damon Creations is but one shade on the palette. When he put
the paintbrush to canvas, he gave a whole new depth of meaning to
the term "art appreciation," with his precise and complex
style and gorgeous color schemes. "Controlled excitement,"
David calls his art. So fascinating were his paintings, most of
them an ambitious 4'x 4', that his 1997 debut, at the age of 82,
was a one-man show -- not sequestered in a gallery, but bold and
glorious in the windows of Barney's on Madison Ave., exposed to
and admired by potential millions. Due to the overwhelming response
his works of art received, they went on to grace the windows of
Barney's of Chicago and Beverly Hills, as well. When he turned heads
with his Barney's exhibit, he was the artworld's "new kid on
the block," receiving notoriety in the New York Times Manhattan
Arts and other publications...
greatest triumph, however, is his miraculous comeback from a near-fatal
stroke two years ago. With Francesca's unwavering support and David's
own absolute determination, this exemplary man, who has given of
his time and of his wealth to so many charities and individuals,
has given to himself with the same dedication. In so doing, he continues
to give to those around him. "Work is work only when it's work"
he loves to say.