Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

the official decree from the French government

Original Speech Delivered on March 14, 2007

Dear Judith, (Madame Wechsler?)
Dear Distinguished guests,
Dear Friends,

I am truly delighted to be here this evening to celebrate with all of you the accomplishments of Professor Judith Wechsler and to bestow upon her one of France’s most distinguished titles, that of Chevalier in the French Order of Arts and Letters.

The award recognizes eminent artists and writers, and those who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Ms. Wechsler could not be more deserving of the title. As a scholar, a professor, a filmmaker, and a curator, Madame Wechsler has dedicated (and continues to dedicate) her long and illustrious career to studying and exploring French culture, specifically the art and theatre of 19th-century France.

Madame Wechsler began her teaching career over 30 years ago, and has been sharing her knowledge of — and passion for — Art History with students ever since. And, as a scholar, she has published numerous book and articles on many topics in the History of French Art. But, beyond these already laudable accomplishments, Madame Wechsler has also established herself as a talented filmmaker.

I would like to mention just a few of her most notable films, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with: “Rachel de la Comédie Française,” “Honoré Daumier: il faut être de son temps,” and “Edouard Manet: peintre de la vie moderne,” documentaries which have been seen on French, British, and American screens. She has also curated exhibitions, including, in 2004 “Rachel, une vie pour le théâtre, 1821–1858” presented at Paris’s Musée d’art et d’histoire du judaisme.

As was the case for the exhibition I just mentioned, Judith Wechsler has worked with prestigious museums on both sides of the Atlantic, and her dedication to the French arts is truly unique. She has forged a professional and personal link to France and to the French culture so strong that it is only natural that we should recognize her extraordinary work by bestowing this award upon her, and I am very honored to be here to do so.

As you have said yourself, Madame Wechsler, you “could never be just an academic,” your artistic sensibilities pushing you to pursue your passion through various media and avenues. It is for that reason that we honor you this evening not with the Academic Palms, the award traditionally reserved for Professors, but rather with the title of Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, a more fitting award in your case, as it bears witness to your valuable contribution to the promotion of French art and culture through your own artistic expression.

Madame Judith Wechsler, it is my honor to bestow upon you, the …

(Formule officielle pour la remise…)