Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Haskell's Romantic Childhood

Design is in her blood. Haskell Harris grew up in Virginia in a gracious old house that also served as home base for her mother Lou's interior design business and as a laboratory of sorts for her dad. He gave the family a secret garden with a private grove of Japanese cherry trees, a hand-laid brick wall and lush flower beds.

Her parents' projects must have made a big impression because years later Haskell adventurously restored a Birmingham cottage with her own hands -- more or less. It's currently featured in the April 2009 Southern Living.

When I saw a pastel study of young Haskell done by artist Jim Pollard, I thought it fit perfectly with her romantic Southern story. Pollard did three studies -- one of Haskell, her mom, and her younger sister, Chandler -- in preparation for a group oil portrait. (Older brother Haze had his portrait done a few years before that.)

The original was destroyed in a 1995 house fire but Lou had it repainted afterward. Still, Haskell is partial to the surviving pastel studies (those barely escaped the fire and have singe marks around the edges). "The studies are compelling to me because the artist used pastels, and he let us scribble around the edges a little when he finished each one, so they all feel softer, more informal, and more modern than the group painting," she explains.

Meaningful objects in the oil painting do charm her: "In the background, there is an antique chinoiserie screen that I loved growing up. It is silver -- very old hand-painted wood but looks like de Gournay wallpaper."

Happily this piece survived, but Haze's portrait was lost in the flames. Artistically, the picture was a favorite of Lou's so she keeps a photograph of it by her bedside. Harris houses seem filled with personal history.

Haskell says that if she ever has the means to have a portrait painted of herself, she might opt for something abstract done in oil, or something looser, just of her face, done in charcoal.

She is also a fan of the "very, very traditional" portrait artist John Howard Sanden. "When I was a teenager, he painted the portrait of a family friend. The sheer size of it is amazing, and it feels both touchably real and gauzy at the same time."

Janet Blyberg photographed the flowering tree in Japan. Charles Walton IV photographed Haskell's Alabama cottage for Southern Living.

Related reading: The Society Portrait: From David to Warhol; Related past post: Haskell's Take. Also of interest, Maria Teresa Meloni and Sir Oswald Birley part I and part II.


Karena said...

I have mentioned before how much I admire portrait artists. They each have a definite style. There is so much grace and style about them in capturing the personality of the subject.

JMW said...

I loved see Haskell's house in Southern Living, and I enjoy reading her blog on the Garden & Gun Web site.

Janet said...

Oh, what a beautiful cottage! I am honored to have one of my photos paired with Haskell's handiwork. I am looking forward to seeing the Southern Living piece!

Style Court said...

Janet, your beautiful photograph really came in handy! I think you'll really enjoy seeing her house.