When Fantasy Met Opulence
It seems I have two favorites in common with Kelly Wearstler: Baskin-Robbins' peanut butter 'n chocolate ice cream and the book of watercolor renderings, Chinoiseries, from artists Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams.
For this artistic duo, the whimsical European garden follies and pavilions -- most now destroyed -- that they chose to meticulously research and paint represent the "architecture of joy." Their focus: French pagodas and other fantasies built or designed between 1775 to 1785, "the fevered apex of France's chinoiserie mania." When fantasy converged with opulence.
I expected the book to be overflowing with exquisite images, but I was happily surprised by the informative text. The authors explain the phenomenon of chinoiserie (romanticized works inspired by the East but created for Westerners) and highlight European misconceptions. Lavish celebrations of the French Court are vividly brought to life. Today we might say the Parisians had a design crush on all things exotic, all things Chinese. Well, what they thought was Chinese.
Chapters highlight garden design, contrasting the Classical with the fanciful, and discuss English architect Sir William Chambers as well as cartographer Georges Le Rouge.
I think Rizzoli's scheduled April release of Chinoiseries at a more reasonable $60 (earlier editions cost over $1,000) is seriously exciting. Maybe even cause to organize a festive chinoiserie-themed book club gathering in the spring.
Images © Chinoiseries by Bernd H. Dams and Andrew Zega, Rizzoli New York, 2008.
All garden follies are by Bernd H. Dams and Andrew Zega. The painting shown top is the 18th-century Indian House at Bruhl, attributed to Franz Jacob Rousseau. Shown second is the Chinese bridge at Laxenburg, watercolor by L. Janscha.
Mrs. Blandings and I are both fans of Zega and Dams, and have mentioned the artists before. Here is her take on Chinoiseries.