Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Splendor in the Grass

The Atlanta History Center has updated its site with expanded views of the iconic 1920s Swan House designed by classicist architect Philip Trammell Shutze. These additional interior views should be helpful to students researching the celebrated architect or decorator Ruby Ross Wood. (Swan House was donated to the non-profit Center in the 1960s.)

When I see pictures of the house shot in the spring or summer, I sometimes think of a favorite chapter (Stilettos in the Grass) in this book. The lawn seems ready for a tent, strings of white lights, and big silver coolers.

The dress is from Anthropologie
Kate Headley photographed Maria with the lanterns
Cocktails courtesy Southern Accents
Circa 1891-1902 wine cooler available at Beverly Bremer

Via illustrator Anna Bond, I discovered a different sort of garden imagery, new album cover art for M. Ward.

New Order also went botanical a few years ago.

BTW: If you are a design history buff, love grand old houses, and plan to be in New York City in March or April,  check out the free lectures presented by Mitchell Owens at NYSID.

Art, The Cosby Show, and David Driskell

Remember the episode of The Cosby Show with the auction? When Mrs. Huxtable buys back a family painting? The picture, Ellis Wilson's circa 1947 oil on composite board, Funeral Procession, was just one of many pieces of fine art that hung in the Huxtable house. A real departure from the typical sitcom interior.

In real life Camille and Bill Cosby were serious art collectors, often advised by scholar and artist, David Driskell. On the television set, works from various periods were juxtaposed with Early-American-style furniture, and I've read that Driskell was consulted on the choices.

The High now presents an annual award in the art historian's name, the Driskell Prize, to honor a scholar or artist who has made a significant contribution to African-American art. And in April the Museum will mount a large exhibition of Driskell's prints. Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David C. Driskell will encompass woodcuts, linocuts -- 80 prints representing a variety of styles and artistic influences from African to Modernist to classic Western aesthetics.

Image two is a David Driskell print.

Of related interest, the NGA's online tour of the week: African-American Artists. Cosby of course has collected works by many important artists, including Joshua Johnson who is represented on the this tour.

Credit for work shown above:
Henry Ossawa Tanner
The Seine, c. 1902
Gift of the Avalon Foundation

BTW: Wilson's Funeral Procession now belongs to Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.


Every once in a blue moon I like to post pictures from a designer's (or artist's) wedding. Usually I do this after I've been cleaning out files or rearranging old books. Since a professional photographer friend was just telling me how slow his wedding business is, due to the economy, I thought it would be nice to share two really simple-but-luxe ideas from photographer Amy Neunsinger.

Amy's wedding was on a farm outside Savannah, Georgia, and admittedly it was intended to have a barefoot-in-the-grass feel. As I understand it, her mom and friends did the flowers.

A few magnolia branches were tied together for an understated (yet stunning) bouquet. On tables magnolias floated in bowls, and scattered around were big tubs filled with voluptuous peonies and roses. I'm sure you've seen things like this before. Still it never hurts to be reminded of the incredible no-fuss arrangements that can be done with "backyard flowers." I also think some of these ideas could translate to a graduation party.

Later in her Los Angeles home, Amy propped her own photo of a magnolia above the fireplace.

Images one through three are from Shabby Chic: Sumptuous Settings and Other Lovely Things and image four is from Martha Stewart.


Nellie Mae Rowe's Lush Life

Back when I used to man the information desk at the High or find my self stationed in the galleries, I seemed to repeat the same lines over and over: "The cafe is on the lower level, the bathrooms are down the hall, Nellie Mae Rowe's work is to your left."

Joyous, radiant and approachable, Rowe's drawings appeal to many -- including those who normally don't appreciate self-taught art. The daughter of a former slave, Rowe was born in Fayetteville, Georgia in 1900. High curator Susan Mitchell Crawley writes that Rowe used art to escape the tedium of her chores and throughout her life passionately created pieces from whatever materials were at hand.

The examples shown here happen to be from Barbara Archer Gallery and the Ogden Museum (see complete credits below), but the High has well over 100 of Rowe's works, a fairly recent bequest by art patron Judith Alexander. In fact, the High is the only major museum in North America with a curatorial department specifically devoted to folk and self-taught art.

There is something about Rowe's dense patterns and electrifying color combinations that could really inspire textile designers.

Clearly the natural beauty of the South inspired Rowe. Here, a few flashbacks to favorite flower-filled images. Above, Vesta Fort's vignette photographed by Paul Costello for domino, May 2006, and below a hydrangea garland by Dorothy McDaniel, photography courtesy Southern Accents.

Art credits from the top:
Nellie Mae Rowe
Untitled, 1982
18" x 24"
crayon on paper
Barbara Archer Gallery

Picking Berries, 1981
16 1/2" x 14"
marker and crapas on paper
Barbara Archer Gallery

Mixed media on paper
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Anonymous Donation (Gift of Judith Alexander and Barbara Archer Gallery)

Couldn't resist this pairing. Dress is Trina Turk.


Leafy Greens and Quote of the Week

I was happy to see Vesta Fort's name in the March-April Southern Accents. (She styled an alfresco vignette for Julia Reed's story on spring dining.) To help spread a little more spring fever, I thought it would be nice to round-out the week with Gustav Schmiege's pretty picture, above, and an image of a Miranda Brooks-designed garden, below.

The great quote I share in hopes of inspiring some weekend interior rearranging -- or just optimistic dreaming -- it comes from Patrick Dunne, same issue of Southern Accents:

"...I share in some small part the headstrong human instinct to order and embellish and evoke that guides every mortal sensible enough to know that we are the species in all creation most adept at decorating."

Gallery Hopping II

At long last the mailman just dropped off my copy of the March-April Southern Accents. It's a special issue because Patrick Dunne, writer and owner of the epicurean antiques shop Lucullus, allowed his soulfully elegant New Orleans house to be featured in a nice long spread. And he contributed the wonderful text too.

But I'm also drawn to a story about Charleston.

The respected gallery, Ann Long Fine Art, is among the hot spots mentioned. (That's Ann above.) I was intrigued to learn she has a section online for young collectors. One of the small works in that area caught my eye: Hanging Feathers II, by Elizabeth Leary,  shown here at top. The size is about six by seven inches.

Image three courtesy Southern Accents.


Women's Work

Historically for women needlework was essentially a requirement. A practical necessity (mending household linens and clothing) but also an expected part of the well-bred woman's repertoire. During the mid-to-late 20th century when skill with a needle and thread was no longer necessary for survival, traditional "ladies arts" came to be viewed, by some, as "granny."

But in the last 20 years many young women have rediscovered needlework and embraced it. Some, like Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, use thread and canvas as an artistic medium. During her exploratory days, fine artist Elliott Puckette did monochromatic needlepoint. Others, including Ellen Baker, are putting a modern spin on classic domestic applications such as hand towels or children's clothes. And of course others are working in a traditional style.

In tune with the times, the V & A offers extensive online resources related to embroidery and needlework: history, patterns to download, links to embroidery blogs, lists of contemporary embroidery artists and so on.

Shown at top:
Embroidery design on squared paper
Il Monte, Libro Secondo
Giovanni Bindoni

Second image:
Red disa
Illustration from The Illustrated Needlework Book
Florence Caulfield
About 1910

Both courtesy the V & A.

BTW: You may enjoy these related links about Leontine Linens founder, Jane Scott Hodges, and the woman who preceded her, Eleanor Beard:
Eleanor Beard history
Eleanor Beard main site

Image of Jane Scott via Leontine Linens and Georgetown News-Graphic

Click here to see Jane Scott on Martha's show.



I was reading about our talented friend Grant Gibson, and his participation in the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, when I stumbled upon Lost Art Salon. The gallery offers a large selection of vintage pieces. Today, my eyes went straight to a pair of mid-century linocuts by Ethel McKenzie Sullivan. Individually the prints are 6.5 by 7.5 inches and cost $195. (Or $350 for the pair.)

I thought this would be a good time to offer a super-short linocut recap too. As MOMA explains, linocuts are a "type of relief print in which linoleum is used as the printing surface." The artist digs in with knives or other strong tools to carve her desired image into the linoleum. When the process of linoleum printmaking was introduced in the early 20th century, it did not initially garner much respect. Since linoleum is a relatively soft material to work with, many artists viewed linocuts as too easy, in contrast with the centuries-old process of working with wood.

But when Matisse and Picasso embraced the new technique, the perception changed. Linoleum is especially suited to engraving that yields smooth white lines, and for a time linocuts were popular for producing large decorative prints. I think it's been documented extensively throughout the blogosphere that 21st century artist Hugo Guinness shows his linocuts at John Derian. Click here for more history.

Images three and four are courtesy Georgetown Frame Shoppe.

Henri Matisse Linocut
Pasiphae Suite - 1944
Red Ornament II
Edition of 100
Duthuit 38
12-3/4" x 9-7/8"
(image three)

Henri Matisse Linocut
Pasiphae Suite - 1944
Figure With The Sun Edition of 100 Duthuit 38
12-3/4" x 9-7/8"
(image four)


In Case You Missed It...

Coleen Rider has added to her online shop, Coleen & Co., a nice range of work from Los Angeles artist Wendy Sue Morris. (Look under "featured artists" in her menu.) Shown above is a detail from a mixed media work on paper. Coleen has also updated her site with background information about Morris, and of course if you are in the L.A. area you can stop by Coleen & Co. to better appreciate the saturated colors and textures seen in these pieces.


What is Gouache?

Someone asked me to explain gouache. The word can be used in two ways: in reference to a specific type of watercolor paint, or to describe any painting created with this heavier opaque medium. In other words, the image at the top shows tubes of gouache, but at the same time the second picture highlights "a framed gouache."

Artists appreciate gouache for its density. Unlike sheer watercolor, gouache allows the artist to capture deeper, richer hues. And as you can see here, the saturated red gouache reveals none of the underlying white paper like transparent watercolor would. Gouache also dries to a matte finish, so works created with it are well-suited to printing (reproduction). However, the work in this case, Field, Hale County, 2002, is an original painting by Annie Butrus.

From her red-and-white gouache series, it has a cadmium red ground. White forms are silhouetted against this darker background. As she works, Annie paints on the positive space with a latex resist, and over-paints that with red gouache erased to reveal the positive form and the white of the paper beneath.

Most of Annie's work is focused on the changing landscape in and around Birmingham, Alabama, where she lives. Stylistically, some of her pieces are influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e floating world pictures, and I especially like the subtle Asian characteristics of this painting.

The paints at the top are available at Dick Blick.


To Frame or Not to Frame

In terms of aesthetics, not necessarily conservation, another option when displaying art is to ditch the frame. (Even the always polished editors at Southern Accents have discussed this approach on occasion.) It is usually a less formal look, and of course in the case of contemporary abstract art, "going frameless" is often considered the sleekest thing. Clearly it's more economical.

But sometimes a classic gilt frame can be a stunning counterpoint to modern art.

As Emily says, "Frames are works of art in themselves. If you need to add a frame to a painting, you can really add a touch of your own personality and taste to the piece."

As long as the frame doesn't detract from the art, have fun experimenting. Ask a framer to show you a variety of moldings and see which widths and finishes are most pleasing with your painting. (Gilded moldings have different undertones, some skew toward red, some are clearer and brighter.)

Coleen Rider has a great print of Matisse's Design for cover of Exhibition: "H. Matisse," 1951, (gouache on paper, cut-and-pasted) in a slightly unexpected gilt frame. I think the gold is a refreshing choice here, as opposed to black.

For me, a mix of unframed art with very decorative gilt frames on other pieces -- whether a mirror or painting, grouped on the same wall or simply juxtaposed in one room -- is always nice. I posted this image from Elliott Puckette's house just the other day, but it perfectly illustrates the concept.

The painting in the first two images is from Annie Butrus' Peachtree Trail series.

Puckette's house was photographed by Anita Calero, as seen in Elle Decor, October 2000.

Lunch and Textiles

If you plan to be in Washington D.C. today, The Textile Museum is hosting a lunchtime talk in conjunction with the exhibition Timbuktu to Tibet: Rugs and Textiles of the Hajji Babas. Sumru Belger Krody, Associate Curator for Eastern Hemisphere Collections, will discuss how individual weavers conjured, copied and commercialized designs from the palace to the village market. The event is free and no reservations are required. So again, it's Thursday, February 19, from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Shown above, pieces from the exhibition. At top, a wool, knotted pile village rug from Turkey, 18th or 19th century. Last, a bridal veil from Central Asia, Tajikistan, 18th or 19th century. Both images by Don Tuttle Photography.

Since you asked, antique and vintage Turkish rugs are available at Allan Arthur. The example above is mid-20th-century.


A Little Break

Whenever I need a virtual escape -- just a little pause to recharge -- I like to read a page from Carolyn Quatermaine Revealed. An artist, textile designer, and stylist, Quartermaine has had some interesting adventures. Her passion for flowers is especially appealing.

She says:

"I went to a rose farm just outside Marrakesh to buy flowers for a video that was being filmed in Morocco. Everywhere you looked there were acres of roses and everyday the flowers were freshly picked. The heads were very small, very compact, dots of pure color, and we stood and chose the colors we wanted. You could have anything: scarlet, fuchscia, yellow, orange. I paid for the roses and loaded the boxes into the car.

"Setting up the video took hours. It was hot. The director wanted a fountain filled. When that was done, I took the boxes of roses and emptied them into the water. And then, as it was so hot and the petals looked so beautiful floating on the surface, I threw myself in too. There is something so romantic about having your whole body immersed in water that has been turned into a sea of petals. You looked down and all you saw were liquid flowers. That moment sums up everything I love about flowers."

Quote and image two are from Carolyn Quatermaine Revealed, Rizzoli, 1997. Images one and three are by Martin Morrell. The last image is by James Merrell.