Style Court

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


Portraits: Another Option

Yes, this image is small and it has already been posted here a few times in the past, but I think David Bates' large abstract of a seated woman, shown above the fireplace, is worth noting again. Or more to the point, its dual meaning.

As Renee Peck explained in a 2007 Times-Picayune article, New Orleans-based decorator, Heidi Friedler, and her husband Tripp selected Bates' piece for their library. It's not a portrait of anyone in the Friedler family (the woman portrayed is actually the artist's wife) yet Heidi says the painting "kind of evokes a feel of me".

I think that occurred serendipitously for the couple -- Tripp Friedler was already a fan of Bates' work -- but for anyone who bristles at the thought of a literal portrait of herself hanging around, a found painting or sketch that conveys her spirit is an interesting idea.

Image at top by Kathy Anderson. If you are growing weary of abstract portraits, I have something more traditional in the works.


Saving Face IV

Lee Kleinhelter remembers sitting in a chair for hours when she was around seven-years-old while an artist painted her portrait. As a grown-up, she can appreciate traditional oil portraits, but they don't really suit her modern style.

Lee is all about clean lines. Even her wedding was crisp, tailored, and super-chic.

She says, "Classic oil portraits are elegant and nice to grow up with, but just too serious and reminiscent of my grandparent's house -- for my taste. Also, I enjoy experimenting and not being committed to a piece forever."

However, Lee adds that one day she might consider some sort of contemporary portraits of her own children -- something with an edge. She finds that a truly outstanding portrait can be rare because often the real personality of the sitter doesn't come through. In the meantime, her dad is threatening to bequeath to her his very large, very stately portrait done with his horse when he was a teen.

Angie Hranowsky also has a modernist bent. She says, "There was not a portrait of me in our house when I was growing up, but it was just me and my mom and our house was cool, but not formal. I don't know that I would want one of myself now. Certainly if an artist friend did one for me as a gift I would love it and cherish it, but I can't see myself commissioning one."

Angie adds, "I opted for Carter Kustera silhouettes of my own children instead of formal portraits. That said, I love to buy old or vintage portraits of other people. I especially love mid-twentieth-century portraits and how they evoke that place in time through the color palette, hair style, jewelry, and clothes as well as the painting style."

Like Social Primer, Ellen Luckett Baker grew up in Alabama with classic portraits of her brother and herself hanging in the house. She describes the paintings as realistic but soft portrayals.

"I don't think I would like a self-portrait as an adult, but I love thinking about them for my children," she says. Last year, Ellen made her own silhouettes of her daughters. If she does commission something, these artists appeal to her right now: Kiki and Polly and Middleburg Folk Art Studio.

Art is a big deal in gallery owner Emily Amy's family. Her dad is an artist, and while there was not a conventional portrait of Emily in the house when she was growing up, he once painted an oil of a seated blond when she was in high school. "It was very abstracted, but I always thought it was a representation of me."

Emily continues, "I do not currently have a portrait of myself in my [grown-up] home. Though, I have plenty of professional photographs from our wedding! I would gladly hang a portrait if I received one from an artist friend as a gift, but I doubt that I would seek one out. Also, I would feel much more comfortable if it was abstract!"

The portraits shown at top (images one and three) are by Andrew Bucci courtesy Cole Pratt Gallery. Lee's wedding photo is from Southern Weddings.

Images four and five are courtesy Angie Hranowsky; Brie Williams photographed Angie's daughter as seen in Charleston Home. The silhouettes are courtesy Ellen Luckett Baker. The last picture is courtesy Emily Amy.


A Self-Portrait

Last fall I mentioned that David Douglas Duncan's Goodbye Picasso is one of those special old volumes that can be found though a vintage book seller, like Paris Hotel Boutique, or, on a good day, at an Atlanta public library branch.

Today I know a little more about the book's cover. According to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the jacket design is based on a photo-collage created using Picasso's self-portrait as an owl -- with holes for his eyes -- and a photograph by David Douglas Duncan.

Beneath the dust jacket, the original book was bound in jute from Bangladesh. This cloth was loomed in England and dyed to match the background color found in a Picasso portrait. The lilac of the title-ink color was also matched to a small bit of lilac seen in a beret in the portrait (found on page 140, if you have a copy).

Thanks for the images Paris Hotel Boutique!


Vintage Books

Just in at Paris Hotel Boutique: A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy and Vogue's Book of Etiquette, 1948, the Millicent Fenwick edition. The Vogue book is bound in dark maroon and has a pretty scroll detail. (Oh, and by the way, the 1920s edition of the etiquette tome is available too.)

Back to Bed

Remember when we talked about Rubie Green's "Habibi" back in January?

It's the wonderful graphic print inspired by Billy Baldwin, shown in black-and-white above, and now it is available in bedding through Rubie Green.

The new organic bedding collection includes three of Rubie Green's most popular prints: East Village in pink, Tillinghast in yellow, and, of course, Habibi in black. There is also a solid white, "Classic," which features a double row of black embroidery. RG founder, Michelle Adams, designed the offerings to mix and match. And by the way, she explains that all of her bedding comes from a factory that is certified eco-friendly by the Global Organic Textile Standard.

Prices range from $39 for standard pillow cases to $199 for a King sheet set. When the collection officially launches here on Tuesday, March 24, I think you will enjoy seeing Patrick Cline's beautiful photography along with Michelle's styling. Many of the vignettes were shot at the chic apartment of former domino editor-at-large, Tom Delavan.

Could that be an Elliott Puckette on the mantle below?

The Rubie Green website may be down temporarily today as the team prepares for tomorrow's launch. Congratulations to Michelle for her mention in the April In Style!


The Exotic Series

I may sound like a broken record, but I really love Coleen Rider's taste in art. The latest edition to her online shop, Coleen & Co., is a series of limited edition prints from our very talented friend, Victoria Molinelli. Just for Coleen, Vicky has created a group of watercolor renderings of vintage interiors in wonderfully rich jewel tones. Each room has an exotic bent. Hop over to see the lush colors and patterns. (Prices are under $300.)


Saving Face II

There's a common thread running through all the opinions on portraits that I've been gathering from designers, magazine editors, and stylemakers. Julie Miller, Southern Accents' senior editor, sums it up: a portrait has special appeal when it was commissioned or suggested by someone other than the sitter. (Except in the case of the artist's self-portrait. There are always exceptions.)

When Julie was 16, she and her sister both sat for portraits commissioned by their mother. "Her plan is to one day give us each the portrait of the other. I love this idea. Personally, I'm not interested in having a portrait of myself hanging around. Maybe my sister and I will then give them to our children, swapping back, so my niece's family will end up with her mother's portrait, and my son's will have mine," she says.

Julie adds, "The serious commissioned [grown-up] portrait is not for me. I would have one done of my child -- that's the difference. Of course, if it is a casual and impromptu thing, that can be sort of fun. We have a five-minute sketch of my husband done by an artist on a lark. Love that -- it makes me smile."

Social Primer has no problem embracing the stately portrait. His mother introduced him to the idea at an early age. (Apparently along with charming bow ties.)

This the four-year old SP.

"It was painted by a wonderful old Southern lady, Miss Louise Gaberlavage. She also ran the kindergarten that everyone in my little Alabama hometown attended. She painted many children's portraits over the years -- including my mother's -- but had long retired from painting when my mother approached her to paint me. After much cajoling and abundant charm, my mother convinced Miss Louise to let me sit for her. As for my behavior and patience, I seem to remember that copious amounts of homemade lemonade and sugar cookies kept me in line," he says.

"I am nothing if not a traditionalist, so I love portraits in private houses. I would live for a grand portrait hanging above the fireplace in the library of my country estate, If I had a fireplace, or a library or a country estate. But I also love the idea of grand formal portraits splashed on the wall of a contemporary house. The painting would have to be off-beat, though. Perhaps in the style of the famous Sargent portrait of my favorite historical figure, Lord Ribblesdale."

Social Primer is currently preparing for another "grander" opening of his terrific pop-up shop located in West Hollywood at 644 North Robertson Boulevard. Some of his happy customers include, Charlotte Moss, Nate Berkus, Thom Filicia and Lulu de Kwiatkowski. And writer Michael Cunningham and playwright Christopher Durang order stationery at SP. (His prices are unexpectedly reasonable.) I'll share more on the opening soon. Please stay tuned for more family portrait talk too.


The first three works shown at the top are by Francoise Gilot.

Aurelia and Water Lilies
Ink Wash
Image via Gallery M

Self Portrait in Riviera
Ink Wash
Image via Gallery M

Aurelia in Blue with Daisy
Ink and color ink wash on paper
Image via
© Françoise Gilot. Photo, Glenn Holcombe


Saving Face

[All image credits follow below.]

By the time I was in fourth grade, I was aware of two – no, make that three – types of portraits: The kind my friend Millie describes as the ones with fuzzy-focused girls in white dresses in front of the azaleas; the boy with spaniel; and the art school sketch.

Like Millie, I always wondered why my parents didn’t contact one of the artists who advertised in Veranda and commission a painting. Most of my fellow Girl Scouts had been immortalized in pastel. And while my grandparents (on Mom’s side) weren’t big portrait patrons either, they did have a sculpted self-portrait made by my then-undergraduate-artist aunt. But Momo and Granddaddy didn’t quite have David Hicks’ flair for tablescapes, so somehow the bust ended up on top of their TV in the den.

Later I realized that women who lead cool lives always seem to have a bunch of great drawings given to them by artist boyfriends or pals. (Francoise Gilot being an ultimate example.) Recently, Mrs. Blandings toured a chic woman’s apartment where there was no shortage of sketches with interesting stories attached, you know, “Oh, so and so just did that by the pool.”

In her typical self-deprecating way, Mrs. Blandings claims that to date no one has been inspired to sketch her in any situation.

Millie's experience has been different. "Going to art school and being married to an artist, I actually have an embarrassing number of portraits of myself. They are mostly drawing exercises that I kept, though I have not had one hanging in years," she explains.

"I did just hang one that my husband sketched: Girl with Remote Control. It is only from my nose down and is a bit abstract, so it is not so obvious it is me."

Millie and her husband happen to have a nude by another artist (of a different woman) hanging in their living room. It's a really strong piece of art, but every guest that enters the house asks if it's Mille; she's thinking about taking that one down.

No, that's not January Jones above. When another Southerner, Mary Laura, was about 20, her parents commissioned something. "There is a portrait of me over the mantle in their library in Augusta, Georgia. It is life size. (Seriously, it looks like I am standing on the mantle.) I am not smiling in the portrait, and my natural facial features tend to default to a sort of serious, almost angry, expression. My dad calls it 'Firestarter' because my hair is sort of blowing back and I look like I might shoot flames out of my eyes at any moment," says ML.

Her brother calls it 'the shrine' because, "It's so darn huge and right there when you walk into the house." He thinks that the decorative urns and boxes sitting on the mantle look like they might contain her ashes.

As a baby, Mary Laura's son called anything that scared him a "boo." One day, he walked past the doorway to her parents' library, pointed up at the portrait, and said, "Boo Mama." The portrait has been known as "Boomama" ever since. For example, at Christmas, the family hangs the stockings under "Boomama."

[Francoise Gilot My Children in Brittany II, 1974, color lithograph.]

Still, Mary Laura appreciates these paintings, "I would love a portrait of me with my children and husband, capturing our collective youth. Having them in it would make it bearable to look at! And I know when I'm an old crone, I'll want to look back and see that I once had a single chin and only one set of bags under my eyes."

Millie says that for every unfortunate portrait she has seen, she's also seen a great one. She thinks living with them is kind of like driving a flashy car -- you either have the personality to work it or you don't. "To each his own." What do other Southern tastemakers and editors think of portraits in the home? Stay tuned for the personal experiences of Karen Carroll, Julie Miller, Angie Hranowsky, Lee Kleinhelter and others. To see related past posts, click the "portrait" label below.

Credits: Image one, design journalist Frances Schultz' mantle; Image two, Andrew Bucci oil on paper, circa 1950s; Images three and four, Francoise Gilot (portrait by Picasso) via Saper Galleries; Image five, Francesco Clemente portrait of Kelly Klein, via Town & Country, October 2008; Images six through eight courtesy Brilliant Asylum; Images nine, ten, and twelve courtesy Mary Laura and her gracious parents; Image thirteen, Muffie Faith's South Carolina house via Charleston Home. Photo by Brie Williams; Image fourteen, Suzanne Rheinstein's L.A. house as seen in Southern Accents. Photo by Tria Giovan.


Behind the Scenes at the Gibbes (and Other Charleston Sites)

Explore the Gibbes Museum of Art with a special behind-the-scenes tour of the storeroom led by the Museum's executive director, Angela D. Mack, and curatorial staff. Visitors will have a chance to see where works are kept when not on display, and also learn more from curators about what it takes to put on an exhibition. The event takes place tomorrow, March 18, at 2 p.m. and is part of the five-day Charleston Art & Antiques Forum. Tickets cost $25. Click here to check current online availability.

Shown above are signature pieces from the Gibbes Museum of Art collection:

William Halsey, circa 1971
Collage, paint, glue, canvas and sand on Masonite
(at the top)

Magnolia Grandiflora. No. 9
Anna Heyward Taylor, circa 1935
Wood-block print on paper
(third image)

If you would rather just look at pretty Charleston-related pictures from your computer, hop over to Charleston Weddings. Event planner Tara Guerard has once again brought modernity to the historic William Aiken House. (Be sure to note the floating IKEA chairs!) Photos by Squire Fox.

Above, another view of the fun chairs courtesy Tara's new blog, BonBon.

Exposed brick in the stable suite at the Aiken House. Images via Patrick Properties.