Style Court

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


Living with Art: From Katharine Graham to Vicki Anderson

[Morris Louis, Where, 1960, Magna on canvas, 99 3/8 X 142 1/2 inches, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.]

[Morris Louis from the exhibition Morris Louis Now: An American Master Revisited. Image via the Hirshhorn.]

[Katharine Graham's Georgetown library in 1973, photographed by Horst and published in Horst Interiors.]

I think some people shy away from owning very vibrantly colored art -- take for example pieces similar to Morris Louis's, above -- because they fear that once the painting is home and on their wall, the room will feel as if a box of primary-hued crayons exploded in it. But Katherine Graham, The Washington Post publisher and passionate modern art collector, had two really bold paintings in a library described by Barbara Plumb as "peaceful."

[Detail, Katharine Graham's Georgetown library in 1973, photographed by Horst and published in Horst Interiors.]

Graham's room included a Color Field painting by Morris Louis and a work by Diego Rivera. Instead of opting for a backdrop of gallery-white or beige, she went with a stately, saturated hue. (While aubergine-appearing in Horst's photograph, a reliable source informs me that the walls may have actually been brown.)  The choice allowed the art to stand out yet not feel jarring, I think.  In 1973, when her house was a hub for Washington, D.C.'s social and political scene,  the library must have felt incredibly fresh. Cozy and traditional enough, but still quite contemporary.

Graham inherited English antiques from her dad along with an interest in Chinese art from her mother, so other pieces brought an interesting balance to the library; on her coffee table she had a grand Chinese horse and on the mantle she placed a Japanese Noh mask.   

[Image courtesy Angie Hranowsky.] 

The purple den Angie Hranowsky designed for Coastal Living's 2009 Idea Cottage reminds me of a more casual, distant cousin of the Graham library (at least as it appeared in Horst's book) .

[Screengrab from Coastal Living's 2009 video library.]

[Detail from Coastal Living's October, 2009 issue.]

Although, Angie incorporated lots of patterned fabrics, including David Hicks' Hippie Beads, Carolina Irving's Andaluz, Peter Dunham's Ikat, and Quadrille's  Inca Gold.

[Photo by Julia Lynn courtesy Angie Hranowsky.]

Click here for a past post about one of the most famous 20th-century pairings of bold wall paint and art in a classic residential setting. 

[Screengrabs from The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968. Faye Dunaway working in the police station and Dunaway and Steve McQueen at a charity art auction.]

And, on the subject of art bringing a sense of luxury to any room, I recently spotted a vaguely Picasso-like still life hanging on a police station wall in The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968.  In the past, we've talked about the aesthetic qualities of both the '68 and '99 versions, but I had never noticed the the police station painting before. It appears to be paired with the desk used temporarily by Faye Dunaway's character, Vicki.

Morris Louis Now: An American Master Revisited was organized by the High in 2006 and traveled to the Hirshhorn in 2007.


Karena said...

I have done works very similar to Morris Louis 's. Clicking on the link for the Gauguin now.
Art by Karena

Mrs. Blandings said...

Graham's library, sakes, another reason to want that elusive book.

Emile de Bruijn said...

Ah, those seventies brown corduroy (or similar material) sofas, with brown walls to match: nostalgia! But Mark Hampton also did some interesting rooms with brown walls, didn't he?

John T said...

I provided architectural services for Kay Graham in the 80s, both for this house in Georgetown and the apartment at the U.N. Plaza. She was the perfect client, knowing what she wanted and able to make instant decisions, but leaving all the details to the professionals whose judgement she trusted. How I wish they all were like her!

Shannon Morris (Georgia College Curator) said...

I love seeing spaces where people live with art. And what a treat it must be to live among such heavy hitters.