Style Court

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



[China, late Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture, ca. 3300-2250 BCE. Gifts of Charles Lang Freer.]

A study in contrasts: truly old versus new and earthy versus polished. Above, Chinese jade (nephrite) disks from the Freer Gallery of Art exhibition, Ancient Chinese Jades & Bronzes. This show highlights over 100 pieces representing some of the greatest examples of Chinese art outside China. Below, a less precious 21st century object -- Kenneth Jay Lane's resin jade links.

[Detail view via Shopbop.]

The Russian Connection

[Detail shows contrasting lining of ikat robe with bias-cut striped facing, 19th century, The Textile Museum  Murad Megalli Collection. ]

Last year when I did a post on The Textile Museum's exhibition catalogue, Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, I opted to show the flipside of some of the 19th-century robes highlighted in the book. I thought the linings, made of lively patterned-cotton printed in Russia, might be less familiar than the sumptuous silk ikats shown on the outside. Apparently the humbler linings have been largely ignored in past surveys, but the TM's catalogue includes a detailed essay on these Russian export cloths written by Susan Meller.

[Robe, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara, 1860s-1870s. The Textile Museum 2005.36.2.
The Megalli Collection. Photo by Renée Comet.]

While many of the Russian prints clearly were inspired by fashionable French florals, others are a hybrid of Western and Eastern motifs, writes Meller. Seeing the floral prints juxtaposed with the bold ikats from Uzbekistan, "Eurasian flair" comes to mind. And that makes me think of the young, very much buzzed about fabric house, Tissus Tartares.

[Photo by Paul Costello courtesy the WSJ.]

The WSJ. Magazine has a great new story on the nascent fabric company founded by Olya Thompson and business partner Nathalie Farman-Farma, and you can see Farman-Farma's Chelsea house in the February issue of World of Interiors.

[Tissus Tartares' carpet inspired print, “Lermontov,” named for the 19th-century novelist and poet.]

Colors of the Oasis remains on view in D.C. through March 13, 2011.

Rhythm and Blues (and Greens)

[Mokume Battuto Ocean Jug by Caleb Siemon.]

In the National Gallery of Art film, Paul Mellon: In His Own Words, the museum's founding benefactor and long-time trustee says, "Collecting is the sort of thing that creeps up on you, prompted by a number of influences, some of which you are never conscious of...When I buy a [work] some feature about it may remind me consciously or unconsciously of some past thought or feeling, moment of pleasure, or even sadness. It might just be a fortuitous combination of colors, a certain calmness, or a beautiful sense of proportion."

[Thread Cane Grass Closed Bowl by Caleb Siemon.]

Sometimes we see things in a painting, sculpture, or vase that have little to do with the artist's concept. The patterns of glassblower Caleb Siemon's pieces could be interpreted in many different ways,  and the names of the objects shown here offer a clue to what he had in mind -- I believe "mokume" is a reference to a grain-like pattern -- but I see textiles in both. (BTW:  Siemon and his work have been popping up everywhere lately from The White House and Harper's Bazaar to Lonny and Anthropologie.)

The NGA's 48-minute film about Mellon can be downloaded for free in iTunes (under podcasts, not documentaries).

Related past post: Lahariya II.


Textile of the Day

[Detail view from the National Gallery of Australia.]

Mood indigo continues with a 17th-18th-century handspun cotton cloth from Sari to Sarong: 500 years of Indian and Indonesian textile exchange. The hand-drawn batik cloth was created for trade to Indonesia using natural dyes, as well as mordant block-printing. More on the 2004 textile exhibition here.

Maybe balmy destinations and sarongs are on my mind because Gauguin: Maker of Myth opened today at the National Gallery in D.C. Not since the 1980s, when the NGA's major retrospective, The Art of Paul Gauguin, was organized, has there been a Gauguin show of this magnitude in the U.S.


More Eastern-Inspired Fare

With deadlines looming, I need to make this a short blogging week, but here are three things I didn't want to pass by:

Ralph Lauren's spring 2011 Blue Label ad campaign filled with Southeast Asian-influenced furnishings and a few indigo fabrics that remind me of Japanese folk textiles. (I also spotted what appears to be an iconic blue-and-white striped Indian dhurrie in the background.)

One more from Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century: the photographer's Preparations for the Baris Dance, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, 1949.

[Goddess Head brooch Designed by Van Cleef & Arpels New York, NY, 1970; Gold, turquoise, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds; Courtesy of Richters of Palm Beach; Photo: Lucien Capehart Photography Inc.]

And an intricate piece from Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, on view at the Cooper-Hewitt through June 5, 2011. With a delicate head of carved turquoise, this brooch represents the firm's creative exploration of international motifs. Globe-trotting clients influenced Van Cleef & Arpels greatly during the 20th century, and Exoticism is a key theme in the glittering exhibition.

Related past post: Virtual Escapes.

Peonies and India

[Top image, my own; clothes shown above and below from Ralph Lauren.]

We're all very accustomed to Western fashion and interiors with Chinese influences -- in Ralph Lauren's fall 2011 collection there are nods to The Last Emperor and 1930s Asian glamour -- but I have to say, I know very little about Indian textiles with Chinese motifs. The latter is the focus of a new book, Peonies & Pagodas: Embroidered Parsi Textiles.

[Below, a detailed view of a late-19th-century sari with Chinese figures.]

I mentioned this title last year but haven't noticed it for sale yet in the U.S. Good news though: it appears that the book can be ordered through Vedams. The catalogue draws from textiles in the TAPI Collection, specifically pieces worn by Parsi women and children in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Editors Shila Shah and Tulsi Vatsal describe the textiles as "embroidered with exotic Chinese patterns—pagodas, pavilions, bridges, peonies, bamboos, peacocks and phoenixes—executed mainly in monochromatic white on brightly colored silks." Because Parsi merchants collaborated so well with the English East India Company, the editors attribute the Parsi penchant for Chinese design in part to exposure through international trade. The "Chinamania" that swept through Britain in the 19th century is said to have influenced Parsi tastes, too.

 Related past post: Summer Reading.


Observers and Collectors

[Saint-Tropez, France, 1959, Henri Cartier-Bresson 
from Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century currently on view at the High.]

[Martine's Legs, 1967, Henri Cartier-Bresson,

I still haven't tried the official interactive scavenger hunt, Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century Trek -- a game designed to accompany the major photography exhibition on view now at the High -- because I've been too wrapped up in making my own notes. Whether he was photographing world leaders or anonymous figures, Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) often captured small moments that told a 20th century story. And his images are filled with interesting layers, like textiles and architectural details, that capture my interest. (Can't help noticing that one of the basket bags shown at top is nearly a doppleganger for this bag from TB's spring 2011 collection, but it's the Indian print in the second image that I'm most curious about.)

[David Brenneman via the High.]

Of course, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec observed the world around him, too. As mentioned last month, the High is home to Howard and Irene Stein's world-renowned collection of works by Toulouse-Lautrec and other artists of his era including Gauguin, Degas, and Bonnard. The Museum's Director of Collections and Exhibitions, David Brenneman, will talk about the stellar collection tomorrow night, February 24, at 7 p.m. in the High's Hill Auditorium. The event is free but tickets are required. Click here for details.


Good Things from Seema

[Pillows by Seema Krish. Example above is hand-block-printed and hand-embroidered cotton, and the pillow below is woven. Both have silk zip pulls.]

I'm only part way through Nada Chaldecott's book, Dhurries, but she has opened my eyes to a world of rhythmic patterns beyond the iconic stripes I already love. And now, thanks to a tip from textile designer Seema Krish, I've added another dhurrie edition to my wishlist: Dhurrie: Flatwoven Rugs of India by Shyam Ahuja.

Like Chaldecott's comprehensive work, this volume also shines a light on rugs that have been less appreciated than their knotted pile carpet cousins. When I Googled Ahuja searching for past reviews, I came across a related 1980s Times piece on the rise of the humble Indian dhurrie. 

[Image courtesy Seema Krish.]

Seema's own work, shown here at the top, is informed by her Indian heritage and she has an impressive textile-related library, so I listen when she recommends a book. To learn more about her studio and collection, click here and here.

Related past posts: Soft Focus and Continuing the Thread. And a friendly reminder: LACMA's lavish exhibition, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, closes in five days on February 27th.


Orchid Daze

[Photography by Coleen Rider courtesy Balustrade and Bitters. Design by Schuyler Samperton.]

After the balmy long weekend we just experienced in Atlanta, a post about antidotes for the winter blahs seems really ill-timed. But rather than scrap everything I had planned, I do want to share a few quick links.

 [Image via the Atlanta Botanical Garden.]

The Atlanta Botanical Garden's Fuqua Orchid Center houses the largest collection of species orchids in the U.S., and the tropical assortment comes into focus each winter with Orchid Daze -- a celebration that involves weekend orchid markets, orchid care clinics, cooking demonstrations and, most importantly, exhibitions of phalaenopsis, dendrobiums, cattleyas and other exotic plants. This year's Orchid Daze: Liquid Landscapes will extend into April.

[Bottle with inlaid design of orchids,1830-1860. Agano Yaguma , (Japanese, 1795-1871) Edo period. Stoneware with white slip inlaid under clear glaze. Freer and Sackler Galleries. Gift of Charles Lang Freer.]

The bottle I chose to share, above, is Japanese, but orchids in Chinese paintings are the focus of a current exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in D.C. The show compliments Orchids: A View from the East, on view at the National Museum of Natural History through April 24, 2011.


The Same but Different

The composition is a repeat of the Truman Capote shot but this postcard just arrived from London. A wonderful friend knew how much I'd appreciate the V & A's Turkish fritware panels. According to the Museum, fritware was essentially a convincing substitute for high-fired Chinese porcelain -- an artificial ceramic. Composed of fine quartz powder rather than clay, the whiteness of fritware heightened blue glazes. (Check out a gorgeous array of the wares here.)

The thoughtful postcard definitely took me back to Dining By Design, 2007, and Margaret Russell's tented vignette with Isnik-inspired fabrics by Mehmet and Dimonah Iskel.

Truth be told, the creative tables Margaret has been involved with typically are my favorites, so I was happy to see the editor is being honored this year for her contributions to DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, the beneficiary of Dining By Design). She is credited with helping the event grow from a smaller one night, one city affair to a highly-anticipated multi-evening series that tours nationwide. Read all about the 14th annual happening here.

All images my own.


Up Next: Chinese Sculpture, Scanning, JA, and More DIY

[Image courtesy Arthur M. Sackler Gallery]

Here's a preview of things I'll explore soon. On the museum beat, Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan opens at the Sackler at the end of the month. This exhibition blends the real with the virtual -- ancient sculpture with digital elements. I'm intrigued because of my interest in Chinese art, but I'm also curious about the highly creative use of digital technology.

Previously on view at the Smart Museum of Art, the landmark show uses advanced 3-D scanning equipment to reconstruct a lost Chinese treasure. In the 20th century, the contents of the stone temples were dismantled and offered for sale on the global art market. For the new exhibition, an imaging team photographed and scanned roughly 100 pieces scattered around the world in museums and private collections -- objects thought to be from Xiangtangshan -- to recreate the original appearance of the caves. Visitors to the Sackler will see the largest version of the installation, encompassing 13 Xiangtangshan sculptures from the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art.

[My hand-painted striped pillow]

Shifting gears to something far more humble, the fourth installment of my "Projects" series will deal with hand-painting fabric. You're probably having visions of summer camp projects gone bad, but I couldn't resist a little experimenting.

[Middle collage credits clockwise from top left: my copy of Nada Chaldecott's book, Dhurries; striped dress from Calypso St. BarthGeorge IV Mahogany Daybed, Circa 1830,  Niall Hobhouse Collection, Christie's;  Nathan Turner project -- Amanda Peet's house photographed by Coliena Rentmeesterdomino, December/January 2008; vintage dhurrie and mid-century vintage sofa both from Turner's store.]

The final inspiration board is heavy on Nathan Turner.

[Again, Nathan Turner interior design. Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna, domino, December/January 2009.]

But if I decide my project leaves something to be desired, there will soon be a new pillow-filled shop in town. Next month, Atlanta's Westside will welcome another boutique: Jonathan Adler's 14th free-standing location opens at 1198 Howell Mill Road on Friday, March 25. The 3,000 square-foot store will occupy a reclaimed building next to Taqueria del Sol. Hand-loomed wool pillow and leather elephant footstool shown above are both samples of JA's current wares.

Related past post: Projects: Block-Printing on Linen.


Dressing Down

[George IV Mahogany Daybed, Circa 1830, Attributed to John Taylor.
West ~ East - The Niall Hobhouse Collection, Christie's.]

After reading this old review in the Journal of Design History, I'm even more anxious for my copy of Nada Chaldecott's book, Dhurries, to arrive. When it does, I'll share my own less erudite impressions. In the meantime, here's a terrific use of dhurrie as upholstery. Lends a relaxed feel to this stately early-19th-century piece from a 2008 Christie's sale.

I didn't buy the Hobhouse catalogue at the time of the sale, but I recently spotted it here.


Museum Shopping

[A small Spotlight 2011 find by Annie Butrus. Photo my own.]

Julep cups are usually my go-to containers for blooms cut short but sometimes I'm in the mood for an earthier look, like the Baule pottery posted last year. At the moment, this seven inch vase handmade on the Ivory Coast of Africa is calling my name again. The Museum for African Art gift shop offers an array of these ceramics, which are discounted this month as part of a store-wide 50 percent off sale.

Books are not discounted, but I noticed that the exhibition catalogue published to accompany Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection is still available for an easy-on-the-budget $19.95.

[Baskets clockwise from the top: Zulu Lidded Basket, ca. 1990s, created by Beauty Nxgongo using Ilala palm fiber, South Africa, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; second basket also created by Beauty Nxgongo and included in Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art; Kongo Lidded Basket, Mid-to-late 20th century, National Museum of African Art.]

In case you missed the update to the previous post, the latest issue of RL Magazine highlights the Museum's future home designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects for a prime spot on Museum Mile.  Renderings show trapezoidal windows inspired by African basket weave. I'm well aware that the patterns of the baskets above aren't dopplegangers for the windows; they just caught my attention today.

Not for sale in the gift shop, the two very graphic examples with zigzags were made by contemporary South African weaver, Beauty Nxgongo. Her work is represented in The Met's permanent collection and she uses natural sources to create her colors.

Related past posts: Sweet Greet and There's More.


Never Gets Old

 [Above, detail view, Kantha (embroidered quilt) made in Jessore, Bangladesh or India, second half of the 19th century. Artist/maker unknown. Cotton plain weave with cotton embroidery in back, buttonhole, chain, darning, satin, running, brick, eye, zig zag variation, and star stitches. 74 1/2 x 53 inches.Gift of Stella Kramrisch, 1968. Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

While checking out Stephanie Merry's Washington Post coverage of Second Lives: The Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles, a newly-opened Textile Museum exhibition, I noticed a beautifully detailed image of one of the kanthas in the show and thought back to a quote posted here last year:

Kanthas -- I never tire of looking at them. Some Textiles have a sameness, but each kantha has an individual quality. They are folk art.

-- Lord McAlpine quoted in Hali, fall 2010

The antique kantha shown above-- an embroidered Bengal textile made with recycled remnants from old clothes, such as saris --  is not from Second Lives. This example is a favorite from the 2010 exhibition, Kantha, highlights of which can still be enjoyed here. And the gorgeous accompanying catalog remains in stock, too.

I'll be back soon with a proper post but in the meantime I want to leave you with this link to RL Magazine's coverage of Second Lives, as well as Merry's piece. Both are definitely worth a look. RL also covers an upcoming addition to NYC's Museum Mile, the Museum for African Art. The story notes that the new facade, designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, will feature trapezoidal windows suggestive of African baskets.

Plateau basket available here. Past posts that reference African design can be found here.


Good Work

I envy the packed crowd sitting in LACMA's Bing Theater tonight. Steve Martin is scheduled to be there talking about his latest novel, An Object of Beauty. (Fingers crossed for the museum to film the conversation and later share it here.) If you're not familiar with Martin's new book, it explores the contemporary art business and the roller coaster of the last two decades. Oh so cleverly, he seamlessly weaves in some art history, too. But, above all, the novel is about the collector's drive.

Partly because Martin's book has been on my mind today, an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library grabbed my attention: Good Modern Work: Women Gallerists in America champions the pioneers who promoted art in the early part of the 20th century. Included are Peggy Guggenheim, Edith Halpert, Marie Harriman, Antoinette Kraushaar, and Mary Curran.

A 21st century collector of curiosities also caught my eye this week with her pictures of Jaipur. And by the way, you can click here to peek at LACMA's current exhibition, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, on view through February 27, 2011.

[Tory Burch's Venetian Glass Bracelet inspired by the glass artisans of Venice and arts patron, Peggy Guggenheim.]

Related past posts:

Who Knew?
The Heart of Her Home

Living with Art: Kristen Buckingham

Angie's Sources