Style Court

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


Now and Then

[Recent edition. Photo my own.]

One of the strengths of An Object of Beauty is the way, without ever becoming pedantic, author Steve Martin skillfully weaves a little art history 101 throughout his entertaining fiction. He incorporates a significant array of artists too, from the giants to the lesser known, even putting American illustrator Maxfield Parrish into a key plot twist.

[First edition. Image via E. Wharton & Co.]

As mentioned in a couple of past posts, Parrish -- most fashionable and famous in the 1920s -- did the illustrations for Edith Wharton's Italian Villas and Their Gardens; in the end she thought his interpretation was too disconnected from her text. The original early-20th-century binding was done by Decorative Designers -- a Parrish-inspired design with gold, green, blue, brown, and white on ungrained dark green cloth. When The Mount Press and Rizzoli published a facsimile just a few years ago, the binding under the new dust jacket featured the same stamping but only in gold on green -- no other colors.

In 2008, The Athenæum of Philadelphia had an exhibition of book designs by Margaret Armstrong and the prolific Decorative Designers firm encompassing late-19th-century styles through to midcentury-modern. Art Bound can still be explored online.

[Image from Art Bound.]

Margaret Armstrong designed the binding of Wharton's In Morocco published by Scribners in 1920. (There's more info about the DD firm over at The University of Alabama.) And BTW, currently on view at The Athenæum is The Decorated Book: Continuing A Tradition, a look at contemporary book arts.

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