Style Court

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


Revisiting Bell's Collection

[Detail, White, the Victoria and Albert Museum.]

[The back of a sample of White, a printed, Vanessa Bell-attributed furnishing linen from the Courtald Gallery's  2009 exhibition, Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913–19. Numbers indicate fabric color and production. Image is from the catalogue Beyond Bloomsbury.]

Before she was designing printed fabrics, like White, the 1913 Omega Workshops linen we discussed last year, Vanessa Bell was collecting embroidered and block-printed textiles, in addition to paintings, that caught her eye when she traveled abroad. Whether it was a Picasso picked up in Paris or a bedspread in Turkey, her tastes seemed to be ahead of her time. These collecting habits, as well as those of Duncan Grant and Clive Bell, are the focus of an ongoing special tour of Charleston, their former home in Sussex.

But if you can't be there in person, Charleston's online database offers a chance to peek at all sorts of decorative pieces acquired -- and created -- over the years. The mix encompasses late-17th-century majolica, antique decanters, a glazed porcelain Chinese Foo Dog, rugs, curtains, a groovy needlework pillow designed by Bell, and much, much more. On the downside, the images are a bit small with no zoom option. Still, I found White made into chair cushions and was able to confirm that this print was among the Bloomsbury-related fabrics reproduced by Laura Ashley in 1986.


RISD Works

Last year I mentioned artist Jill Davis and her luminous hand-blown glass. She creates these wonderful little decanters inspired by the genie's bottle in Arabian Nights. Although intended for perfume, I think the tiny vessels (typically less than four inches tall) are perfect for holding short-stemmed flowers like camellias and gardenias. Truth be told, even weeds look kind of poetic tucked in.

[Photo my own]

Why the redundant post? As part of my ongoing, albeit very sporadic coverage of museum gift shops, I wanted to help spread the word about another retail source for her pieces: RISD Works -- a shop stocked entirely with wares designed and made by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) alumni and faculty -- offers one of her bottles. Details here.

Davis' bottle in picture two is my own Anthro purchase. No compensation received for the mention.


Bloomsbury Work

[Image © Charleston Trust; photograph by Penelope Fewster
Shown above, Clive Bell's library at Charleston.]

Just another quick nod to Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant prompted by his recognition in the Tate's new exhibition, Picasso & Modern British Art.  Take a closer look at the shelves; according to the Charleston Trust, Grant decorated them in the 1920s. And that iconic 1930s Bloomsbury printed linen on the Venetian chair, Grapes, is also attributed to Grant. (BTW, the upholstery fabric can be found today in Charleston's gift shop. More on past Bloomsbury textile revivals here.) The chair shown above is one of a set of six.

[Image © Charleston Trust; photograph by Penelope Fewster. Shown above, cook books belonging to Charleston's housekeeper Grace Higgens with Quentin Bell's teapot in front.]

If you find yourself in the UK this spring or summer and want to become immersed for a day in the Bloomsbury experience, Charleston offers an array of creative workshops. For example, ceramicist Irena Sibrijns will lead participants in decorating a large unfired bowl using techniques such as sgraffito, dipping and painting on ceramics with slipware, and slip trailing. There are two dates for this full-day workshop: Monday, July 2 or Tuesday, July 3. Details here.

[Tureen, cover and stand of earthenware with painted enamel in various colors. 
Collection of the V & A.]

Above are less rustic but still quintessentially Bloomsbury ceramics designed by Vanessa Bell and made by Arthur J. Wilkinson & Co. Ltd., 1934, England.


Wild Thing

[Omega Workshops model nursery from
 Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913–19.]

Vanessa Bell is not among the British artists included in the Tate's current show, Picasso & Modern British Art (fellow Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant is, though). But Bell wrote with enthusiasm about collage and the avant-garde art scene in France, and she was able to visit Picasso's Paris studio before WWI and purchase some of his work.

Oh how I wish we could see this collage-covered 1913 Omega Workshops model nursery -- a collaboration between Bell and Omega designer/manager Winifred Gill -- in color. Pictured in the catalogue accompanying the Courtald Gallery's  2009 exhibition, Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913–19, the room is described by Akiki Kato as adventurous (remember, these are the Downton Abbey years).

 [The exhibition catalogue]

It's inhabited by Bell's and Gill's interpretation of Indian and African wildlife. Seen on the shelves are the Omega's plywood articulated puppets, while trees, flowers and birds cover the walls and ceiling. Gill wrote that the trees were blue with purple dates; flowers were yellow, white and red. It looks like Omega's printed linen Mechtilde was used to cover storage space.

Coincidentally, Jane Pritchard, English National Ballet Archive Consultant, Curator of Dance at the V&A and co-curator of the V&A exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929, will give two upcoming talks about Picasso’s design work with the Ballets Russes in London: she'll visit the Tate on Wednesday, February 29 for a lunchtime lecture and Charleston, Bell's country home, on Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m. Also, this year's Charleston Festival will include an incredibly diverse group of guests; Jessica Fellowes (The World of Downton Abbey) will be on hand Sunday, June 3 for the talk, High Society.

Learn more about Winifred Gill here.

Catch a video about the 2012 Tate exhibition here.


Meandering Links

 [Unless otherwise noted, photos are my own.]

It wasn't a Ferris Bueller's day off for me, but crossing through the High's galleries this morning I thought again of this scene. Not so much as I passed the long lines of bouncing, eager little kids linked hand-to-hand, but when I spied a group of teens photographing themselves in the familiar stances of Cameron, Sloane and Ferris.

 [Screengrabs from John Hughes commentary about the Art Institute of Chicago scene
 in front of Marc Chagall's America Windows.]  
 [Click here to see a video about the recent restoration of Chagall's glass windows.]

The Art Institute of Chicago gave director John Hughes unusual access to film the trio in front of masterworks including his favorite Picassos, a Matisse, and of course Marc Chagall's America Windows. (Recently restored and re-installed, Chagall's glass windows were originally unveiled at the museum in 1977.)  The students visiting the High today were there to see other Matisses and Picassos, which brings me back to the March Vogue.

In addition to Schuyler's project, I was happy to find Dodie Kazanjian's piece about Francoise Gilot (at 90!) and the upcoming Gagosian exhibition, Picasso and Francoise Gilot [1943-1953]. Kazanjian notes that this will be the gallery's fourth in a series of Picasso shows and the first-ever exhibition pairing his works with those of his muse's. (It will be installed at the Manhattan location.)

 [Screengrabs from Charlie Rose's 1998 conversation with Gilot.]     

After reading the Vogue story I was inspired to revisit Charlie Rose's hour-long interview with Gilot. I've linked to the program before but was curious to see if the entire 1998 conversation is still accessible online. It is, and well worth a watch. (Just a bit of trivia: the fabric behind Gilot in Tina Barney's photo for the magazine can be seen in the background in Rose's interview.) Picasso's jewelry-making doesn't come up during the talk, but for the backstory on the necklace Gilot wears in the iconic 1948 Robert Capa photograph, click here. Gilot does discuss her affinity for Matisse.

To also hear Rose in relaxed conversation with two amazing Picasso and Matisse scholars -- the late Kirk Varnedoe and John Elderfield -- click here. And don't forget in June LACMA will exhibit Matisse's massive La Gerbe for the first time alongside its full-scale maquette and other materials that tell the story behind art patron Frances Lasker Brody's commission.      

BTW: John Hughes said that, as a teen, the Art Institute of Chicago was his sanctuary. This Saturday, February 25 from 7 to 11 p.m., the High is hosting Re-Mastered, a special teens-only free night with dancing, a scavenger hunt, creative projects and open mic opportunities.  


Kelly's Camellia at LACMA

[Camellia II, from Suite of Plant Lithographs, 1964-65
Transfer lithograph© Ellsworth Kelly and Maeght Editeur, Paris
Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer]

Earlier this month, I mentioned a show opening in June at The Met, Ellsworth Kelly: Plant Drawings, the first major museum exhibition focused only on the artist's figurative drawings of leaves, flowers, and plants. But right now, if you're in L.A., you can catch a sampling of his botanical lithographs included in Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings on view at LACMA through April 22. This West Coast show is the first retrospective of his substantial print work since 1988, with more than 100 prints and five paintings to explore. It's a chance to enjoy the mastery of vibrant color, for which Kelly is famous, as well as the less widely-known black-line plant and fruit studies.

Town and Country

[Unless noted otherwise, photos are my own.]

It seems as if every local spot I photograph has some sort of bucolic edge, like I live out in the country not in a sprawling metropolis.

Even when I'm in Midtown at the Renzo Piano-designed addition to the High or at an industrial building in the Old Fourth Ward, I go for the vines and branches.

[Photos directly above and below by Grey Crawford for Vogue, March 2012; image courtesy the designer, Schuyler Samperton]

Rustic within the big city is my thing. And Carolyn Murphy's bathroom complete with vine-covered terrace is my idea of the ne plus ultra. Schuyler Samperton did Murphy's Los Angeles house, captured with all its imperfect rustic beauty in the March Vogue. (Schuyler's own blog post about the project is a must read for details on the textiles, flowers and other sources.)

No stunning vines outside my door -- just a potted camellia -- but I've got Mark Starnes' photography of the Southern landscape.

In two weeks, though, I'll be breaking away from my usual earthy perspective and looking at my city from the 19th floor of the Residences at W Atlanta - Downtown during Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles' High Style High Rise Tour benefiting the High Museum of Art. Running March 8 through April 1, the tour encompasses six distinct condominiums done by six designers.

I'm especially curious to see how Amy Morris and Barbara Westbrook incorporate art, and I'm also looking forward to seeing the work of Susan Ferrier, Michel Boyd, William Peace, and Kerry Howard. I'll let you know how many magnolias I spy through the expansive glass windows.


In Circles

 [Photo my own]

I'm already missing Thomas and O'Brien and the rest of the crew. Last night's DA Christmas finale heightened my curiosity, offering a few new visual hints -- pink lampshades, long swing-y beads, stronger nods to Chanel -- at what's to come when Season Three embraces the 1920s. But in the meantime, I've been into the family stash of old tea services looking for a container for some sort of Downton Abbey -meets-Amy Merrick flower arrangement.

[Dish, glazed stoneware with underglaze-blue cobalt-oxide, 13th century, Vietnam, gift of Gift of Dr. Robert G. Rosser, The Birmingham Museum of Art]

The concentric circles (composed of tiny beads that remind me a bit of the DA necklaces) on the pot shown at top jumped out at me, so I headed over to the BMA's collection database in search of a distant cousin. 

[Dish, glazed stoneware, 14th - 15th century, Vietnam, Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Bequest of William M. Spencer III, Provenance John Stevenson Collection]

Along the way, I changed course. Since I last mentioned the Museum's groundbreaking ceramics exhibition, Dragons and Lotus Blossoms, more examples from the BMA's vast holdings of Vietnamese pieces have been added to the online collection. Check it out here, and if you find yourself in Birmingham tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21, Curator of Asian Art, Don Wood, will lead a one-hour tour of the show at noon.

 [Find video clips about the Hoi An wreck at Pope's site.]

Next month, Frank Pope, author of Dragon Sea: A True Tale of Treasure, Archeology and Greed, will visit the BMA to discuss his experiences as archaeological manager of the recovery of the Hoi An Hoard, one of the major archaeological discoveries of the late 20th century, including over 250,000 pieces of 15th-century Vietnamese ceramics.


Now and Then

 [Ralph Lauren embroidered bag from the Denim & Supply line.]

For spring, Ralph has taken that English classic we love to see hanging around beds, crewelwork (see an old example at Montacute House, here), and re-imagined it as a slouchy bag. Of course, wool embroidery on cotton/linen was used for bags centuries ago -- check out this 18th-century work bag in the V & A's collection -- but Ralph's 2012 interpretation caught my eye because he balanced the feminine floral with a rugged leather strap. Also, I noticed his palette of fresh greens and blues.

[Liberty & Co. Furnishing fabric, printed cotton, 1906-9 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

The cool colors reminded me of a printed cotton I spied the other day in V & A Pattern: Liberty.

The V & A points out that England's first major craze for crewelwork hangings occurred during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, with textile designs largely based on imported Indian embroideries. Fast-forward to the Downton Abbey era (sorry, I couldn't resist another reference), and the look returns; some families own, or acquire, original bed curtains while others buy newly available printed linens inspired by the antiques.

Click here to see a chintz-bedecked 18th-century four-poster, and here for more on Liberty archivist Anna Buruma's upcoming book.


Chasing Liberty

[Liberty & Co. Ranelagh, UK furnishing fabric, printed cotton, circa 1928  

Chronicled within the pages of Liberty archivist Anna Buruma's compact little book V & A Pattern: Liberty, scheduled to be released this spring, are all of the iconic London emporium's different textile ranges from the 1880s through to around 1980, encompassing furnishing cottons and dress fabrics along with scarves and handkerchiefs collected by the museum.

[Liberty & Co. Scarf, printed jacquard woven silk, UK, 1937 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

Regular readers know I've been looking forward to the publication of this edition for a long time, so I was thrilled to have a chance to peek at an advanced copy.

[Liberty & Co. Handkerchief, printed silk, UK, 1920 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

Fabrics have always been Liberty's core. Buruma explains that when Arthur Liberty opened his Regent Street shop in 1875, he primarily sold textiles -- initially silks imported from Asia -- to artsy women in sync with Aestheticism. They tended to wear floaty smocked dresses and liked to furnish their houses with artful things. Since Liberty's Asian silks were colored with soft vegetable dyes and didn't have to be artificially weighted like French silks, they were snapped up by avant-garde Victorian Brits. 

[Liberty & Co.'s furnishing fabric, a UK-printed cotton 1931 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

Soon,  Liberty began collaborating with Thomas Wardle in Leek, Staffordshire, to dye and print material to his own specifications (the first Liberty Art Fabrics). And of course collaborations with varied designers became a tradition that continues today.

[Attributed to Arthur Silver/Liberty & Co. Peacock Feather furnishing fabric, UK roller-printed cotton 1887 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

It was William Dorrell, Liberty's cotton buyer in the late 1920s, who decided to market the fine plain weave, ultimately identity-making, cotton known as Tana Lawn.

[Detail view, Popplyland, Liberty & Co.'s furnishing fabric, a UK-printed cotton 1890-1907 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

During the early years, Liberty didn't credit individual commissioned designers, opting instead to build its own brand, but as the decades passed this changed and the book is a helpful resource if you want to identify a few names. In general, though, this edition is meant to be a visual trove with minimal text and abundant images. Again, the included CD with 70 hi-res pictures makes it possible to study the fabrics up close. The colors (still remarkably fresh) and textures don't disappoint, and it's a treat to have a survey of Liberty's evolution in such a mobile package. I think you'll spot the more famous prints right off the bat but will also discover lesser-known fabrics. After flipping through the book for the seventh or eighth time, I found myself anxious to experiment and see some of the archival prints in alternate colorways.

[Liberty & Co. Ring Stripe scarf, printed jacquard woven silk, UK, 1923-30 from V & A Pattern: Liberty.]

Among the most vibrant prints featured by Buruma is the textile chosen for the cover, Kasak, a UK-screen-printed 1977 furnishing cotton by Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell for Liberty.


Picture This

[Images directly above and below are from Billy Reid's spring 2012 lookbook.]

Whether it's something really specific, like a particular fabric, or the more subtle hits of peacock-blue in these Billy Reid images, for the past few weeks I've been making sporadic, admittedly loose connections between pieces in the traveling exhibition, The Cult of Beauty (opening tomorrow in San Francisco), and design I encounter in my everyday life. If you've just stumbled here while Googling, the show explores the Victorian avant-garde -- often misunderstood styles that have had surprising impact well into the 20th and 21st centuries.

Take photography. Until I started reading the exhibition catalogue, I didn't realize how much amateur experimentation was going on during the era.

[Top: George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95. Collection RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History), The Hague; Bottom: George Hendrik Breitner, Girl in a kimono (Geesje Kwak) at Breitner’s house on Lauriersgracht, n.d.. Collection RKD, The Hague. Both from Snapshot.]

In addition to the photographs covered in the show, right now on the opposite coast there's an exciting Philips Collection exhibition, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard, which deals with the Nabis (Parisian avant-garde artists active from the late 1880s through the early 20th century) who embraced Kodak's earliest handheld cameras, first on the scene in 1888.

[Henri Rivière. Left: The Painter in the Tower, from Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, 1888-1902, Lithograph, 8 1/4 x 6 5/8 in. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY. Right: Painter on a knotted rope along a vertical girder, below an intersection of girders, 1889, Gelatin silver print, 4 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Mme Bernard Granet and her children and Mlle Solange Granet, 1981. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.]

Not unlike how we play with iPhone picture apps today, these painters appreciated sometimes unpredictable results, and they experimented with cropping, unorthodox vantage points, and candid (or not-so-relaxed) portraits of subjects in motion and holding still.

[Edouard Vuillard. Top: The Newspaper, c. 1896-98, Oil on cardboard, 12 3/4 x 21 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1929. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Bottom: Thadée and Misia Natanson in the salon, rue St. Florentin, 1898, Gelatin silver print, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. Private collection. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]

While the show demonstrates how the artists' photos informed their paintings, and vice versa, it also offers a wonderful opportunity to simply sneak a peek at their private domains. Again, like us, they snapped everything that captured their imagination. Culled from family and museum archives, these personal images were never exhibited during the artists’ lifetimes. And there are a lot to see: more than 200 photographs paired with roughly 70 paintings, prints, and drawings.

[A companion catalogue with nearly 300 color reproductions is available.]

With George Hendrik Breitner's beautifully layered Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893–95 (both the gelatin silver print and the oil on canvas) we see another example of the 19th-century Japonisme mentioned the other day. According to the Philips, Breitner made seven paintings of model Geesje Kwak, a 16-year old hat seller from Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, wearing a kimono. In the process, the artist photographed her in various poses and altered the composition or vantage point in his paintings.

Snapshot continues through May 6, 2012. See more here.