Style Court

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


Fresh Cut

[Hazel B, a new Liberty cotton, seen up close.]

Channeling Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secessionists, the Liberty Art Fabrics Studio created a fresh crop a floral fabrics for spring/summer 2013.

With last year marking the artist's 150th "birthday," the collection is timely but it also kind of brings things full circle: Vienna's Museum of Decorative Art (MAK) has long possessed an outstanding collection of textiles, probably better known for its Egyptian and Persian rugs and Wiener Werkstätte pieces, yet also including Liberty prints and other English fabrics acquired around 1900 (actually, there are 900 English wallpaper samples and textiles in all). According to Liberty, 21st-century Hazel is inspired by two designs from this original 1890s group.

Also well-timed, the exhibition A Shot of Rhythm and Color: English Textile Design of the Late 19th Century just opened at MAK and will remain on view through October.

[Gustav Klimt, Wiener Werkstätte, ca. 1920. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of Joanne F. du Pont and John F. Pleasants, in memory of Enos Rogers Pleasants, III.]

On this side of the pond, The Met has examples of fabrics associated with Klimt and Wiener Werkstätte. And since we're talking textile collections, in the "less-widely-known treasure" category, Miguel Flores-Vianna recommends visiting The Turkish Chamber in the Ducal palace in Dresden, home to an incredible array of Ottoman things. See the video here.

Textile Scout

For the second time in two weeks, London-based Aleta is on my radar. The boutique fabric company has for sale two discounted remnants of Brigitte Singh's block-printed floral, Blue Hibiscus Branch. One piece is 62.2 x 60.2 inches, ample enough to throw over the back of a four-poster and mimic Ben Pentreath's Chichester Showhouse bed. (If you're a Stateside reader and irked that I'm sharing a tempting bargain located all the way across the Atlantic, Aleta's shipping rates are very reasonable, in my experience at least, making her sale section worth a look. I like to mix a small dose of these hand-blocked cottons with made-in-the-US fabrics.)

[Design by Pentreath.]

[19th-century Kashmir shawl via Skinner.]

[Multicolored Sonia Delaunay-Terk Shawl Entitled 'A Damiers,' France, c. 1977. Via Skinner.]

In other textile news,  Janet Blyberg just shared a tip about the upcoming Met textiles sale on March 13 at Skinner in Massachusetts. Included are antique Kasmiri paisleys, embroidered silks and a Delaunay print. Take a peek here.


Gallery Hopping

[Jasmine Hill V, Acrylic on Panel,  2012 © Annie Kammerer Butrus.]

Another piece from Annie Butrus's previously posted Sublime Dogwood series -- work not seen in Atlanta during the recent Spotlight on Art event -- will be on view at Thomas Deans beginning Friday, March 1. Her painting, Jasmine Hill V, is to be exhibited in Landscapes of the Mind, a show that looks at various artists' subjective interpretations of nature. Ten distinct painters are participating and the show is scheduled to run through March 31.

[African vessel, Igbo people, Nigeria. Fired clay and slip. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Dick Jemison Collection of African Pottery.]

Shifting over to Annie's home state and frequent source of inspiration, Alabama, the Birmingham Museum of Art just opened a new gallery dedicated to African ceramics.

Last week I mentioned how the High's permanent collection of African art has grown. Well, likewise, the BMA's African holdings, now numbering about 1,600 objects, continue to grow. Pottery is a major strength and places the museum in the national lead with the U.S.’s largest collection of African ceramics, encompassing over 400 clay vessels and figures drawn from all over the continent. (Get a sense of the vessels' enormous scale in this slideshow.) BTW, African American ceramics are currently being celebrated at the BMA, too, via the exhibition Face Jugs: Art and Ritual in 19th Century South Carolina on view through April 7.


Diaghilev's Ballets Russes Coming to D.C.

[Photo my own]  

Over the weekend I stopped by the 65th Annual Atlanta Camellia Show. Some of the jaw-droppingly-beautiful white varieties made me think of Chanel's iconic camellia, and later I wondered if any Chanel-related exhibitions are on the horizon.

Well, indirectly, there's one coming to the National Gallery of Art: Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music is a huge show opening May 12. 1920s costumes by Coco Chanel will be among the highlighted pieces as she was one of 20th century designers who collaborated with Diaghilev. (A few other designers/artists included Sonia Delaunay, Léon Bakst, and Henri Matisse.)

[Coco Chanel's La Perlouse in Le Train Blue, 1924. V & A Museum.]

But for many what's really exciting about this highly anticipated summer blockbuster is that two very famous, massively-scaled objects are headed to the States: The front curtain for The Blue Train (1924) designed by Pablo Picasso and painted by Prince Alexander Schervashidze, Diaghilev's principal set designer, and Natalia Goncharova's backdrop for The Firebird (1926). Never before seen in a U.S. museum, these will be the biggest pieces ever exhibited inside the NGA. In all visitors will see 135 original costumes, set designs, prints and drawings, photographs, posters, paintings, sculptures, and film clips as part of a multimedia installation.

If something about the show feels familiar, you may be thinking of the V & A's 2010 exhibition, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes. The D.C. show, a collaborative effort itself, has been adapted from the V & A's creation but will showcase 50 objects not seen in London. (BTW, totally channeling the Diaghilev vibe, Café Ballets Russes is set to open at the museum in May, ofering French and Russian bistro classics.)

Loosely related past post: In the Russian Style.

African Textiles Coming to the High

 [Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Kuba Culture, Shoowa people, Ceremonial Textile Panel, late 19th to early 20th century, permanent collection LACMA.]

In the last ten years the High's collection of African Art has really grown. During that time, an array of sculptures have been in the gallery's limelight more often than textiles but this spring and summer the focus will broaden when Symmetry/Asymmetry: African Textiles, Dress, and Adornment opens March 23.

[Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph of Matisse in his studio 1943-44, from Matisse, His Art and His Textiles.]

Thanks to recent U.S. exhibitions like Weaving Abstraction at The Textile Museum, curators seem keener than ever to explore the graphic power of Kuba cloth and other African textiles (those designs that always intrigued Matisse), so I'm thrilled the High is joining the conversation. The upcoming Atlanta show will include more than 40 pieces from across the continent, encompassing works from the Sahara and South Africa.

Reminder: This previously posted video with LACMA curator Sharon Takeda offers a great intro to Kuba cloth. And the example posted at top just happens to be a personal favorite from LACMA's collection -- no direct connection to the High's show.      


Daffodil Sighting

At the Atlanta Botanical Garden, daffodil season officially begins in March but I've already spotted some blossoms popping up around town. Those were yellow, not surprisingly. In contrast, check out these stylized, deep pink Mughal-inspired interpretations from Aleta. Daffodil Jal in Orchid is pictured above; Daffodil Stripe in Absinthe and Ochre is below. Both hand-produced fabrics will be available this spring.

More stylized flora can be seen in The Sultan's Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art, on view for just a few more weeks at The Textile Museum in D.C. Sunday, March 10 is the last day to see the show.


East Meets Mid-East

[Pouring vessel (kendi-only one). Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Wanli period (1573-1619). Porcelain, underglasze cobalt blue decoration. Overall: 7 1/2 x 6 in (19.x 15.2 cm). Norton Museum of Art. Purchase, the R.H. Norton Trust, 62.12.]

In March, the oft-blogged traveling exhibition, Doris Duke's Shagri La, makes it's second stop on the national tour at the Norton in Palm Beach. Florida should be a great location for the show, in part due to the balmy temps (normally at least) and native palm trees that will help evoke Duke's real paradise found, in Hawaii, but the Norton offers another bonus: The Middle East and the Middle Kingdom, an installation curated to pair with the Shangri La show. Artistic exchange between China and the Islamic realm will be the focus. Since we were just talking about cobalt, the pieces above grabbed my attention.

By the way, Shangri La's revamped site has launched. Take a look at the expanded photography by Tim Street-Porter, explore the collection, or check out videos of last year's scholar-in-residence Dr. Marcus Milwright's favorites including a pair of towering, beautifully inlaid sandals (technically clogs) and brass and silver Egyptian storage stands.

Cloth Works

[Rendering by Haworth Tompkins]

Remember an earlier announcement about the V&A's monumental new Clothworkers' Centre for Textile and Fashion Study and Conservation set to open at Blythe House? Well, textile enthusiasts don't have to wait too much longer to take a peek. The project is reportedly still on go to open later this year.

Designed by Haworth Tompkins to be more accessible for students, the general public, scholars and curators, the new facilities will be spacious enough to accommodate all in one place the V&A's vast study objects, bringing fashion and textile collections together, and encompassing both the museum's Asian and European holdings (by vast I mean over 100,000 pieces).

And speaking of access, in anticipation of the Clothworkers' Centre opening, Bazaar UK was given an unprecedented opportunity to shoot inside the V & A's rooms. A story by curator Oriole Cullen accompanies dreamy photographs by Cathleen Naundorf. Although the focus of Cullen's piece is fashion -- she explores twelve specific dresses from the archives -- there's also helpful background on the existing storage space with its charming old patterned terracotta-tiled floor. Cullen further explains why the move is happening and what will become of the original storerooms.

The V & A shop is part of the collaboration too. Currently for sale are copies of Bazaar's March 2013 issue featuring two limited edition covers from the museum shoot.

Curious about the soon-to-open center's name? Major funding was provided by The Clothworkers' Foundation.


Blue Period

Emerald green is Pantone's color of the year but deep blues seem to be everywhere too: on the runways, in stores, on the cover of Anthro's February catalog, in Annie Butrus's latest, and in museums.

Touring the High's new show yesterday, I was struck by how the exhibition's design incorporates that electric blue associated with Frida Kahlo's houses (the exterior of her childhood home was cobalt, and blue also distinguished her wing of the modernist Juan O'Gorman-designed dwelling she shared with Diego Rivera). In her journals, Kahlo linked cobalt with energy and love.

[Gesine Hackenberg's Delft Blue ‘Plooischotel’ Necklace, 2012. Wall plate of Delfts Blue earthenware by De Porceleyne Fles. Nylon thread. Courtesy Seinna Gallery. © Gésine Hackenberg.]

Something about cobalt pigment paired with clean white has even more universal appeal. From Latin America to Europe to Asia, the combination has been the obsession of artists and designers for a thousand years. Rodarte and Robert Dawson are among the latest to explore the pairing, and the MFA Boston will highlight their work in a soon-to-open exhibition, New Blue and White.

[Detail: Ming dress by Rodarte, 2011. Collection of MFA Boston.] 

Although I already mentioned the show as part of last year's "things to look forward to in 2013," expanded coverage is now up on the museum's site including a video with curator Emily Zilber. The exhibition opens February 20 and will run through July 14.


Viva Mexico

[Photos by Courtney Barnes unless credited otherwise.]

Toward the end of January I mentioned that the first signs of Fridamania were evident in the High's gift shop. Today, though, I can report that two on-site museum stores have embraced Mexican style and design full-tilt.

After months of anticipation, Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting opens to the public tomorrow. With the Atlanta museum being the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, the gift shop shelves are overflowing with wares ranging from tongue-in-cheek Frida finger puppets and paper dolls to finely crafted Mexican textiles, tooled leather goods, glass, jewelry and baskets. 

Vivid pops of color definitely abound (beautiful fuchsias, deep turquoises and emeralds) but softly hued and neutral pieces caught my eye too. For example, table linens from art historian turned designer / product developer Maggie Galton. Echoing Frida Kahlo's passion for traditional Mexican craft and textiles, Galton collaborates with craftspeople in indigenous communities to revive waning art forms. Her company's cocktail napkins are pictured above, and also shown here is a little detail of a basket by Jan Barboglio.    

[Image via the High.]

Pride in Mexico is a strong theme running through the landmark exhibition (a must-see, BTW), so the handicrafts in the shops are a terrific addition to the expected postcards and such (that said, I always love leaving museums with postcards to tack on my inspiration boards).

If you mostly associate Rivera with his larger than life murals, this show offers a wonderful opportunity to explore not just those but his smaller, sensitive portraits and Cubists works as well. And a significant chunk of Kahlo’s entire oeuvre -- I think over a quarter -- is featured, including her most famous self portraits, lesser known drawings, still lifes and one of her own painted body casts. An entire gallery is devoted to iconic photos of Frida (alone and with Diego). Some of these portraits are by photographer Nickolas Murray. You can get a small sense of the eye-popping exhibition design here and here but the Rojo room by Hector Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena from design consultancy THiNC is of course best appreciated in person.

Details on the Valentine's night opening party and other Frida links here.


White Hot

[Detail images followed by full view of circa 1780-1820 desk/bookcase from the V & A's collection.]

Last month Bazaar UK began a new series with V & A curator Oriole Cullen. Her first topic? White in fashion. On trend for 2013 but really a powerful statement in the past too. Here she breaks down the meaning, citing examples from Jane Birkin's crocheted mini to Marie Antoinette's muslin dress.

Running with the theme, I offer three related pieces for non-sartorial inspiration. The mother-of-pearl desk cum bookcase, above, is like an incredibly opulent version of the English or Colonial American secretaries many of us grew up with. It's thought to be from Mexico -- maybe elsewhere in Central or South America -- but mystery still surrounds this 18th-century style antique. While the origins have not been confirmed, the V & A provides a wealth of info about the design, construction and materials used.

Anthony Minghella's The English Patient is an ode to gauzy white. Or white, caramel and sand. And technically I guess this example is as much about clothes as interiors, but the North African bedroom/bath stands out in my mind as such a great example of white used in set design/decoration (done by Aurelio Crugnola and Stephenie McMilan). The era is late 1930s, although it's a mid-1990s film.

[Via the V & A.]

I'd love to see this 19th-century embroidered muslin cloth reinterpreted on a bigger scale as a coverlet. It's from Sultanpur, India and was originally intended to be worn. Covered entirely with a stitched botanical design, the muslin has four distinct buta (or paisley forms) at each corner.

Story of the Beautiful

[Bowl ( Jun ware) 1279-1368. Yuan dynasty. Stoneware with Jun glaze and copper pigment; repaired with metal staples HxW: 8.5 x 15.3 cm. China. Gift of Charles Lang Freer.]

For the notorious Peacock Room, it's been a long and winding drama.

To recap, the story began in the late 1870s when painter James McNeill Whistler, inspired by the rich blues and golds of peacock feathers, went rogue and boldly transformed Frederick Leyland's London dining room to show off the shipping magnate's vast collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain (Caught up in the Victorian craze, Chinamania, Leyland's passion for blue-and-white rivaled Mary McDonald's today.) After Leyland's death, his porcelain was sold at auction but American businessman and art collector Charles Lang Freer effectively preserved Whistler's painted leather wall panels, doors, shutters, woodwork -- in short, the room. It was dismantled, shipped to Detroit and reinstalled at Freer's house between 1904 - 1908. Here Freer displayed his personal passion: earthier, more tonal, often iridescent ceramics from the Middle East and Asia.

[Jar 16th-mid 17th century Ming dynasty. Earthenware with copper-green lead-silicate glaze HxW: 15.9 x 18.7 cm. China Gift of Charles Lang Freer.]

Gorgeous greens and blues ranging from turquoise to deep cobalt dominate Freer's collection, and he particularly liked raqqa ware.

Ultimately, the entire room moved again. When Freer died in 1919, The Peacock Room became a permanent part of the newly opened Freer Gallery of Art in D.C. To recapture the first incarnation of the room, the Gallery acquired Kangxi blue-and-white porcelain and for decades it was installed a la Whistler. But two years ago, another reinstallation took place with Freer's pottery returning to the shelves.

The latest chapter involves a new website: The Story of the Beautiful: Freer, Whistler & Their Points of Contact, offering virtual tours of The Peacock Room as it appeared in London and Detroit. For ceramics lovers the site is great because it provides really close views of all the pots, plates, bottles and jugs. These pieces seem to have their own stories to tell, too. And the site's creators have done a terrific job with the historic timeline, placing the evolution of the infamous room in context with international happenings. BTW, this year marks the 90th anniversary of the room being open to the public.


In the Russian Style

[Unless credited otherwise, all images are my screengrabs from the 2002 adaptation of Dr. Zhivago. The miniseries aired in the U.S. on Masterpiece Theatre. Set decoration by Philippa Hart and Tatiana MacDonald. Cotume design by Annie Symons. Click to enlarge.]

Looser. Softer. A little more bohemian. That's how I'd contrast director Giacomo Campiotti's 21st century interpretation of Dr. Zhivago with David Lean's glamorous 1960s take. Based on the production notes and interviews PBS posted when the small screen version ran in the States, it seems Campiotti's intent was to go in a completely different direction -- infuse his film with an authentic, period-specific Russian soul. And a more youthful spirit, reflecting the actual ages of the book's main characters, Yury, Lara and Tonya.  

Florals aren't specifically mentioned in the interviews (that I noticed) but leafy-green stems and flowers -- whether real or seen on printed and embroidered fabrics -- are definitely part of the miniseries' visual language. Especially when it comes to Keira Knightley's (Lara's) cozy house.

If you haven't watched Campiotti's adaptation, the scenes of war are brutal and haunting, so in contrast, Lara's plant-filled place, rustic as it is, comes across as fresh and light. The walls in the main room appear to be covered with botanical celery-green and white paper, a settee is draped with a blousy floral throw, and she has cheerful red geranium-looking flowers in window boxes. Literally the bright spot in bleak times.

Folksy nods to Russia come in with the braids she and Alexandra Maria Lara (Tonya) wear along with lots of embroidered dresses, tops and tunics. Again, it's a lighter look than we usually see when Russian style is explored on screen.

Lace is used a lot, too, as are stylized blossoms on heavier wovens that might reflect the intersection of the Ottoman Empire and Czarist Russia.

Campiotti acknowledges that many period films end up reflecting the era in which they were shot as much as the time they are supposed to represent. What's interesting to me about the 2002 miniseries, visually speaking, is how it foreshadows elements that come back in vogue five to ten years down the road, in the first decade of the new millennium: side braids, peasant tops, boho embroidery and jewelry, rustic pottery, Ottoman florals and European florals.

[Cobalt tile, what appears to be a zinc tub, and another house plant. Image via People.

To soak up Russian-meets-French-meets-Persian style, visit Tissus Tartares.

[Pictured above, Ete Moscovite followed by Andrinople.]

And if you find yourself in D.C. later this month, The Textile Museum is presenting a talk: The Kremlin Workshops and the Flowering of Ottoman Art in Russia. On Thursday, February 28 at 6 p.m., Scott Ruby, associate curator of Russian and Eastern European art at Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens, will explore the influence of Ottoman style on Moscow's creative output.

Related past post: Russian Linings.