Style Court

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


Up Soon: Building Beauty

[Photo by Francois Halard © Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design, Rizzoli New York, 2013. Published with permission.] 

Click the image above to appreciate each component. Notice what's reflected in the delicate Indian mother-of-pearl mirror resting on the Neapolitan mantel? It's a tantalizing hint of white hand-embroidered linen on a nickel-silver four-poster Robshaw bed -- the takes-your-breath-away element in one of the most beautiful bedrooms Michael Smith has ever done.

Many of you probably remember this ethereal bedroom by the sea from a past magazine story. In fact, maybe you pinned it for inspiration. But thanks to Smith's latest book, now we can all pour over the room from multiple, not-seen-before angles. Actually, we can tour the entire house; see it with light flooding through the windows at the most compelling times of day. Although I keep saying most, the house is really a lesson in less. As in less is more. Smith channels Palladio here (think classical restraint), and while there's no question this house in Malibu is cinematically grand (the stuff of fantasy, by most standards), it has a breeziness about it. We'll explore the book in the next few days.


Made of Cotton

Back in January I described cotton specialist Giorgio Riello's book, Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World, as "soon-to-be-released." For those of us in the States, end of May is more precise. But if you prefer e-books, Cambridge University Press is also making the title available for a variety of devices.

Again, Riello's background encompasses material culture (specifically, shoes, fashion and textiles) as well as global economic history, so he brings a fascinating perspective. See my extremely short overview here and find Rebecca Unsworth's in-depth interview with professor Riello here.


Sunday Rose

[Two Roses, circa 1884–1904, by Zacharie Astruc (Angers 1835–1907 Paris). Collection of The Met.]

It's garden tour season. Here in Atlanta, we've got Gardens for Connoisseurs on the horizon, an event that crisscrosses leafy neighborhoods offering peeks behind eleven houses with lawns ranging in feel from stately to rustic-woody. But another upcoming flower happening that might be off your radar, unless you're a serious rosarian, is the 2013 Rose Show scheduled to take place at the Atlanta Botanical Garden May 11 - 12.  If you're a textile designer or artist, maybe you'll be inspired by the hundreds of freshly cut specimens. Let's look at what others, from Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons of Timorous Beasties to production designer John Box (the 70s Great Gatsby), have done. 

[McGegan Rose wallpaper fom Timorous Beasties.]

[Screengrabs of The Great Gatsby, 1974.]

[Chinese lantern, circa 1730-50, porcelain with overglaze enamel (fencai) decoration, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

 [Rectangular piece of printed cotton, English, late 18th century, MFA, Boston.]

[Fragment of blanket with compass rose motif, wool embroidery, probably American, late 18th century, MFA, Boston.]

[Bakhat Singh Holds a Pink Rose, circa 1750, made in Jodhpur, India by unknown artist. Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

[Embroidered panel, possibly intended for a bag, American, 19th century, MFA, Boston.] 

[Rose, 1984, gelatin silver print by Daido Moriyama. Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

[Detail: Turkish bath towel (pestamal) circa 1800, with reversible band of embroidery containing repeated motif of a stylized rose and tulip set in four staggered rows. Philadelphia Museum of Art.]

[Design by Schuyler Samperton; photo by Grey Crawford; flowers by Louesa Roebuck.]


Cooking with Lilies

[From the top right: oven mitt via the V & A shop; image of George Harrison in Granny Takes a Trip jacket via Sun Dazed.]

John Henry Dearle's late-19th-century Golden Lily print is still blooming. This spring it's cropping up on kitchen wares -- aprons, tea towels, pot holders and oven mitts -- in the V & A's new line of home textiles. As mentioned last week in the Hippie Chic post, Dearle's design was originally used by Morris & Co. but re-emerged a few generations later in the 1960s when George Harrison famously donned a jacket made with the wallpaper-esque, tangled floral. Although, Harrison's jacket, designed by John Pearse, was in the dark-background colorway; the Museum shop's collection features the light ground.

Note to readers in Vienna: the exhibition A Shot of Rhythm and Color: English Textile Design of the Late 19th Century continues through October.


Earthy Delights

[Heath Ceramics' new Camellia pattern. Images via Heath.] 

Another tidbit from Frances Brody's notes on the massive ceramic piece she and her husband commissioned Henri Matisse to create in 1953: Obviously the thought of shipping across an entire ocean something so breakable would give most people pause, therefore the couple contemplated having Matisse's design executed in their home state, California. Although Mrs. Brody doesn't mention specific studios or ceramicists, as I read her account, I immediately thought of the various West Coast potteries that thrived during the mid-20th century.

Apparently Matisse sent the Brodys seventeen handpainted color samples on paper, and some trials were done locally. But, in the end, the artist favored a Riviera-based ceramicist with whom he already worked. "Baking" the components in France enabled Matisse to supervise the process and see the finished ceramic in person.

Pictured in this post are beautiful utilitarian ceramic objects produced in present day California. The white, textile-like Camellia pattern is one of the latest offerings from Heath and represents another of the studio's collaborations with Southern stitching guru Alabama Chanin. Look for the collection to be available May first.

[Image via LACMA.]

LACMA's shop consistently stocks Bauer mugs and vases. New for spring is the green ringware vase. Made locally in Southern California by the Bauer Pottery Company of Los Angeles, the vase is reminiscent of Bauer's brilliantly colored Post-Depression-Era line. (While Bauer actually began making unfussy stoneware in the 1880s, the designs from the late 30s and 40s are best known.)

[Bauer bottle available directly from the company.]


Mrs. Brody's Story

[Frances and Sidney Brody with their commissioned work via Mid-Centuria and Life.]

I think you already know that Henri Matisse: La Gerbe opens this weekend. Again, this is the installation that shows the monumental 1953 ceramic bequeathed by Frances Brody to LACMA in 2010 alongside a host of related pieces including: the artist's iconic late-career paper cut-outs; the initial color samples Matisse sent from France to the Brodys in California; Matisse's original maquette for the project (on loan from the Hammer Museum); archive press about La Gerbe and more.

Mrs. Brody was relatively young -- in her thirties -- when she and her husband approached the 20th century master about creating a piece for their A. Quincy Jones-designed L.A. house. In LACMA's  papers, she unpretentiously refers to the challenging outdoor space in need of art as their patio. And from there she shares a straightforward but lively personal account of the process (the stages of the commission, the visits to Matisse's studio and to the then-just-completed chapel in Vence, the trans-continental shipping and the original installation). The entire story is still available online, courtesy the Museum, for everyone who can't see the exhibition in person. Well worth a read.

[Matisse's studio and apartment at the Hotel Regina.]

Worth a look is the documentary A Model for Matisse (See the preview on Vimeo; entire film over at Netflix.)

Granny Takes a Trip

[Image of George Harrison in Granny jacket via Sun Dazed.]

The name of London's Kings Road shop conveyed the vibe. Think Late-Victorian and Edwardian upholstery florals walking on the wild side. Picture John Henry Dearle's circa 1890s Golden Lily print (originally for William Morris wallpaper) reincarnated as a rock star's tailored jacket. In short, Granny Takes a Trip.

[John Henry Dearle's Golden Lily design at the V & A.]

[Boutique owner/designer John Pearse with jacket in a BBC documentary.]

A selection of Granny Takes a Trip pieces are in the MFA, Boston's permanent collection and will be included in curator Lauren D. Whitley's upcoming summer exhibition, Hippie Chic. Her focus is how street style of the 1960s and 70s, specifically youth-oriented bohemia, impacted haute couture and more mainstream ready to wear. The legacy is still with us today, in a broad sense with the emphasis on individual style and creativity, but also as evidenced by the now-classic menswear-inspired shirts and blazers that pop up in very English florals: Victoriana-meets-Modern interpretations from Rag & Bone resort 2013 and Stella McCartney spring 2013.

[Rag & Bone's Bailey jacket.]

According to the Museum's advance statements, the show will go beyond protest signs and incense to explore the ways in which hippies revolutionized fashion. A 152-page accompanying catalogue is expected to be available in June. The spirited exhibition will highlight roughly 50 outfits and open to the public July 16.

A note: I find it hard to mention Boston without expressing my sorrow for the victims of Monday's horrific violence. My thoughts are with those who've lost their lives or limbs or suffered other traumatic life-altering injuries.


Designing Woman: Anna Maria Garthwaite

[Design for textile by Anna Maria Garthwaite, 1732, Spitalfields, England. Now in the V & A's collection.]

This month marks the 250th anniversary of textile designer Anna Maria Garthwaite's death. That's right, textile designer. In the 18th century. Remarkably, nature-loving Garthwaite not only supported herself as a prolific designer of English silks at a time when it was rare for a woman to do so, but she rose to the top of her field.  

[Design for textile by Anna Maria Garthwaite, 1752, Spitalfields, England. Now in the V & A's collection.]

Maybe even more remarkably, her work endures. Examples of her exuberant yet naturalistic take on flowers can be found today at The Met and at The V & A. (The latter has more than 800 of her original watercolor designs for fabric.) Along with her skill as a painter, Garthwaite seemed to have in-depth knowledge of weaving techniques, notes The Met.

[Brocaded silk by Anna Maria Garthwaite, 1740, Spitalfields, England. Now in the V & A's collection.]

More often than not, when 18th-century textiles appear on this blog they're handpainted cottons from India -- the fresh chintzes that inadvertently became competitors with Spitalfields Silks and sparked a revolution in Britain. (Cotton is a major interest of mine.) Still, from time to time I like to mix things up and look at the luxe English wovens. In step with the Garthwaite-related celebrations taking place next week in London, I've pulled three florals from her expansive body of work.    

Related reading: V & A Pattern:Spitalfields Silks.


The Power of Myth

[Ehon kyoka Yama mata yama by Katsushika Hokusai (1760—1849). Japan, Edo period, 1804 Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper H x W x D): 26.7 x 17.5 x 0.6 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard. Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.236.1.]

[Taisei shinsha fu by Kondō Hideari Japan, Meiji era, 1888 (Meiji 21) 2 thread-bound books; woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers H x W x D (Vols. 1, 2 each): 30.7 x 21.3 x 0.9 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard. Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.372.1-2.]

[Onna sanju-rokkasen by Hosoda Eishi (1756—1829). Katsushika Hokusai (frontispiece only) (1760—1849) Japan, Edo period, 1801. Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper H x W x D): 25.1 x 18.7 x 1.9 cm Purchase - The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard and his service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003—2007) Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection FSC-GR-780.99.1-2.]

Strange, not-of-this-world creatures, illustrated stories and legends -- a sense of fantasy is something I'm still sensing at museums and public gardens this spring. The V & A has David Bowie Is and the power of myth is a theme running through several new U.S. exhibitions. Last week I mentioned the de Young's upcoming show devoted to European textiles, From the Exotic to the Mystical. Other exhibitions include the Freer and Sackler's Hand-Held: Gerhard Pulverer's Japanese Illustrated Books and the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Imaginary Worlds.

Hand-Held opened earlier this month and will continue through the summer. Aptly titled, it focuses on those very portable, modestly priced paperbacks designed for the general Japanese public during the Edo period (1615–1868). Pictured above are examples of the then-revolutionary woodblock-printed books, which curators compare to today's digital media, in terms of impact.

Recently, interior and textile designer Zak Profera bridged these realms, tapping Canadian animator Jodi Sandler to help him re-tell an old Japanese folk tale in a contemporary, scrolling online format.

[Images courtesy Zak + Fox]

For the launch of his latest fabric collection, inspired by the legend of Kiyohime, they created a dynamic web feature that introduces viewers to the story and main characters, Anchin, a devout Buddhist monk, and Kiyohime, the daughter of an innkeeper. (Note the subtle changes in Kiyohime's styling, from the look we've previously seen in 19th-century prints?)


[Click to enlarge and appreciate the details of Zak's made-in-the-USA collection.]

I asked Zak to share the details. Here's what he had to say:

"Uroko was born from a pattern I saw on an antique kimono, and I loved it for its total simplicity and scale; as I began to explore deeper into the concept of what the locked triangle pattern meant, I discovered the tale of Kiyohime and everything stemmed from there.

[19th-century Japanese woven manilla hemp kesa via Sarajo.]

[Detail: 18th-century Tibetan silk robe from Kathleen Taylor.]

"Kesa [also a term for a Buddhist priest's robe] was a minimalist (if you can go even more minimal) invention of a vestment, to symbolize the character of Anchin...

[Circa 1800 Japanese silk applique kesa via Rug Rabbit and Dennis R. Dodds.]

...and Hidaka was adapted from an antique katagami -- I thought its lines referenced a sort of  'shimmer,' and it made sense to connect it to the river in the fable."

[Again, image courtesy Zak + Fox.]


[Kiyohime transforming into a serpent-like creature by legendary Japanese print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. (1839-1892).]

[And here again in a 19th-century woodblock print by Yoshitoshi from the series One Hundred Tales of China and Japan. The Pacific Asia Museum notes that Yoshitoshi was very skilled at rendering textiles and deftly suggests reptile-ish scales in the pattern of her robe. Image via the Museum.] 

Zak continued, "The cut S shape was a happy coincidence and quiet gesture to Kiyohime's transformation into a dragon. The intention behind these three designs is multifaceted; I want people who are afraid of patterns to dip their toes into the water a bit. These are thoughtfully simple but still have enough nuance in the repeat and color to keep it interesting -- they can read as texture from afar (for Hidaka and Kesa specifically).

The other idea is that these geometrics can be easily mixed and matched with more complicated patterns or within the collection itself because of the variety in scale and the harmonious palette. And of course, Uroko can easily be used as a statement piece -- either backed and installed as a wallcovering, or as a dramatic wall of curtains. The great thing about geometric patterns is that they can add a lot of dimension to field of neutrals and solids, which can sometimes steer flat if there isn't enough texture or contrast."

[Additional colorways]

More on Zak's process here.