Style Court

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


Botany of Empire

[Petr Martynovich Gofman. Collection de curiosites du Royaume des plantes. St. Petersburg: 1797-1810.]

Global plant networks, international garden design and economics are some of the topics to be covered at Dumbarton Oaks fall symposium, The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century. While the event has been organized for scholars, parts of a companion online exhibition featuring botanicals from Dumbarton's rare book collection are already up for everyone to appreciate.

[Maria Sibylla Merian, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, 1719.]

Included is work by adventurous spirit, Maria Sibylla Merian, the pioneering German artist and naturalist who traveled the world documenting the flora and fauna she encountered. Today she's credited with revolutionizing the field of entomology. Remember back in 2008, when The Getty and the Museum Het Rembrandthuis collaborated on Maria Sibylla Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science? Highlights and related books are still available over at the exhibition micro-site.


Almost Famous Blues

[All images are my own screengrabs except for the picture of Russell and Penny on the bus, which is via Tumblr.]

Most of the events in Cameron Crowe's critically acclaimed Almost Famous seem to take place during spring, but the film's summery, we're-not-in-school feel makes me want to re-watch it this time of year. And, visually, I associate it with cool blues. Not that blue dominates each scene as it does, in say, Thelma & Louise. Still, the blues -- from ever-present soft denim to cobalt -- are a memorable part of the movie.

In tribute, a sea of blue:

California-based French General's linen-cottons, including Aviary Toile in La Mer along with new stripes and solids in shades like Gaillac Indigo, Cassis La Mer, and Biarritz Indigo, evoke the mellow blues of the band's and fans' chambray shirts and jeans.

North Carolina-based Parlor Textiles' Medallion in Airy Blue, also wonderfully laid-back, is a hemp-organic-cotton blend.

Then there's venerable Bennison's Matisse. This pattern vaguely resembles a bedspread in one of the hotel rooms where lead character William lands. (Click here to see a blue-and-white textile from Matisse's own collection.)

[19th-century Chinese embroidered silk-satin via Marla Mallett.]

Asian silks suggest Penny Lane's dress at the Plaza.

In conjunction with the V & A's current exhibition, David Bowie Is, a Worn by David Bowie boot magnet can be found at the Museum's shop.

Anthro's Gamma journal is a nod to the graphics of the 70s airline, while the deep-blue African magnifying glass makes me think of Penny's kitchen walls and her interest in jetting off to Morocco (technically, this item is from the Congo).

Maybe after Morocco, Penny kept on traveling -- visiting other places that could inspire textile designer Carolina Irving. Here's Irving's Zig Zag in Nile...

and Siam in Ink.

For more blue textiles, specifically Japanese blues, see Boro: The Fabric of Life, a summer exhibition at the Domaine de Boisbuchet.


For fashion from musically-oriented Granny Takes a Trip and others from the late-60s and early-70s, click here.


Stealing Beauty

[Click to enlarge. Unless credited otherwise, all images are my screengrabs from Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty and Villa di Geggiano's video.]
[Liv Tyler in SB Via ifureadmymind tumblr.]

It's 1996.  In Bernardo Bertolucci's gorgeous summer flick, Stealing Beauty, Lucy (Liv Tyler) is wearing floral prints -- some like we're wearing again right now -- but she's listening to music on cassettes not an iPod. Really great music, actually.

The background tunes in the lives of the entire crowd staying in Tuscany encompass Liz Phair, Mozart, Billie Holiday, Sam Phillips, Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker, Chet Baker and Roland Gift. Unfortunately, Gift's Say it Ain't So wasn't included on the soundtrack released in stores (when we still had the brick and mortar variety), and the song remains elusive. But you can find a complete list of tracks here, if you want to pick other favorites and do your own nostalgic mix for summer '13. 

If you find yourself in Tuscany, you can also visit the Donati's house and sprawling gardens (14th-century Villa di Geggiano, home of the Bianchi Bandinelli family, in real life). Several of the movie's pivotal events take place here, including the Donati's annual bash.  

Design features highlighted by director Bertolucci are the green exterior shutters and long frescoed entrance gallery painted with bucolic scenes by Austrian artist Ignazio Moder, roughly 200 years before the film, in the 1790s. While the villa's origins go back to the Italian Renaissance, the style of decoration preserved there today is predominantly 18th-century. Examples of rooms not seen in the movie -- specifically period bedrooms -- can be found here and here. Background on Italian frescos of the era here.

Prefer the more modest restored hay barn of fictional contemporary artist Ian and his wife Diana? Check out Caroline Clifton-Mogg's Italian Country Living. It's filled with wonderfully rustic rooms.

Loosely related past posts:

[Photo by Horst]

In Bloom
Dramatic Color 


Artful Summer

[Robert Capa, Magnum Photos, Copyright Estate of Robert Capa. 1948 photo of Francoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso in sunny Golfe-Juan, France, with Picasso's nephew, Javier Vilaro, in the background.]

As a show of appreciation, again this year The Met, LACMA, and thousands of other museums across the U.S. are offering free summer admission to active duty military personnel and their families beginning May 27, Visit Blue Star Museums for details.

[David Douglas Duncan's photograph of nine-year-old Paloma Picasso making art with common garden leaves. Visit the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin to learn more about Duncan.]

In a similar gesture of community spirit, the MFA, Boston is offering free Memorial Weekend admission to all. And while I realize it's a little early to start thinking about escaping the humidity in a cool museum auditorium -- even for Atlantans -- here's a heads up:

In celebration of the upcoming exhibition, Girl with a Pearl Earring, the High will host screenings (that's big-screen screenings) of the 2003 movie with the same name on Saturdays in June and July.
Also, our own multi-tasking David Brenneman, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of European Art, will be joined by Petria Noble, Head of Paintings Conservation at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, to present Investigating the Mystique: Girl with a Pearl Earring at the High on Thursday, August 15 from 7 to 8 p.m. The talk is free but tickets are required.


Why Don't You...

[I've been pouring over old books for images of Geoffrey Bennison rooms; this is a phone camera shot of Suzanne Trocme's Influential Interiors open to a brief section on Bennison.]
So here's my admittedly less fanciful take on Diana Vreeland's famous Why Don't You...? columns for Harper's Bazaar: Cover a set of books with a Bennison-esque print.

[Another picture of an open book: Caroline Clifton-Mogg's Decorating with Antiques.] 

Revisiting architect Piero Castellini Baldissera's red cabinet filled with pattern-bound volumes got me thinking about this (his collection of bound vintage magazines appeared in a past post on storage). If you want a touch of faded floral but aren't ready to recover a chair or do curtains, a summer book-covering project could be just the thing.

Paper Source has book-binding supplies for beginners. Alternatively, if you decide to eschew fabric and go the paper route, Kate's Paperie has a nice soft blue-and-white pattern.

[Also from a past post, books via Joslyn and Nichole.]   


Summer Flowers

[Rachel Ruysch, Vase of Flowers, 1700. Oil on canvas. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Image via the de Young.] 

In a month, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis opens at the High. Along with Vermeer's masterpiece, 34 other 17th-century works will be on view including a still life from the extraordinary Rachel Ruysch, an ahead-of-her-time woman known for lush, textural botanicals, who served as court painter to Johann Wilhelm of Bavaria and enjoyed commercial success throughout her life.

Flower paintings always resonate but with the Old Masters currently having such a big impact on a new generation of floral designers and stylists,  I think Ruysch's Vase with Flowers will have added impact. Also, if the offerings in the de Young gift shop (the exhibition is in San Francisco right now) are any indication, floral- and Dutch genre-themed wares should be abundant at the High. The wrapper on the chocolate, above, highlights the work of Abraham van Beyeren.

[Image of Althea via Lee Jofa.]

Blousy sprays of flowers are appearing more often at North Carolina's Modern Fabrics, too. This Charlotte-based reclaimed fabric business sells cutting room remnants and unused bolts. While trad florals aren't their main focus, prints from Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fils and Schumacher can be found.



 [Lori Vrba Spun Gold, selenium and sepia toned silver gelatin print. $250. Posted with permission from Jennifer Schwartz Gallery.]

Lori Vrba's work has appeared on this blog several times before. But Jennifer Schwartz, her gallerist, announced today a new collaboration with Zatista that aims to make original art more accessible to new collectors. As it happens, Vrba's series, Southern Comfort, evokes childhood and time spent outdoors during the late spring and summer. After yesterday's devastation in Oklahoma, the photographs seem all the more poignant.

To learn how the Red Cross is helping tornado victims, click here.


String of Pearls

[17th-century mother-of-pearl English purse with silver-gilt braid. V & A collection.]  
Even if I hadn't been there to focus on the costume design, Catherine Martin's use of pearls in The Great Gatsby couldn't have escaped my attention because Tiffany's pearl-filled Gatsby Collection windows happen to be adjacent to the elevator that leads to the theater where I saw the movie.

[Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.]

Leaving the theater, some of the objects still in my head were the tasseled pearl strands and the pearl hand jewelry (see sketches in this Vogue video). Does the V & A have a hand piece like that, I wondered? Something from the 20s? Doing a search, I got distracted and zeroed in on the much older, less glitzy, little mother-of-pearl bag pictured at top. But come fall 2013, visitors to the Museum can see a host of opulent examples in Pearls, on view September 21 through January 19, 2014. The exhibition will span many centuries, from early Rome to 20th century NYC,  exploring the significance of natural and cultured pearls. Look for designs from Cartier, Bulgari, and Tiffany, including art deco styles.

Looking at Vases

[Image via]

Knowing that porcelain with blue-and-white decoration is still produced en masse by factories in Jingdezhen, China, two art professors -- American ceramicist Barbara Diduk at Dickinson College and Chinese artist Zhao Yu at Hunan Normal University -- became fascinated with the remarkable variety of the myriad hand-painted surfaces. Although, they point out, this distinctiveness is something you really notice after closer inspection. Beginning around 10 years ago, they organized an installation, The Vase Project: Made in China - Landscape in Blue, to highlight the region's vase painters who ordinarily remain anonymous.

In conjunction with its own related exhibition, New Blue and White, the MFA, Boston is stocking The Vase Project book.

[Designed by Rodarte, produced by Nicholas Kirkwood, Pair of woman’s shoes, 2011. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts Boston.]

And don't forget, the MFA show (featuring Ming porcelain-inspired pieces by Rodarte acquired with help from one of the Museum's Friends groups) closes July 14.


Art Works

[Stoneware vase by Walter B. Stephen, 1931. Asheville Art Museum.]

Thanks to recent exhibitions at various U.S. museums, younger audiences have been introduced to the work of 20th-century Southern potter Walter B. Stephen. Self-taught and active, in one form or another, from about 1904 to 1961, Stephen is known for evoking regional landscapes with luminous, colorful surfaces and cameo decoration (designs in relief, inspired by iconic Wedgwood).

[Pisgah Forest and Nonconnah pottery by Walter B. Stephen via McKissick Museum.]

In addition to English ceramics and his own natural environment, Asian pottery was another source of inspiration.

[Nonconnah Pottery, American (Tennessee) 1904-1910. Earthenware. Given to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art by Decorative Arts Trust.] 

In its permanent collection the Brooks has a really lovely example from Stephen's early phase -- actually a collaborative piece done with his mother, Nellie Stephen, who decorated it. This teapot, pictured above, was molded by W.B.; Nellie added natural white frost daisies with green leaves, built up in relief, on a soft blue ground.

One of the Museum's support groups, Decorative Arts Trust, purchased the piece for the public to study and enjoy. Like Collab, this is another volunteer group that's great for design professionals or anyone with a passion for decorative arts. Having been on the Memphis scene for more than 30 years, the organization welcomes newcomers. Four-term president of the Board of Directors, John J. Tackett (an architect who previously worked at Parish-Hadley in NYC before establishing his own firm), just completed his final term and explained to me that DAT membership fees -- lower than those at other museums -- are kept within reach for a wider range of design enthusiasts with help from upper level contributors.

[Wikimedia commons]

"Among my earliest memories is visiting the Brooks Museum as a preschooler with my older brother's class. When I was a child, admission was free and I would often go alone in the summer after age 12 or so; a friend of my mother's was the director and I would stop in her office to say hello. But otherwise, it was just me and the occasional guard in the galleries back in those days. So I am happy to help bring people in to enjoy the museum as much as I have," he added.

 [Screengrabs from John Hughes commentary about the Art Institute of Chicago scene in front of Marc Chagall's America Windows.]  

[Earthenware vase with crystalline glaze, circa 1935, by Walter B. Stephan. Via Memphis Brooks.]

John notes that DAT currently consists of about 400 members, almost as many men as women, with their common ground being interest in design. Apart from decorative arts, most love architecture, interior design and gardens, too. Benefits of participation include private tours of outstanding houses and collections, and admission to special talks. Dr. Stanton Thomas, the Brooks curator of European Art and Decorative Arts, serves as liaison between DAT and the Museum. If you're in the Memphis area and have a schedule flexible enough to attend evening and weekend events, click here to learn more. The next generation of supporters is definitely encouraged to get involved.

And speaking of keeping art accessible, the Brooks will offer free admission tomorrow, May 18, in celebration of International Museum Day.