Style Court

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



This stylized Indian floral cloth from LACMA's collection makes me think so much of the spread pictured in the Mughal painting in the previously mentioned MIA show, Imperial Nature.

[18th-century Mughal floor spread. Cotton plain weave with silk chain stitch embroidery, wrapped metal thread with silk core, and silk quilting. From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase, LACMA.] 

Look at the details.

Similar to the MIA exhibition, LACMA currently has on view a show that also explores English art patronage in colonial India, and demonstrates how Indian artists and craftsmen adapted their styles to suit European tastes. So, again, it's about beautiful wares that resulted from the cultural mash-up.   Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits in India continues at LACMA through October 12, 2014.

On Monday, March 10, at 6:30 p.m., food historian Maite Gomez-Rejon will lead a private tour of the show, discussing native Indian ingredients that were sent to England. Later in the evening an East meets West dinner will be offered at Ray's. Details here.


Korean Treasures in the U.S.

[Jar with design of bamboo and plum trees. 16th to 17th century. National Museum of Korea.]

A quick reminder: Treasures from Korea, an exhibition so anticipated that it has its own trailer, opens March 2 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After a three-month run, the show will head to L.A. in June and then on to Houston in November.

One hundred and fifty Joseon dynasty pieces including textiles, ceramics, lacquer, furniture, photographs, metalwork, screen painting and calligraphy have been chosen for the States' first major survey.

[Late-19th-century box with ox-horn decoration. National Museum of Korea.]

[Photo by Heunkang Seo. Cheonguijeong Pavilion, Changdeoak Palace.]


Putting Birds on It

[Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) on a custard apple branch (Annona reticulata) (LI901.6), Lent by the Radcliffe Science Library, University of Oxford, to the Ashmolean.]

I didn't have any design-related images of celery or kale to share (although there is a leafy green apple branch, above), but in honor of Portlandia's upcoming fourth season, this post has birds on it.

[Via the MIA]

Long before there was a Portland, Oregon, Lady Impey (Mary) and her husband, Chief Justice Sir Elijah Impey, put lots of birds around. In fact, as part of the early group of English transplants in Calcutta during the 18th century, the couple hired three Indian artists to paint their menagerie of birds, plants, and animals. Lady Mary's art collection grew to include 200 drawings of birds and is highly prized today. (Some of you may remember the Ashmolean's recent show, Lady Impey’s Bird Paintings.)

Right now eleven “Lady Impey” paintings can be seen in the States at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), as part of the exhibition Imperial Nature: Flora, Fauna, and Colonialism in India. This newly opened show delves into the British-Indian cultural mash-up of the colonial era, touching on global trade, natural science and arts patronage. It continues through April 20, 2014. (Thanks to Enfilade for the alert!)

[There may or may not be a bird in this 18th-century garden scene from the MIA's show, but I couldn't pass by the fantastic bordered floor cloth and that densely patterned canopy. Click for larger view.]



New at Cistanthe: airy hand-embroideries.

The white on white and floral-like forms stitched to breezy fabrics make me think of the organic imagery carved into the VMFA's 19th-century Indian garden pavilion. John Henry Rice, the Museum's associate curator of South Asian Art, calls the arcaded, late-Mughal marble structure a "place of pleasure."

[Watch the detailed video here.]

Last year I linked to the VMFA's time-lapse video of the pavilion's installation and provided some history, but the clip above offers a closer look.

For more on Cistanthe's textiles, see this past post.


Green Days

[Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette]

In Almost Famous, music critic Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) tells teen journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) that Rock is over; William has arrived on the scene in the 70s just in time to see Rock's "last gasp."


Similarly, when fresh-out-of-school, not-so-posh Alain Baraton came to Versailles' gardens in the late 70s, he witnessed the waning of one era: "The aging but terribly beautiful Versailles…tall, dark, and populated by majestic trees."


These were the years when the garden sheds were filled with interesting tools like myriad quirky watering cans with fixed or removable roses in copper, iron, wood or steel as opposed to today's ubiquitous pre-fab styles, available in just two shapes. Security was much less stringent then, fewer codes had to be abided by, and loud automated equipment wasn't used. But Baraton doesn't have an overly romantic view of the past.


Rising to be Versailles' gardener-in-chief, he's also seen, and helped bring about, what he views as good changes: the return of wildlife; the elimination of cars; and the re-introduction of potted plants, for example. Out of necessity after 1999's devastating storm that felled Marie Antoinette's oak, the 100-foot Virginia tulip tree and thousands of others, Baraton spearheaded the garden's rehabilitation.

In his book, he shares his personal experiences. His tales involve people as much as plants -- modern day visitors, sometimes eccentric souls, who are drawn to the gardens at their happiest and lowest moments. Then there are Versailles' rock stars (Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette), Le Notre, and various Kings' mistresses who influenced the grounds too. Over decades, Baraton has observed well-meaning tour guides squelch the joy out of visitors' walk-throughs. So he offers readers his own ideal tour designed to ignite passion not induce yawns.

[The Queen’s Grove © EPV via…]

He conjures the grandest parties ever held in the park but, as I mentioned in the previous post, also tips us off to Versailles' hidden nooks and crannies -- the best places to enjoy a bit of solitude. Obviously the book's title, The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden, will lure Francophiles, however, if formal grounds and French history aren't your thing, try leafing through a few pages. Baraton's surprising stories and wry humor will likely pull you in.

[© EPV / Ch. Milet]

Clarification: The book is unillustrated but the text inspired me to gather these screen shots and images from Versailles.  


Coming Soon: Life in the Garden

From Sofia Coppola's fastidious attention to detail while shooting Marie Antoinette on location (the director requested water lilies like those she'd spied in a period etching) to "the large, majestic willow baskets" still in use in the late 1970s, before all the "identical and ugly" plastic bags took over, to the most secluded hideaways for lovers and the charms of an un-mowed country lawn, great tidbits abound in Alain Baraton's book, The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden

As Versailles' Gardener-in-Chief, Baraton has seen it all. And in his bestseller (just released in English),  he shares more than tantalizing bits of info: there are riveting stories, past and present, that offer a sense of Versailles' earthier, less formal and less known side. Later this month I'll post more, but for now I wanted to put the book on your radar. It's perfect spring fever reading -- even though Baraton's favorite season in the park is actually fall.


Balancing Act

[Click for better view. Photo by Francoise Halard, Vogue January 2013.]

I think I first posted this image to Tumblr the same day I received the issue of Vogue in which it ran, then later re-posted here as part of tree-themed holiday thing. But more than a year later, it's still just as fixation-worthy. Maybe more so. If you're among the few who haven't virtually toured the Brooklyn bedroom of Miranda Brooks and Bastion Halard, take a peek at the other end for a little context.

[See the online Vogue feature here. Photo by Francois Halard.]

The main feminine element, softly-colored custom de Gournay chinoiserie wallpaper, is balanced by more masculine looking exposed beams, and minimal, rustic furniture including a bed and sofa designed and built by Halard. Beyond the yin and yang of the masculine and feminine design components, the bedroom balances tradition with modernism, too.

In the Brooks-Halard bedroom, the wallpaper can be appreciated like one very large spectacular work of art. Appropriate, seems to me, since chinoiserie scholars believe that this style of panoramic wallpaper, created in China for export, stemmed from highly-coveted Chinese pictures, which Emile de Bruijn reports were all the rage in Europe during the early 18th century. A forthcoming book from the National Trust aims to highlight the artistry of these historic hand-painted papers, and show how walls were enveloped with them in the UK's great houses. Check back here for details on the expected March release.


Orchid Days

[First two photos my own, taken at the ABG.]

I've become a little obsessed with these hanging Vanda orchids at Terrain.

I keep picturing several suspended from the top of my four-poster bed. How cool it would look. But how impractical, too. You know, the watering and all. I think these are intended to be hung in a less precarious place. Another way to let the roots run wild is with airy, net-like pots -- something I learned about doing research for this weekend's WSJ story. (I also discovered how one legendary horticulturist unconventionally arranged her orchid pots en masse.)  

If you're in the mood to see some exotic blooms in living color, check out these orchid happenings: 

Orchid Daze just opened at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and continues through mid-April.

Kew's Orchids 2014: A Plant Hunter's Paradise runs through March 9.

The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary opens at The New York Botanical Garden March 1.

The San Francisco Orchid Society hosts the Pacific Orchid Expo February 20-23.

The U.S. Botanic Garden Orchid Symphony takes place February 22 through April 27.


Compare and Contrast

Illoominata's wool, Tibetan striped pillow is all about beaute nomade.

[Photography © Yann Romain, Tibet Style, Flammarion, 2006.]
It conjures thoughts of all those brilliant yellow, red, blue and green textiles and beads that cut through Tibet's snowy landscape, and on a more literal level represents the traditional striped aprons worn in the region.

[© Ellsworth Kelly] 

But it also has something in common with Ellsworth Kelly's spare Train Landscape of 1952-53. Apart from the horizontal bands, the greens and yellows are uncannily similar.


Clive Album

[Painting, Small Clive Album, page 81, a flowering plant, opaque watercolour on paper, Mughal, first half 18th century.]

Sunny and graphic, some of the daisies and marigolds included in the V & A's Small Clive Album evoke 70s SoCal style as much as 17th-century Mughal design. (The latter, of course, is what the miniature opaque watercolors actually are.)

[Painting, Small Clive Album, page eight, marigold, opaque watercolour on paper, Mughal, 17th century.]

Either way, a hit of warm imagery is what I wanted: a meager antidote to the ice that's expected to blanket Atlanta within a few hours.

This album contains 56 leaves in all, according to the Museum, with flower studies and other paintings front and back. Sometime between 1765 and 1767, the book was probably given to Lord Clive when he was India, hence the album's name. Later, a striped Indian silk book cover was added. Then in the 1950s, it was sold from Powis Castle. Remember the Indian chintz tent, still preserved at Powis today? Learn more about the Castle's Indian Collection and Hindu-Gothic style here.

More warm hues in last month's pairing.


Talking with Molly

Molly Hatch

Last year I mentioned the massive commission that American ceramicist Molly Hatch has undertaken for the High Museum of Art. The piece, titled Physic Garden after London's famed Chelsea Physic Garden (the city's oldest botanical center and once a source of inspiration for porcelain decorators at nearby factories), will be Hatch's largest ever, measuring 22 feet high by 17 feet wide. The Museum is describing it as a plate painting, because the work will actually be comprised of 475 separate dinner plates fit together. And as pointed out earlier, Hatch is specifically riffing on two circa 1755 floral Chelsea Factory plates from the High's Frances and Emory Cocke Collection of English Ceramics.

[Molly Hatch's proposed installation for the High Museum of Art]

We don't have much longer to wait for the big reveal: her two-story work goes on view March 15 in the High’s Margaretta Taylor Lobby. Anxious Hatch fans can catch a sneak peek a few days before the general opening, though, and hear the ceramicist discuss the project too. She will be in town March 12, talking with the High's Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Sarah Schleuning, at 7 p.m. Public tickets $15; students $5.


Lines on the Horizon

[Circa 1850. Wool; tapestry weave. The Weisel Family Art Foundation. Image via the de Young.]

Wool was the last thing I wanted to see. For me, spring can't come soon enough, and itching as I am to ditch the heavy sweaters, warm fibers weren't what I was seeking. But the pattern and palette of this 19th-century Navajo serape from the Southwestern U.S. reminded me of a Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired spread in the latest issue of Vogue.

[Vogue photos by Mikael Jansson.]

And I mean everything from the braids to the clothes to the location.

The serape will go on view along with other Native American textiles and works of art in May as part of the de Young's exhibition, Lines on the Horizon, a show that will explore roughly 1,000 years of creative output. Coincidentally, an O'Keeffe exhibition is also opening at the Museum this month. Although, this show deals with her time spent at Alfred Stieglitz’s sprawling family place in rural New York, not the American Southwest. Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George looks at 55 works done between 1918 and the early 1930s, when the artist retreated to the region for part of the year.

On February 15, the de Young's Textile Arts Council presents a morning lecture about her now iconic fashion sense: Reflecting Art: Signature Style of Georgia O'Keeffe.