Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ruby Ross Wood

Ruby Ross Wood's decoration of the Dining Room of Swan House, the Edward H. Inman residence, Atlanta, features magnificent antique Chinese hand-painted wallpaper and dramatic silk-taffeta curtains.  Although author Adam Lewis described them as horizontal striped, the word from the museum curator, via Helen Young at Whitehaven blog, is that they are indeed plaid.
Photo:  THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS by Adam Lewis.
One of the great decorating talents that helped to shape interior design as we know it is Ruby Ross Wood.  Born Ruby Ross Pope in 1880 in Monticello, Georgia, and growing up in Augusta as the daughter of a successful cotton broker, she moved to New York City in the early 1900s to continue her freelance writing career for newspapers and magazines.  In 1910, she was hired as a ghostwriter for a series of articles for The Delineator magazine to publish the collection of lectures on interior decorating that Elsie de Wolfe had given to members of The Colony Club, an elite women's organization whose Stanford White-designed clubhouse she decorated in 1905.  (Not to be confused with the current clubhouse designed by architects Delano & Aldrich, this was located at 120 Madison Avenue, and is now home to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts).  The next year, she rewrote the articles in cooperation with de Wolfe and sold them to Ladies Home Journal.  In 1913, the articles were again adapted to create the book The House in Good Taste, a compilation of practical and relatively inexpensive suggestions that proved to be very influential in re-shaping tastes in residential interiors for the twentieth century.
The legendary decorator Ruby Ross Wood.
Photo:  THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS by Adam Lewis.
After the financial failures of her own book The Honest House and a decorating firm, Modernist Studio, she accepted a job from Nancy McClelland at Au Quatrieme, the fourth floor antiques and decorating shop in Wanamaker's department store.  When McClelland left in 1918 to open her own decorating firm, she recommended that Mrs. Wallace F. Goodnow, as she was known then, would become the new manager, an experience that would prove to be invaluable in providing connections with important trade sources and wealthy clients.  Divorcing her husband in 1923, she married Chalmers Wood the next year.  With the financial backing of her socially-connected stock broker husband, she took advantage of the departure for France of New York's then-reining Queen of Decorating, Elsie de Wolfe, and opened her own business as Ruby Ross Wood.

The summer home of Chalmers and Ruby Ross Wood in Syosset, Long Island, New York, was designed by architect William Adams Delano of the noted architectural firm Delano & Aldrich with contributions by Mrs. Wood.  Built 1927-28 on 43 acres off South Woods Road (Syosset-Woodbury Road), it was demolished in 1995.
Photo:  THE ARCHITECTURE OF DELANO & ALDRICH by Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker.
Decorating her own apartment as a showcase for her design skills, and moving every year, she soon built a profitable business from former customers of Au Quatrieme and old money connections of her husband.  Published photos of their country house on Long Island, Little Ipswich designed by architects Delano & Aldrich, also enhanced her reputation.

The Stair Hall at Swan House as decorated by Ruby Ross Wood.  The sitting room through the open doors is labeled "Morning Room" on the construction plans but would commonly known as a Living Room.
Photo:  THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS by Adam Lewis.
The best known design by Ruby Ross Wood, however, is the Swan House, Atlanta, now open as a museum.  The residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Inman, heir to a cotton brokerage and real estate fortune making him one of the richest men in Georgia, is a classical mansion on 28 acres in the fashionable neighborhood of Buckhead.  Commissioned of the Atlanta architectural firm of Hentz, Reid and Adler, associate Philip Trammell Shutze is generally credited as responsible for the architectural design.  But the whole house was done in close collaboration with both Mrs. Inman and Mrs. Wood.  Although the exterior shows Shutze's influence by the Italian Renaissance, Mrs. Inman's love of early English Georgian design, and William Kent in particular, is given preference inside.  The three worked together according to Adam Lewis, author of The Great Lady Decorators, on all the interior architectural details (with the exception of the library whose millwork was executed in England).  It is the Dining Room, in particular that showcases Mrs. Wood's talent.  Antique Chinese wallpaper, as advocated by Elsie de Wolfe, gives life to the room filled with English furniture.  And the Ruby Ross Wood signature of color is given by the bold plaid silk taffeta curtains.
The winter residence of Mr. and Mrs. Wolcott Blair in Palm Beach, Florida, was designed by architect Maurice Fatio.  Located at 1960 South Ocean Boulevard, it was demolished in the early 2000s.
Photo:  BILLY BALDWIN REMEMBERS by Billy Baldwin.
Ross met Billy Baldwin in 1929, but the effects of the country's financial difficulties prevented her from hiring him until 1935.  At that time, one of Ruby Ross Wood's finest commissions, the winter home of Ellen Yullie and Wolcott Blair, was nearing completion in Palm Beach, Florida.  Wolcott was a successful stockbroker whose family owned the Merchant's Bank of Chicago and Ellen's father had been the president of the American Tobacco Company;  their family fortunes were not effected by The Great Depression.

A view of the terrace outside the Living Room, believed to be on the west (Lake Worth) side, of the Wolcott Blair residence with the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Photo:  BILLY BALDWIN REMEMBERS by Billy Baldwin.
No expense was spared for the new house designed by Palm Beach architect Maurice Fatio.  The center of the "H" plan house was the Living Room with five arched windows on each long side that could descend below the floor level using an ingenious water-pump system.  This allowed an unencumbered connection with the garden terraces on both sides of the room.  The view to the west included the pool and a lawn to Lake Worth, and the view to the east, across the lawn to the beach (via a tunnel under South Ocean Boulevard) and the Atlantic Ocean.
A view of the Living Room of the Wolcott Blair residence, Palm Beach, decorated by Ruby Ross Wood.
Photo:  BILLY BALDWIN REMEMBERS by Billy Baldwin.
Reinforcing the indoor-outdoor relationship of the room, white lacquered tubs filled with tall white lilies were placed between each of the windows.  A comfortable but sparse arrangement of furniture allowed the big room to be used for a variety of activities, including serving as a passage.  In Billy Baldwin Remembers the decorator notes that the walls were "buff, pale, almost not there at all.  The trim was purest white, and the floors ancient Cuban marble the color of parchment."  Because of a shortage in the delivery of the marble, a wide border of bleached cypress was employed as a flooring border around the room, a successful compensation that Baldwin credited to Wood's ingenuity.
Another view of the Living Room of the Wolcott Blair residence, Palm Beach, decorated by Ruby Ross Wood.
Photo:  BILLY BALDWIN REMEMBERS by Billy Baldwin.

The upholstery fabrics were either white or tan with cream welting, and several chairs were slipcovered in what Baldwin referred to as "Elsie de Wolfe's famous leopard chintz".  Sofa slipcovers and curtains were a heavy-textured beige cotton from Sweden.  A pair of stripped pine cabinets flank the pair of doors at one end of the room, contributing to the "quiet no-colors" as Baldwin described the scheme.  A pale fruitwood Louis XV writing table was in the center of the room, topped with a scalloped cap of honey-brown leather edged with white carpet binding tape. The lighting was supplied by white table lamps and four carved wood torcheres in the form of palm trees.  The whole effect was an enormous success and led to other decorating commissions in Palm Beach, including several for members of the Wanamaker family.

A party at the home of James Amster in New York City's famed Amster Yard complex.  From left, the butler (with back to camera), James Amster, Marian Hall, Ruby Ross Wood (seated), Billy Baldwin, William Pahlman, and Elizabeth Draper.  Although there are two chandeliers, note the narrow width of the room as evidenced by the placement.
Photo:  THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS by Adam Lewis.
 Adam Lewis states in The Great Lady Decorators that Ruby Ross Wood was the top decorator in New York City from 1935 to 1942, when Baldwin was drafted into the military.  After the war, Baldwin worked for a year for Mrs. John Jessup, the leading Palm Beach decorator.  In 1946, he returned to New York to work again with Mrs. Wood who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  She died in 1950 and Baldwin continued the business only long enough to complete the current projects.  Adam Lewis also contends that Wood and Baldwin were the most celebrated in American interior decorating, without equal until Mrs. Henry Parish, 2nd, and Albert Hadley formed their partnership, Parish-Hadley, Inc.  This Wood-Baldwin association and the Palm Beach Blair residence has significance in the next post of The Devoted Classicist, with this essay acting as a prelude of sorts.

Many thanks go to JANSEN author James Archer Abbott who is also a noted authority on Billy Baldwin for directing me to the Palm Beach home of the Wolcott Blairs.  And also thanks go to my very talented Atlanta blogging colleagues Barry of The Blue Remembered Hills, Jennifer of The Peak of Chic, and Helen of Whitehaven for consultation on Swan House.


Adam Lewis's book with forward by Bunny Williams The Great Lady Decorators, The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955 published by Rizzoli, New York, 2009, is available for purchase at a discount of the regular retail price here.   Although Billy Baldwin Remembers is out of print, vintage copies may be purchased here.  Reproductions of the Elsie de Wolfe and Ruby Ross Wood collaboration The House in Good Taste can be purchased here.  Both The Architecture of Delano & Aldrich by Peter Pennoyer and Maurice Fatio:  Palm Beach Architect by Kim I. Mockler can be purchased here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pirates!

Gene Kelly in the pirate ballet sequence of "The Pirate".
Well, pirates of sorts.  This edition of The Devoted Classicist has two parts, with the first about the 1948 film "The Pirate", an extravaganza fashioned to showcase its two stars Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. Producer Arthur Freed and director Vincente Minelli strenghtened the 1942 stage version, starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, with Technicolor spectacle and gymnastics by Gene Kelly.  The film is often noted as the first signs of problems with Judy Garland, and the production had to shoot around her absences and was edited together later.  Although the Pirate Ballet sequence is memorable, the film is best remembered for the Cole Porter "Be A Clown" finale with Gene and Judy.  Research reveals that another presentation of the song earlier in the film where Kelly dances with the famous Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, was omitted in the original theatrical release for southern cities such as Memphis because of the men of two races dancing together.  Readers of The Devoted Classicist will enjoy the set design, an interpretation of the Empire era in the Carribean colonies.  This and other films starring interesting design can be purchased here.
A magazine ad for "The Pirate".
The second part of this post involves the duplicate forms of original content of The Devoted Classicist.  The mobile version of the blog is not enabled because it deletes a number of important features.  For those who would really like new posts sent by email, a FOLLOW BY EMAIL feature has been added in the right-hand sidebar;  it is an easy enrollment process provided by Google's FeedBurner that is marginally satisfactory.   FeedBurner sends a the mobile version to those devices and a simple format but with advertising to desk and laptop computers.  Some readers are also following the blog on other electronic platforms, but please note that "official" enrollment is only through the FOLLOWERS feature also in the right-hand sidebar;  if you have signed on but do not see yourself among members, you have signed up to a secondary server.  As thanks to Followers, a give-away drawing is being prepared and will be announced soon.  In summary, if you do not see my red classical drawing as the banner but see display ads and pop-up ads, you are viewing from a pirated source and it is recommended that you bookmark http://tdclassicist.blogspot.com/ to best enjoy the original content.  Your readership is greatly appreciated!

Update August 24, 2011:  I am not totally satisfied with the FeedBurner service, but will continue to offer that option until a better alternative can be found.  I still recommend viewing from the original source for the maximum enjoyment. __ John J. Tackett

Friday, August 19, 2011

David Kleinberg, Man on the Move

Photo of David Kleinberg's Living Room by Eric Piasecki for Architectural Digest.
The Devoted Classicist offers congratulations to former co-worker David Kleinberg whose beautiful new Manhattan apartment appears in the current issue of "Architectural Digest."  The article is a ten page spread produced by Robert Rufino and written by Dan Shaw with photos by Eric Piasecki appearing in the September, 2011, issue.  The text reveals that David moves "about every seven years, when it's time to repaint," hence the title of the article, The Seven Year Itch.
Photo of David Kleinberg's Dining Room by Eric Piasecki for Architectural Digest.
Before our days at Parish-Hadley Associates, David had worked for another noted decorating partnership, Denning & Fourcade who, as it turns out, had decorated the apartment thirty years previous.  At one time earlier, the apartment which occupies the full floor of a narrow 1925 building, was home to George Gershwin.  David added his own personal touches, but kept many features as he found them, including the paneled living room and the Chinese lacquered dining room.
Photo of David Kleinberg by Eric Piasecki for Architectural Digest.
More of David's sophisticated designs that mix classic traditional with contemporary can be seen in his much-anticipated new book Traditional Now:  Interiors by David Kleinberg which is scheduled for release on September 27, 2011.

Readers of The Devoted Classicist may subscribe to "Architectural Digest" magazine by clicking here.   The book Traditional Now:  Interiors by David Kleinberg can be purchased at a discount of the published price with the option of free shipping by clicking here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Highlights of the Camondo Collection

This is a follow-up to The Devoted Classicist post of August 11, 2011, that profiled a brief history of the Nissim de Camondo Museum in Paris and presented an architectural survey of its principal rooms.  Here we have some highlights of the collection, all previously comprising the furnishings in the home of the Count de Camondo that is now a museum.
Although most of the furnishings belong to either the final phase of the Louis XV period, the transitional style, or to the Louis XVI period, a pair of encoignures (corner cabinets) on the landings of the grand staircase is a notable exception.  They are attributed to Bernard Van Risen, a Parisian master of Dutch extraction.  The door panels of Japanese black and gold lacquer were probably part of a folding screen and the rest of it of vernis Martin lacquer to match, highlighted with mounts of chased and gilt bronze.
A much-admired circa 1760 table en cabaret (drinks table) is topped with a Sevres soft-paste porcelain top, the table is finished with vernis Martin lacquer decoration that originally matched the porcelain but has now yellowed with time.  It is attributed to a collaboration between marchand mercier Poirier and Roger Vandercruse, who stamped his work RVLC.   The marchand mercier, the merchant of merchandise, played a very important role in 18th century decoration.  Working outside the control of the powerful guild system that restricted craftsmen to working only with the one material with which they had apprenticed, these shopkeepers acted as general contractors, able to have Chinese porcelains mounted with gilt bronze handles and stands, and to have Japanese lacquer panels or Sevres plaques incorporated into furniture.  Simon-Phillipe Poirier is credited with introducing furniture such as this with mounted Sevres elements. Purchased in 1934 from the rue Royale dealer Bensimon, it was one of the count's last acquisitions.
The circa 1780 bureau a cylindre (roll-top desk) by Claude-Charles Saunier in the Grand Bureau is typical of the Louis XVI style.  It is made of oak with veneer panels of flame grain mahogany and ornamented with chased and gilt bronze mounts.

After the 1765 discovery of limousin kaolin at Saint-Yrieix, France was able to produce hard-paste porcelain, such as this garniture by Niderviller consisting of a clock and a pair of vases, circa 1785

This very unusual table en chiffoniere was made by Jean-Henri Riesener and delivered in 1788 for the cabinet interieur of Queen Marie-Antoinette at Saint-Cloud.  Although a trough-shaped top with a high edge indicates its use as a sewing table, the drawer with a leather lid and a silver-plated pen holder also makes it a writing table.
The ebeniste Adam Weisweiler became a master in 1778 and was a favored supplier of the French and English aristocracy.  Rather than using marquetry for decoration, gilt bronze was usually enmployed, as seen in this dessert console.  The marble shelves are backed by mirror and the piece is set against a shallow mirrored niche in the Dining Room.
The leather desk armchair by Jean-Rene Nadal l'Aine was delivered in 1775 for the cabinet interieur of Count d'Artois at Versailles.  (Louis XVI's younger brother, born 1757, survived the Revolution to become Charles X in 1824).
The pair of voyeuses (conversation chairs) in the Grand Bureau were part of a set of four that were commissioned from Jean-Baptiste Claude Sene for the Salon Turc, the game room of the king's sister Madame Elisabeth, in her small Chateau de Montreuil in Versailles.  The grey and white rechampi finish has survived, but the original fabric, with a design of flowers and palm trees on a white ground, has not.
Although the maker of the clock in the count's room is not known, it is a famous model with both Marie-Antoinette and Count d'Artois owning copies.  Known as a clock a l'oiseau (with a dead bird), circa 1780, of chased and gilt bronze, white and blue marble, it is notable for the hands coverd in diamonds.
The exception gilt bronze chandelier in the Grand Salon is attributed to Francois Remond, a favorite supplier of both Marie-Antoinette and the Count d'Artois.  Believed to have originated from the Royal Household, Napolean presented it to the Arch-Chancellor of the Empire for his Parisian residence in 1808.
Little is known of the three-legged center table in the Grand Salon bought from Seligmann in 1900.  Made of chased and gilt bronze with Sarancolin marble, it dates from the end of the 18th century.  A detail of one of the three griffins on the base is shown in the first image.
A pair of circa 1780 vases carved from petrified wood and entwined with chased gilt bronze serpents decorated the cabinet interieurs (most private rooms) of Marie-Antoinette.  In 1789, at the beginning of the Revolution, the queen entrusted her collections of precious objects to Dominique Daguerre, the marchand mercier who had been in partnership with Simon-Phillipe Poirer before assuming the business.  (In 1778, Daguerre had moved to London where he was responsible for Carlton House and Brighton Pavilion decoration).  In 1793, shortly after the execution of Marie-Antoinette, the whole lot was returned to the Nation.  The Directoire put these vases up for sale, with some other objects, in 1798.  And they were known to be sold again in 1841 before joining Count de Camondo's collection.
The silver tureen and try commissioned by Catherine II for Gregory Orloff, 1770/71, was made by Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers de La Tour.  The Soviet government dispersed the magnificent vestiges of the Russian court in the late 1920s and the Count de Camondo was able to acquire several pieces from the same French-made service.
A two-handled milk goblet and its saucer, dating from 1753, are a remarkable example of Manufacture de Vincennes, founded in 1738 to compete with Meissen.  In 1756, the manufacture moved to Sevres, where it remains today. 
This detail shows the Manufacture de la Savonnerie carpet, circa 1740, in the Grand Salon.  Part of the set of ninety three commissioned by Louis XIV for the Grande Galerie of the Louvre, this one, the fiftieth of the series, represents the "Allegory of Air" with four heads representing the winds blowing into trumpets.
The folding screen was an important element in 18th century interior decoration, deflecting drafts and making large rooms more cozy.  This Manufacture de la Savonnerie folding screen of six panels, circa 1735-1740, was made in the older style with tapestry on both faces.  Later screens had crimson cloth on the obverse.
The "Bust of a Black Woman" presented in the Dining Room was acquired in 1932.  About 1781, Houdon was commissioned to create a fountain for Folie Monceau representing a black woman, executed in lead, pouring water on the shoulders of a bather of white marble.  During the revolution, the figures were lost, with the bather eventually being acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Houdon had kept a plaster bust of the black woman, however, and later used it in an allegory celebrating the emancipation of the black slaves.  This patinated bronze bust bears the inscription that it was cast by Thomire after Houdon.
"The Shepardess in Love" is one in a series of seven oil on canvas panels and two overdoor panels by Jean-Baptist Huet purchased by Count de Camondo in 1900.  Painted in the second half of the 18th century, the lot came from the Chateau of Benguet, near Mont-de-Marsan. A third overdoor panel, dated 1776, was acquired in 1927, but nothing is known of its provenance.
Bronze played an increasingly important role in furniture in the last third of the 18th century as evidenced by this silver-plated and gilt bronze console with green Egyptian marble.  Designed by Victor-Louis, it was delivered to the royal palace of Warsaw in 1766.
The footstool, circa 1780, was made by Georges Jacob.
The small genre oil painting "Bad Tidings", 1740, by Jean-Baptist-Marie Pierre reflects the love that the Count de Camondo had for the 185h century decorative arts and the representation of the touching reality of everyday life. 
Most of the factual information and all the photos presented in this essay come from the 1991 book The Nissim De Camondo Museum available through The Devoted Classicist Library here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Camondo, Paris

The Entrance Court of the Nissim De Camondo Museum, Paris.
The Devoted Classicist is sometimes asked to recommend a "secret" place in Paris that can be visited.  As an instructor for a course at Parsons Paris that I developed where all the class sessions were held at historic sites, I took my students to a number of locations not regularly open to the public.  But one of the most rewarding venues requires no special permission, and yet it is not frequently visited by tourists.  The Nissim De Camondo Museum, part of the Musees Et Monuments De France, is an extraordinary destination for all those interested in the decorative arts.
The original construction drawing for the garden facade.

When Count Moise de Camondo inherited the Napoleon III style family home at 63 rue de Monceau in 1910, he razed it and spent the next three years working with architect Rene Sergent to create a residence as a suitable setting for his collection of mostly Louis XVI period furnishings.  The purchase of period boiserie in 1911 determined the height of the windows, and certain pieces of furniture and tapestries warranted special architectural detailing to accommodate them.  While some of the decorative door and window hardware was collected as antique, reproductions were made as needed.  The staircase balustrade was executed in partly gilt wrought-iron by the Bagues firm after the original at the Hotel Dassin in Toulouse.
The prinicpal floor plans of the Nissim De Camondo Museum, Paris.
As currently interpreted, it is not a house museum in the usual sense.  Originally, reproductions were some times employed until the desired antique was acquired.  When the museum was opened, any contemporary pieces added for utility and/or comfort were removed, and the contents are displayed for viewing rather than to reflect a residential arrangement.  So it takes a little imagination to see it as someone's home, and these images show some of the furnishings relocated for a better camera angle.  But it is a remarkable museum experience, none-the-less, and a great treat to visit as it is almost deserted on a typical summer weekday when other museums like the Louvre are packed.

The main staircase, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
Some highlights of the collection will be presented in the next post, but here is a survey of the principal rooms.

The Grand Bureau, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The provenance of the oak boiserie of the Grand Bureau is not known.  The Aubusson tapestries depict the "Fables of La Fontaine" after Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

The Grand Salon, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The white and gilt boiserie in the Grand Salon or Salon Dore comes from a townhouse at 11 rue Royale.  The seating suite by Jacob is upholstered with Aubusson tapestries.
The Salon Huet, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The Salon Huet is named after the famous series of paintings by Jean-Baptiste Huet depicting an arcadian romance.  The white marble chimneypiece come from the Hotel Jean-Joseph de Laborde, rue Lafitte, Paris.

The Dining Room, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The boiserie of the Dining Room in green rechampi (meaning glazed in various tones) is partly 18th century.


The Petit Salon, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
 The walls of the Petit Bureau are upholstered in a cerise stripe-on-stripe fabric, a replacement of the original in the late 1980s restoration.

The Bedroom of the son Nissim, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The bedroom of the son Nissim de Camondo features a portrait of his grandfather of the same name and a steel and gilt bronze bed, circa 1790-1795.

The Bedroom of Moise, the Count de Camondo.

The view of the Count's bedroom shows a circa 1775 chest by Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer and a circa 1780 armchair a la reine by Georges Jacob.
The Library, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The Library of oak boiserie looks down on a private garden adjacent to the house and Parc Monceau beyond.
The Salon Bleu, the Nissim De Camondo Museum.
The Salon Bleu was formerly daughter Beatrice's bedroom.  The color of the silk on the walls is called "the queen's hair".
Sister and brother, Beatrice and Nissim de Camondo, 1916.
Both Moise de Camondo and his wife Irene Cahen d'Anvers were from prominent Jewish banking families.  When they divorced in 1901, the Count was granted custody of their two children, Nissim, born in 1892, and Beatrice, born two years later.  Nissim was a fighter pilot in World War I and was killed in action in 1917.  The death meant the end of the Camondo name.  Perhaps influenced by his cousin Isaac's bequest of his collection to the Louvre which was dispersed among three other museums, Moise's will left the house and the furnishings to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, to be kept together as a collection bearing the name of his son Nissim de Camondo.  The museum opened in 1936 after the Count's death in 1935.  Beatrice, who had married composer Leon Reinach in 1918 and had two children, inherited a large fortune on her father's death.  But she and her familiy were forcibly taken from their home during the German occupation of Paris, and were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

All the color photos and the floor plans shown come from the 1991 book The Nissim De Camondo Museum published by the Musees et Monuments de France and sold in the museum bookstore as a guide to the collection. Both English and French versions of the book can be purchased here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Aaron Shikler Portraits


The portrait of the Engelhard parrot Jacob by Aaron Shikler.
 Noted portrait artist Aaron Shikler, born 1922, was a personal friend of Charles and Jane Englehard who were profiled in my June 6, 2011, post here with some of the contents from their house Cragwood featured in my June 21, 2011, post here.  The portrait of Sister Parish with her dog Yummy in the previous post of The Devoted Classicist reminded me of the portrait I admired so much of the Engelhard's parrot, Jacob.  While Jacob's portrait was included in the sale of the contents of Cragwood, the Shikler portrait of Mrs. Engelhard was not.  Beginning with a 1959 breakthrough commission, Jane Engelhard became a major patron of Shikler, eventually commissioning the Lady Bird portrait, one of Mike Mansfield for the U.S. Senate, and another of the Duchess of Windsor, among others.

Portrait of Mrs. Charles W. Engelhard, Jr. by Aaron Shikler.
 Aaron Shikler studied at The Barnes Foundation in Marion, Pennsylvania and at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia with a stint in Europe between serving as a map-maker during WWII.  Returning to New York in 1949, he worked in the studio of Hans Hoffman, the Abstract Expressionist.

Portrait of John Kennedy, Jr., by Aaron Shikler.
Whether the recommendation came through her friend Jane Engelhard is unknown, but Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned the artist to do a portrait of young Caroline and John Kennedy in 1968, followed by others of Mrs. Kennedy alone and the three together.


Portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy by Aaron Shikler.
 Appreciating his artistic style and ability to please the client, Mrs. Kennedy asked Shikler to paint her official White House portrait, perhaps the most memorable of all the First Lady portraits.

Preliminary study for official White House portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy by Aaron Shikler.

A view of the White House Vermeil Room during the Reagan Administration showing the Aaron Shikler portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy above the settee to the left.
Photo from DREAM HOUSE, THE WHITE HOUSE AS AN AMERICAN HOME by Ulysses Grant Dietz and Sam Waters, Acanthus Press, 2009.
Shikler also painted the White House portrait of President John F. Kennedy, with Mrs. Kennedy's guidance.  She stipulated that there were to be no bags under his eyes and no penetrating gaze.

A 1962 sketch of President John F. Kennedy by Aaron Shikler from the Engelhard collection at Cragwood.
After producing a number of sketches for consideration, Mrs. Kennedy chose the pose with folded arms and lowered head that was adapted from a photo of Ted Kennedy in a similar stance at JFK's grave.  While it was controversial as some said the unconventional pose was not appropriate for the White House setting, many have found the portrait moving.

The official White House portrait of President John F. Kennedy by Aaron Shikler.
 Other White House portraits for President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Ronald Reagan, and First Lady Nancy Reagan followed.  A 1981 article in People magazine stated his then-current fee started at $25,000 for a head and shoulder portrait and $35,000 for for a full figure portrait.  A portrait of Jordan's Queen Noor was $140,000, however.   He no longer allowed input from the sitter, the story said, after an experience with the subject feeling the image was not flattering enough.

Thanks go to P. Gaye Tapp at the wonderful blog Little Augury for directing me to the blog Privilege.  Shikler also painted a portrait of the blog author Lisa, her brother, and her sister which can be seen here.

The display of portraits seems to have fallen out of favor these days in residential decoration, but do you not think there is a place for good portraits in stylish interior design?


The 2009 book Dream House, The White House as an American Home is available for purchase at a discount from the published price and the option of free shipping through The Devoted Classicist Library by clicking here.
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