Thursday, February 9, 2012

Albert Hadley: The Zen of Seeing

The exhibition at the Nashville Public Library.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist Blog.
The Devoted Classicist was pleased and honored to accept the invitation to attend the opening of The Zen of Seeing: Selections from the Albert Hadley Interior Design Collection at the Nashville Public Library.  The legendary interior designer (and my former employer) has donated his collection of books, scrapbooks, photographs and drawings to the library and this exhibition, which runs through June 3, 2012, shows a sampling of that treasure trove.
Albert Hadley's sketch "Suggestion For Red Lacquer And Brass Library for Mrs. Vincent Astor, N.Y." was used for the invitation to the exhbition opening.
Image:  Nashville Public Library Foundation.
Mr. Hadley, retired from practice, is now comfortably ensconced in Nashville, his hometown.  Although he was not able to attend the opening festivities, his sister Betty did, along with many friends and admirers of the man and his work.
Albert Hadley.
Photo by Chester Higgins for NYTIMES.
The hostess of the opening event was Libby Page, a long-time friend of Albert Hadley along with her husband the noted landscape architect Ben Page.  Bunny Williams, my former co-worker at Parish-Hadley where she was employed for over 20 years, addressed the opening reception attendees, assuring all that Mr. Hadley was still mentally sharp and gracious during their visit earlier that afternoon. 
Bunny Williams, in black, center, addressing the attendees at the opening reception.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog.
Bunny recommended that one particular feature (perhaps my personal favorite) of the exhibition not be overlooked, the paper doll with outfits that Albert made for his little sister.  Always one to appreciate the appeal of glamour, Albert represented his sister as a Betty-Grable-like doll in a swimsuit with a sophisticated wardrobe he designed -- all delightfully drawn by hand and watercolored.  Bunny also shared how grateful she was for the opportunity to learn from Albert Hadley, with all the special opportunities she had during her time at Parish-Hadley.  Bunny recalled an experience she had, early on, delivering some fabric samples to the 820 Fifth Avenue apartment of Babe and Bill Paley, and coming face-to-face with an impressive Picasso portrait in the entrance hall.  "I knew it wasn't the poster." she told the appreciative crowd.
The Entrance Hall of the Paley Apartment at 820 Fifth Avenue as decorated by Parish-Hadley.
Photo from JANSEN by James Archer Abbott.
This exhibit is sponsored by the Nashville Public Library Foundation which is supported by a number of generous philanthropic leaders, including my former client Mrs. Walter (Margaret Ann) Robinson, who was also in attendance for the opening.
This portrait of benefactor Margaret Ann Robinson hangs adjacent to the courtyard entrance of the Nashville Public Library.
Photo of portrait by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog.
Mrs. Robinson was involved in the planning of the beautiful library and she and her late husband were generous benefactors, especially in providing the gorgeous landscaped courtyard on the second level.
A February, 2012, view of the library courtyard designed by Ben Page of Page-Duke Landscape Architects, Nashville.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog.
If readers are planning to see the exhibition, be sure to allow time to see this courtyard, surely one of Nashville's greatest urban spaces.  And also see the Main Reading Room, on the third level above the two story entrance hall, looking up the street to the handsome, historic Tennessee State Capital.
The entrance to the Nashville Public Library designed by the office of Robert A.M. Stern, New York.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist blog.
For those attending the highly-recommended Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, the Nashville Public Library is on the block across the street from the show, sharing the block with the convenient parking garage.  Many of those in attendance were the chairpersons of the show, past, present, and future, that Albert Hadley had helped develop and support.  Also, I had the great pleasure of meeting Christopher Spitzmiller who is as charming as he is talented;  Chris had met Albert Hadley through special commisions of lamps he created.  And I was happy to meet a number of wonderful Nashville devoted readers of this blog;  thanks for introducing yourselves!


  1. Such a generous donation and what a wonderful way to honor a living legend...

  2. P.O.E., I am glad these documents found such an appreciative home.

  3. You have some very talented designers living in Nashville. It is getting more stylish by the minute! I'd love to go and see this exhibit. Thank you for the head's up.

  4. When I clicked on this, I thought it was a book! Wish it were. I have officially put Nashville on my list of cities to visit.

  5. Fan of Albert HadleyFebruary 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    The slow but sure de-acquisition of all of Alberts houses and possessions is hard to accept. It seems just yesterday I was sitting on the porch at Pocantico, or driving around in the Camarro, Tice's studio had just been featured in the Times, and David had just gone out on his own. And then - Alberts presence and designs went on, and on, and on...Powerful voices like Alberts are so constant and rich, they lull us into thinking nothing will ever change. Thank you Albert for being there so long, thank you for giving us something to be a part of.

  6. D.D., Nashville is indeed a stylish town.

    H.B.D., don't miss Cheekwood, featured in a previous post, and of course, The Parthenon.

    F.O.A.H., Albert Hadley has been a mentor to many, and for that he will be appreciated for a long time.

  7. How marvelous (and as usual, stylish) of Hadley to donate his archives to his hometown. And what a handsome repository.

    There is no better designer.

  8. Thanks for your comment, D.E.D. I am in complete agreement.

  9. Although the Blogger Comment Form allows a comment to be submitted through the Anonymous format, it cannot be published. But in answer to a May 1, 2012, inquiry about what were the Jansen contributions to the Paley entrance hall at 820 Fifth Avenue and what were Parish-Hadley's, that is the subject of a future post. I recently had the great pleasure of seeing the original maquettes created for the Jansen proposals for the Elevator Vestibule, Entrance Hall Gallery, and Living Room and look forward with sharing my observations with my Devoted Readers.


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