Friday, August 15, 2014

Jonathan Myles-Lea Residential Portraits

A bird's eye view of Dream Acres
painted by Jonathan Myles-Lea
for Country Life magazine.
Image via Arabella Lennox-Boyd
The Devoted Classicist first learned of the exceptional talents of contemporary artist Jonathan Myles-Lea when his remarkable composite views of Daylesford came to light during the research for the blog essay that was the Carole and Anthony Bamford part of the series about that quintessential country house. 

A detail of the painting of Daylesford,
the Bamford estate, showing the main house
by S.P. Cockerell, the Orangery by Sanderson Miller,
the Gardener's Cottage and the large Kitchen Garden.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea

Myles-Lea has been described as the successor to painter John Constable and the extraordinary muralist Rex Whistler.  While this is certainly understandable, Jonathan Myles-Lea's delightful paintings remind me of my favorite house portraits by the seventeenth-century master Johannes Kip and the twentieth-century genius Felix Kelly.

Jonathan Myles-Lea.
Photo by Juan F. Bastos.

Jonathan has a Bachelors Degree in The History of Art & Architecture from the University of London, which was undoubtedly a factor in his portraits of historic homes and gardens.  Friendships with artist Francis Bacon, art expert (and jazz singer) George Melly, and portraitist Lucien Freud led to advice that influenced his work as well.

Pen and Ink.
The Rectory at Litton Cheney: in-progress.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea
This series of images for The Rectory at Litton Cheney is a 'straight-on' rather than aerial view, but shows the steps Myles-Lea goes through to produce the layers that give the finished results.

The Rectory at Litton Cheney: in-progress.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
The Rectory in Dorset was the home of noted English engraver Reynolds Stone from 1953 until 1979.

The completed oil paintng, 30" x 60".
The Rectory at Litton Cheney.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
In 1991, he painted a friend's house in North Wales, Plas Teg, that has led to over 60 commissions in ten countries.  In the United States, paintings have been commissioned by Evelyn Lauder, Norman Lear, and Oprah Winfrey.  In Great Britain, clients in addition to Lord and Lady Bamford include David Armstrong-Jones, Lord Linley; The Cliveden Estate, and Lady Victoria Leatham at Burghley House.  A friendship with one of Britain's greatest garden designers, Sir Roy Strong, led to a 1994 commission of his garden, The Laskett; Strong was credited with introductions to potential clients that led to more commissions.

The Laskett.
The garden of Sir Roy Strong and his late wife
Julia Trevelyn Oman in Herefordshire is the largest
formal garden in England planted after 1945.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
In 2007, Prince Charles commissioned the pen and ink drawing of his country house, Highgrove, that appears on the cover of a limited-edition, leather-bound book written by the Prince of Wales and Bunny Guiness.  In addition to the aerial view, there are various garden features forming a border.  Myles-Lea also designed a crest for this map that included items to represent the Prince's hobbies: polo-sticks, apples, an artist's palette, gardening tools, and a basket of eggs.  Jonathan Myles-Lea's map also appears on other merchandise available in the Highgrove shop in addition to the book HIGHGROVE: A GARDEN CELEBRATED.

Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea
Country Life magazine commissioned an aerial view in 2009 of the fantasy 10 acre country estate, Dream Acres, that was designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd and Jonathan Self for a series of articles for the weekly publication.  "For the painting of Dream Acres, I used the sweep of the main drive to lead the eye to the house, and then on to the stream at the end of the lawn.  I wanted to make the composition as dynamic as possible so that the viewer's eye travels through the picture -- as if they were taking a stroll through the garden."  It was the first time in the long history of the magazine that an illustration had been used for a cover.

The April 29, 2009, cover of Country Life
featuring Jonathan Myles-Lea's view of
the fantasy country estate, Dream Acres.
The artist's personal archives, consisting of several thousand compositional drawings, sketches, letters, and photos are in the process of being acquired by The Bodleian Library at The University of Oxford.  A book is in the works, expected to be published in January, 2015.

The back and front cover of the new book on
Jonathan Myles-Lea.
Jonathan Myles-Lea, with studios both in England and in the United States, may be commissioned to paint a portrait of your own beloved home and garden.  For details and particulars, contact the artist directly through his website.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Aged in Wood

The prop lobby poster for the play in
"All About Eve"
From the collection of Jane Withers.
Sold $10,000 November 9, 2013.
Julien's Auctions
Fans of the 1950 film "All About Eve" will recognize "Aged in Wood" as the title of the play starring Margo Channing (Bette Davis) at the beginning of the story.  But it could also be used to describe the new furniture carved by Jonathan Sainsbury.  There are many makers of reproduction furniture, but Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd is a stand-out because they hand carve directly from period examples with little if any 'interpretation' and give the new pieces an authentic finish to match the original or to suit the decor, whether water-gilded, waxed, or an aged paint finish.

A pair of reproduction William Kent
console tables, carved pine and aged gesso
by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Image via Semperey.
The original Kent console table
made in the 1720s, formerly at Chiswick House,
now in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Image via V & A.
A watercolor view of the Chiswick Gallery
by William H Hunt, 1828.
Image via The Bard Graduate Center.
The Sainsbury family started a business as timber merchants in the early 18th century and branched out as cabinet-makers in 1918 with a shop in Bournemouth.  In 2004, Jonathan Sainsbury established his own business to make furniture to meet a demand where the original was either too costly or impossible to find.

The Nostell Priory Mirror
as made by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
(A reduction of height may be seen when compared
to the original by Thomas Chippendale).
Image via Decorex.
Thomas Chippendale's mirror
in the State Bedroom of Nostell Priory.
National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel
via Treasure Hunt blog
Many of the reproductions are mirrors in the ELG range (English Looking Glasses).  But there are all sorts of chairs, benches, beds, brackets, lamps, center tables and console tables.  In addition to Kent and Chippendale, there are a number of pieces reproduced from originals by Robert Adam, Matthias Lock and Thomas Hope, among others from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Brighling Park table as reproduced by
Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Image via Decorex.
The George II table from Brightling Park
possibly made by William Hallett.
Image via Bonhams.
Several pieces were commissioned by Carolyne Roehm for Chisholm House, her home in Charleston, South Carolina.  In addition, Sainsbury is carving a fireplace surround and overmantle inspired by the fantastic Chinese Room at Claydon; you will want to see the photos and read more about that on her blog here.

Restoration work is also undertaken by
Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Read more about William Kent, the Ultimate Tastemaker, in an earlier post of The Devoted Classicist here.  See more examples of the work by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd on their website.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gracie Mansion

Gracie Mansion, official home of the mayor
of New York City.
Photo via Architectural Digest.
There has been a storm of Sharknado intensity in the social media this week about the donation of $65,000 worth of furniture from the mall/mail-order store West Elm for Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of the City of New York.  Attention-getting headlines such as this one from Curbed New York, "De Blassios Swap 300-Year-Old Antiques for West Elm at Gracie," incited indignation that the comparatively uncouth new First Family of NYC would not appreciate the relatively lavish refurnishing untaken during the Bloomberg years, all paid for by private sources including a significant amount donated by Bloomberg personally.  But it must be noted that the West Elm furnishings were for the private quarters of the residence and were given to the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, the non-profit group that supports the historic and decorative aspects of the property.

The Entrance Hall in 1946.
Image via Corbis.
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy was founded in 1981 at the start of a $5.5 million renovation that was carried out 1981 to 1984 during the administration of Ed Koch.  Two interior designers at their peak of popularity, Albert Hadley of Parish-Hadley Associates and Mark Hampton of Mark Hampton LLC, were invited to donate their services to decorate the mansion.  Albert was to create a viable décor for the public rooms in the historic part of the house, essentially the Entrance Hall, Parlor, Sitting Room and Dining Room in addition to the State Guest Room suite.  Mark was to decorate the Visitor's Entrance Hall, the Banquet Hall, and the Ballroom, all in the 1966 addition designed by architect Mott B. Schmidt and named in honor of former Mayor Robert Wagner, Susan, who had worked towards the creation of the wing but died before it was completed.
A 1983 sketch of a hall by Albert Hadley.
Image via One Kings Lane.
I worked at Parish-Hadley in the 1980s and assisted Mr. Hadley in the aspects of the Gracie Mansion project that required architectural input from designing the improvements to the State Guest Suite to locating electrical outlets and reviewing construction plans as they impacted the interior design.  The sketch titled "The Hall" above may or may not have been intended for Gracie Mansion but it is indicative of the drawings Mr. Hadley used to convey his ideas for committee approval and stir up support from his deep-pocketed friends.  And it is from the same time period as his involvement at Gracie Mansion.

The Entrance Hall circa 1985.
Photo via City of New York.
Although Mr. Hadley was not opposed to painting the floor in two tones of gray as a checkerboard, the results as carried out under the direction of the Conservancy (and executed by a compensated family member of the committee) were too theatrical, including the marbleizing of the stair risers (painted out in a later refurbishing) and the non-relating compass star. 

Albert Hadley's conceptual sketch of the Parlor
at Gracie Mansion.
Image via One Kings Lane.
Albert Hadley's concept for the furnishing of Gracie Mansion was not unlike that carried out for the second floor rooms at the White House for the Kennedys that he had worked on twenty years before with Sister Parish, later becoming her business partner in the legendary firm Parish-Hadley Associates.  The idea was to take some historic pieces of Mid-Atlantic, if not New York, origin of the late 18th and early 19th century and supplement them with quality new furniture and comfortable upholstery to allow these rooms to be realistically used on both daily and official entertaining occasions, not a museum setting despite the historic nature of the mansion.  It was not unlike how the Kennedys used the Yellow Oval Room, Family Dining Room and the adjacent hallways in the White House, decorated to be attractive enough for distinguished guests but comfortable enough for family use.

The Dining Room at Gracie Mansion, circa 1985.
Photo via City of New York.
Despite being known later as the Albert Hadley Refurnishing of the historic part of the mansion, very little of the work he proposed was actually realized.  Although Mark Hampton seemed to have fared better in the Wagner Wing, the Conservancy committee approved but prevented most of Albert Hadley's contributions from being realized.  The Dining Room was the one space where Mr. Hadley's ideas were clearly evident.  All the furnishings were donated by Hadley supporters including the scenic wallpaper.  Among Albert's own donations, in addition to his time, were the simple gauze curtains hung from stamped gilt metal valances; the committee fought him on those, insisting much more formal window treatments would be better suited for the room.  The final straw was the fitted carpet;  the multi-colored striped carpet had been selected for the adjacent sitting room and a durable dark green moire-patterned plush-cut carpet was specified for the Dining Room.  When the carpet company brought the goods (donated because of Mr. Hadley) to be installed, some ladies of the committee made a last-minute Executive Decision to switch the goods as the rooms were of similar size and the striped carpet could be stretched a bit to make up the difference.  Since there was not any patterned fabric in the room, they thought the more colorful carpet was better.  By the end of the day, Albert Hadley officially resigned from the effort and the committee was left to "play house" as it wished.

The visitor's entrance to Gracie Mansion
showing the 1966 Susan Wagner Wing.
Photo by John Foreman for
the Big Old Houses blog.
Despite press reports to the contrary, Mayor Ed Koch did not live in Gracie Mansion on a regular basis, preferring his rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village.  A rule that allows that the only overnight guests may be the immediate members of the First Family and the official guests of the City of New York prevented Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg from cohabitating there with their girlfriends.  Mayor Bloomberg did contribute some of his own funds, however, to the $7 million restoration in 2002 with the interior design carried out by his decorator of choice, Jamie Drake.  Those interiors may be seen as photographed by Architectural Digest here.

Gracie Mansion as it appeared circa 1900
(prior to the 1923 restoration)
Image from Bettman Archives via Corbis.
More can be read about the history of Gracie Mansion on John Foreman's Big Old Houses blog here and on the official website of the City of New York here.  In summary, the mayors bring their own furniture for their private rooms and it looks like the Gracie Mansion Conservancy arranged for this donation by West Elm to supplement the De Blassios' belongings although the furniture officially belongs to the Conservancy.