Friday, July 20, 2012

Monticello's New Carpet

The Dining Room restored to the 1815 scheme showing the new carpet.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Harvard, Ralph Harvard Inc.
One of the most popular posts of The Devoted Classicist blog has been Historic Paint Color At Monticello which presents the re-creation of the 1815 chrome-yellow paint scheme for the Dining Room.  One of the pleasures of authoring a blog is making new acquaintances, and hearing from old ones.  So it was a great treat to get an email from the distinguished New York City designer Ralph Harvard, of Ralph Harvard Inc., an Attingham graduate that I had met just prior to my own wonderful educational experience at the school.  Ralph read my essay on the paint color and thought the Devoted Readers would appreciate seeing the carpet he designed for the Dining Room.  I am sure that will be the case.
A detail of the new Dining Room carpet at Monticello.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Harvard, Ralph Harvard Inc.
The new carpet was based on the documentation from the original order that Jefferson placed for a carpet in Abeville, France in the 1780s according to Ralph Harvard.  No examples from this period survive from the factory, this so this design is an interpretation.  But it is known that the moquette (cut velvet-like pile) carpets produced there were hand-woven wool on linen, the loom-width strips sewn together to make wall-to-wall or room size carpets, Harvard said.  He added that the Abbeville carpets were in the British taste, small patterned and without extravagant colors.
A cartoon for the new carpet's border showing yarn samples.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Hardvard, Ralph Harvard Inc
Jefferson's carpet was not wall-to-wall, so Harvard duplicated the original dimensions but added a neutral border to increase the size to protect the floor and keep the edges from curling up.
The model for the new carpet's border.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Harvard, Ralph Harvard Inc.
The Devoted Classicist thinks it is particularly remarkable that the 1815 scheme for the Monticello Dining Room is so in keeping with today's taste:  a testament to the timelessness of classic residential design.
The Dining Room of Monticello restored to the 1815 scheme.
Photo:  Philip Beaurline for Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
And again, special thanks to Mr. Ralph Harvard for sharing this very interesting update to the previous post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Patricia Nixon's Green Room

The Green Room after the Nixon redecoration, 1971.
Photo:  White House Historical Association.
By the time Patricia Nixon became First Lady in 1969, the State Rooms of the White House were beginning to show signs of wear despite the extensive efforts that had been made by Jacqueline Kennedy shown in the previous post of The Devoted Classicist.  For those too young to remember, Richard Nixon was a seasoned Washington political figure, serving a term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives after a stint in the Navy during World War II, then a term in the U.S. Senate, and two terms as Vice-President under President Eisenhower before bitterly losing the 1960 Presidential Election to John F. Kennedy.  So there was no great interest in preserving the Jacqueline Kennedy legacy as the Johnsons had done, but there was enough public sentiment to prevent a complete change of the State Rooms despite an extensive refurbishing.
Clement Conger, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, David Richmond Byers 3rd,
First Lady Pat Nixon, and Edward Vason Jones.
Following Jackie Kennedy's example of assembling an advisory team of notable leaders in the decorative arts, Pat Nixon hired Clement Conger as Curator.  He had become one of the country's most respected authorities in classical American antiques, fine arts, and architecture after orchestrating the creation of the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Reception Rooms.  Self-taught, Conger had a small but experienced group of associates that could be called on to execute various special tasks.  One of these experts was Albany, Georgia designer Edward Vason Jones;  though not formally trained as an architect, he had practical construction experience and had worked as a draftsman for the legendary Atlanta firm of Hentz, Reid and Adler.  Both Conger and Jones continued to work on improvements to the White House through the subsequent Ford and Carter administrations as well.  Conger also worked one term with Nancy Reagan, and eventually Conger oversaw the refurbishing a total of 27 of the 35 principal rooms of the White House.  David Richmond Byers, 3rd, was a partner in the well-regarded Atlanta firm W.E. Browne Decorating Company who had also consulted on the Diplomatic Reception Rooms.  (Another member of this team was Berry B. Tracy, but no record could be found of his official involvement in the Green Room).
Clement Conger, First Lady Pat Nixon, and daughter Tricia Nixon Cox. 1971.
Photo:  UPI.
The pair of Duncan Phyfe worktables may be seen in more detail in the Laura Bush refurbishing of the Green Room, here.  The secretary bookcase, showing a display of porcelain instead of books, between the windows was just one of the many acquisitions made between 1969 and 1974.
First Lady Patricia Nixon, December 14, 1971.
Photo:  AP Wirephoto.
Two easy chairs replaced the pair of small settees at the fireplace.  And a large Oriental rug covers the floor;  this was more a symbol of good taste of the time than a historical example of floor covering.  "The Morning on the Seine, Good Weather", 1897, by Claude Monet was chosen by the Kennedy family as a memorial gift to the White House after JFK's assasination and it was hung in the Green Room before Mrs. Kennedy moved out;  however, the painting was exiled to the Vermeil Room on the first floor during this Nixon refurbishing. Green silk moire from Scalamandre, similar to the Kennedy fabric, was used for the walls, but a different scheme was devised for the curtains.
Edward Vason Jones' drawing for the Green Room curtains, circa 1971.
Image via White House Museum Organization.
Edward Vason Jones' design for the curtains, shown with only one jabot and one panel with a gathered swag but probably intending a symmetrical arrangement, was inspired by a document for a historic curtain design.  The new pair of pelmets (or cornice boards, as they are sometimes called) were based on a model found at the Miles Brewton House, a Palladian mansion in Charleston, South Carolina, completed about 1769.
A pelmet in the Miles Brewton House dining room.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Ralph Harvard.
Ralph Harvard Inc
Thanks to Ralph Harvard, Ralph Harvard Inc., who is decorating the still-private residence for the Manigault family, we have a look at the original model, of an unkown date, in the room of the Miles Brewton house now used as the Dining Room.
An exhibition at the Nixon Library features a chair from the Green Room.
(Disregard the curtains, if possible).
Photo:  Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
A recent exhibition at the Nixon Presidential Library celebrates the 100 years since Pat Nixon's birth.  A chair from the Green Room represents the former First Lady's efforts to build the White House Collection.  According to daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower in an interview in "The New Yorker", Pat Nixon was responsible for over 600 pieces of furniture and art to be added to the collection.

President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford came to the White House after being first appointed Vice-President after Spiro Agnew resigned, and then becoming President after Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.  Although there was entertaining in the White House during the 895 day Ford administration, the decor of the State Rooms saw little change.

First Lady Rosalyn and President Jimmy Carter are interviewed by Barbara Walters, 1977.
Photo:  NARA.
First Lady Rosalyn Carter established the White House Preservation Fund to provide an endowment to refurnish the State Rooms.  But her interests were much more geared towards issues of social consciousness and humanity than decor.  However, art was also a priority and it was during the Carter era that Conger bought the painting that is often cited as one of the most important works of art in the White House;  "Lighter Relieving a Steamboat Aground" may be viewed in a previous post of The Devoted Classicist here. 
The Green Room decorated for a Reagan Christmas, 1982.
Note the replacement Empire ormolu and crystal chandelier.
Photo:  The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
First Lady Nancy Reagan was well-known for having conflicting White House staff fired.  According to historian William Seale, who is the author of the two volume set THE PRESIDENTS HOUSE: A HISTORY. President Reagan insisted on personally firing Conger who had grown too territorial, it was thought.  Former Secret Service agent Rex Scouten, who had served as the White House Chief Usher since the Nixons, replaced Conger:  although he had no background in decorative arts, he was a particularly dutiful favorite of the First Lady who named her dog after him.  (He also allowed the Reagan's personal decorator Ted Graber to proceed according to Nancy Reagan's wishes).  Mrs. Reagan was very successful in soliciting contributions for the complete redecoration of the private quarters and for maintenance of the State Rooms.  According to the White House Historical Association, over 150 objects in the collection received conservation attention, along with the marble walls, wood doors and floors in the State Rooms during the Reagan era, January, 1981, to January, 1989.
The Green Room as depicted in a Christmas card by Mark Hampton
for President George H.W. and First Lady Barbara Bush.
Image:  George Bush Library and Museum.
President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush revived the Committee for the Preservation of the White House to recommend acquisitions.  The White House Endowment Fund was activated by Barbara Bush to operate under the auspices of the White House Historical Association.
Paula Zahn interviews First Lady Barbara Bush, 1992,
in the Green Room as dog Millie does not even pretend to be interested.
Photo:  George Bush Library and Museum.
Although Mark Hampton extensively decorated the private quarters for the Bushes (as the Reagans took their furniture), little was done towards the decoration of the State Rooms during the Bush term, 1989 to 1993, that followed the Reagan era.
An exterior view of the gib door to the Green Room
from the South Portico, 1992.
Photo:  HABS.
In the second half of the 1980s, this writer travelled to Washington, DC, frequently for private renovation projects and enjoyed seeing the north elevation of the White House stripped of the paint that had built up over the years to reveal the blocks of Aquia Creek sandstone.  Section by section, the paint was chemically removed, carefully cleaning the carved detailing, and left bare to dry out until being repainted again.  It was a particularly beautiful sight to behold as the slight variations in the stone brought an even more handsome face to the building.  In 1992, the same process was repeated for the south elevation, as seen in the photo above recorded by the Historic American Building Survey.  (For archival stability, HABS photos of the pre-digital age were almost always black and white).
An interior view of the gib door to the South Portico
from the Green Room, 1992.
Photo:  HABS.
Although the term sometimes varies, the consensus of my colleagues is that this is a Gib Door.  (If just the panels were hinged below the double or triple hung sash, it would be a Gib Window).
The Green Room Wainscot, 1992.
Photo:  HABS.
Many architectural details were salvaged for the 1948-52 rebuilding of the White House, but most of the wood and plaster trims are new replicas.
The Green Room Ceiling, 1992.
Photo:  HABS.
Although there is some notation that Edward Vason Jones had improved some of the architectural features in the East Room, no specific documentation was found to support that;  perhaps he designed this plaster ceiling medallion.
The Clinton Christmas card, 1996, by Thomas McKnight.
Photo:  William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's decoration of the second floor with Little Rock, Arkansas, decorator Kaki Hockersmith is still talked about in design circles. 
The Clinton Green Room, 1999.
Photo:  NARA.
The Blue Room and the East Room were refurbished in 1995; the Entrance Hall, Cross Hall, and Grand Staircase were refurbished in 1997; and the State Dining Room was refurbished in 1998.
The Clinton Green Room, 1999.
Photo:  NARA.
The Green Room remained with few changes since the Pat Nixon decorating scheme until the refurbishing by First Lady Laura Bush seen here.
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg with First Lady Michelle Obama
in the Green Room, October 31, 2011.
White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson.
There appears to have been little if any changes to the Green Room by First Lady Michelle Obama.  But Devoted Readers can see for themselves as the Obamas have teamed with the Google Art Project to allow a virtual tour of the White House that is available for view on-line.
The Green Room decorated for Christmas for the Obamas, 2011.
Photo:  AFP/Getty Images.
The White House is one of this country's great treasures, undoubtedly the most famous building in the world, and it deserves better treatment than it has sometimes received in the past.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy's Green Room

First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
Photo:  LIFE magazine, 1961.
This esssay is the third in the series on the history of decoration for the Green Room of the White House.  The first part, which inspired this whole series, presents the refurbishing by Laura Bush, may be viewed here.  To give background information, a survey of all the redecorations of the Green Room through Mamie Eisenhower is prented in the second part;  it may be viewed here. 
Poet Robert Frost with President John F. Kennedy.
The Green Room of the White House, 1961,
showing the decoration from the Truman era.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston.
Only 31 years old, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy none-the-less was perhaps the most qualified First Lady to ever take on the decoration of the White House.  Before the inauguration, Mrs. Kennedy requested background information on the history of the White House and floor plans from the Library of Congress to begin planning the much-needed refurbishing.

December 9, 1960.
The wife of President-Elect John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline, shakes hands
with the wife of the current President, Mamie Eisenhower.
AP Wire Photo.
The customary tour by the  out-going First Lady for the in-coming was tense by all accounts.  Mrs. Kennedy compared the Eisenhower 'Pink House' to the infamous Russian prison Lubianka.  According  to FIRST LADIES, VOLUME ONE, Mamie Eisenhower, having breakfast in bed the next morning after the tour, warned the staff, "She's planning to redo every room in this house. . .You've got quite a project ahead of you.  There are certainly going to be some changes made around here!"
Mrs. Henry (Sister) Parish, 2nd.
Photo by Wilbur Pippin.
The Kennedys had been working with New York society decorator Mrs. Henry Parish, 2nd, on their Georgetown house, so 'Sister' as she was known, was the obvious choice to make their furniture work in the second floor private living quarters, along with the additional furnishings that would be required.  (In January, 1962, Albert Hadley would join her firm which would become Parish-Hadley in 1964, this writer's former employer).  The $50,000 allocation for decorating was spent in just two weeks, however, with a kitchen and private Dining Room (seen here.)  added on the second floor to make the White House suitable for a family with children.  Mrs. Kennedy realized a more structured plan would have to be developed to realize her goals for the State Rooms to be filled with art, antique furniture and appropriate new rugs and curtains based on historic documents.
Arturo Pini di san Miniato, President of the National Society of
Interior Designers, presents the first Thomas Jefferson Award to
Henry Francis du Pont for his work at the White House.
Photo:  AP Wide World Photo, White House Historical Association.
Changes in tax laws made charitable donations more favorable and the Kennedys had many wealthy and influential friends who were called upon, along with an appeal to the public, to make gifts of antiques and cash to the White House.  Mrs. Kennedy wisely organized the Fine Arts Committee for the White House and served as the honorary chairperson.  Henry Francis duPont, the founder of the Winterthur Museum of American Decorative Arts and the foremost connosieur in his field in the day, was announced as chairman on February 23, 1961.  Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, the noted collectors of 18th century Fench Furniture, were among the members of the committee, and played a large part in the introduction of the French Taste in both the State Rooms and the Private Quarters.  Public Law 87-286, passed in September, 1961, created a permanent White House furnishings collection to accept these gifts and established the position of curator.
Stephane Boudin in the Treaty Room of the White House,
photographed by Jacqueline Kennedy.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston.
With Sister Parish to create the comfortable and tasteful family environment, and Henry duPont to create a museum-quality decor, Stephane Boudin was brought in to add sophistication and glamour.  The head of the influential French decorating firm, Maison Jansen, was introduced to Mrs. Kennedy by Jayne Wrightsman, a Jansen client herself.  Jayne Wrightsman had become a mentor to Jackie Kennedy and Boudin helped  mediate the differences between Mrs. Parish and Mr. du Pont, each having the backing of committee members and donors who were each looking to have their interests in the decoration realized.  Although not entirely a secret, Boudin was kept out of the spotlight that was on the otherwise all-American team.  It was not until the 1997 publication of DESIGNING CAMELOT: THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE RESTORATION written by James Archer Abbott and Elaine Rice that the contributions of Boudin became widely known.  The Treaty Room, the Red Room, and the Blue Room, in particular, were triumphs of decoration, providing inspiration in design that influences the profession still today.
Fabric sample from the office of Mrs. Henry Parish, II.
Image:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston.
Delays in getting the desired wall and curtain fabric contributed to the Green Room decoration not being completed before President Kennedy's assasination on November 23, 1963.  As the numerous Scalamandre samples were rejected, the existing Truman era fabric had to remain while Boudin arranged to have the silk moire specially woven by the historic French firm Tassinari & Chatel.  The existing green fabric had a blue cast and the new fabric had yellow tonalities, so the new seating fabric had to coordinate with both.  Boudin often used white damasks and brocades for upholstery, but there was surely little consideration that anything else would work in this situation.
March 15, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Many photos of the Green Room taken by the White House staff photographers were intended to make a record of the flower arrangements rather than document the progress of the redecoration.  But that secondary accomplishment was made as well as seen in these images taken before a dinner to honor Polish Prince Stanislaw and Princess Lee (the First Lady's Sister) Radziwill.  Although there have been some rearrangements, the furnishings largely remain the same as they were for the Eisenhowers.  Among the first changes was the art.
March 15, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
A large portrait of President Millard Fillmore now hangs over the Daniel Webster settee.  And it looks like a painted Louis XVI fauteuil is being tried out at the seating group at the fireplace opposite.
May 8, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
In this photo, the First Lady, in a navy blue dress, speaks with the wife of astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into space, at a reception following the award of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Sister-in-law Ethel Kennedy, in a pink suit with her back to the camera, speaks to the astronaut's mother, carrying an Autumn Haze mink stole and what is undoubtedly her daughter-in-law's handbag as well as her own.  Also note the hats, gloves, stockings and orchid corsages, clearly accepted attire for lady guests at a daytime reception at the White House.
March 15, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
The double hanging of paintings was being studied for the north wall flanking the main entrance to the room.  Here the floral arrangement is in conflict with the portrait of President Andrew Johnson.
May 3, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Among Mrs. Kennedy's favorite paintings in the White House collection were eight paintings by Paul Cezanne, given by Charles A. Loeser;  she had two intstalled in the Green Room.  "The Forest", 1890-92, is shown above, hanging at a height to consider a floral arrangement beneath.
June 28, 1961.
"The Forest" by Paul Cezanne.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
June 28, 1961.
"House on the Marne" by Paul Cezanne.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
As shown in the photos of the First Lady with Miss P. Calnan, the grand-daughter of the donor, the paintings are above the optimal viewing height.
October 4, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Different chairs are tried with two pairs from a set of four on the north wall, at the Cezanne paintings flanking the main entrance to the room, and a pair at the settee in the foreground.
November 1, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
In a similar view, the different chairs are less-upholstered and decidedly more American.  The Cezanne paintings remain in position, however.  At a later date, they are deemed inappropriate for the Green Room and relocated to the second floor private quarters.
November 2, 1961.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
By November, 1961, the 1858 portrait of President Franklin Pierce is placed above the fireplace.  The Truman curtains, in the same fabric as the wall hangings, are reworked to delete the gilt valance and hang within the window trim.
November 2, 1961.
(Reversed view).
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
In the view of the south wall, reversed, a Baltimore desk is placed beneath a Georgian mirro between the windows.  It was later discovered to be a reproduction and removed.  This is another view of the curtains refitted to be installed within the trim.
December, 1961.
The Special Committee for White House Paintings.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Gathered for a photo, and what appears to be a film as well, is the Special Committee for White House Paintings.  The First Lady, seated and wearing what appears to be a black velvet dress, speaks to Henry du Pont, standing in the brown suit behind.  Seated next to Jacqueline Kennedy is James W. Fosburgh, the chairman of the committee.  Also seated, in the red dress, cape and mink hat is Susan Mary Alsop.  Standing, left to right, is Suzette M. Zurcher; Stanley Marcus, the Dallas department store millionaire;  Lawrence Fleishchmann; Minnie (Mary Benedict Cushing Astor) Fosburgh; Nathaniel Saltonstall;  Andrea Cowdin;  Henry Francis du Pont, Chairman of the White House Fine Arts Committee;  Helen Chisholm Halle;  Babe (Barbara Cushing Mortimer) Paley; and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.  The new rug appears to be a neo-classical Savonnerie, and brackets with Paris Porcelain urns are added to flank the mirror between the windows.
January 31, 1962.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
In the January, 1962, view, the portrait of Benjamin Franklin is seen over the fireplace now, and the lolling chairs appear in white damask, one at the Webster settee, but the other at the window near the door to the East Room.  The Truman rug has returned.
Photo:  Tom Leonard, Conde Nast.
Another view of the room before the wall fabric is changed, showing the reworked curtains of the same material, but set within the window trim.  The crystal sconces still flank both the sofa and the fireplace until the wall fabric is changed.
Photo:  White House Historical Association.
The Daniel Webster sofa gets upholstered in a fabric from Scalamandre.  This photo is undated and may have been taken at the same time as the following view of the room.
A 1963 view of the room showing the new wall fabric,
a neo-classical rug,and revised installation of paintings.
Photo:  Family of (White House Photographer) Robert Knudsen.
This photograph is not in the Kennedy Library collection, and thought to be taken after the President's death, as a last record of Jacqueline Kennedy's efforts for the room.  The furniture has all been reupholstered and the fabric for the walls has finally arrived (via diplomatic pouch so there was no record at U.S. Customs of foreign goods for the White House) and is installed.  This writer could find no view of the windows in this room in the digital photos of the subsequent Lyndon B. Johnson administration, however, but presumably they were made of the same fabric as planned.  The Savonnerie rug is a bit shy of optimal dimensions but a great improvement over the commercial grade rug from the Truman era.  Also of note is the choice of art and the placement.

An undated photo showing the Boudin-designed curtains installed.
Photo:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

1963 (or later).
Photo:  Private Collection.
Thanks to a Devoted Reader, here is a view of the new curtains, in the same fabric as the walls.  Very much in the style of Stephane Boudin, straight panels hang from behind a valance of shaped tabs with contrasting trim.
Image:  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
This illustration was the personal Christmas card for the President and Mrs. Kennedy for 1963, with a pre-printed message line and signatures;  it was sent to close friends, despite the President's death.  It shows the Green Room from the opposite direction as the last photo, with the specially woven green silk moire from France and the same arrangement of furniture, clearly the intended design.  The rug is optimally sized and the art includes installations over the doorways.  A tall secretary bookcase is placed between the windows, flanked by another pair of lolling chairs, similar to those flanking the Webster sofa.  And notably the design for the curtains is indicated, more what would be expected for a chic private interior than a period American museum room.

Despite that a few sources had stated that Lady Bird Johnson changed the chandelier in this room during the time of her husband's Presidency, this writer could find no evidence to support that.    In fact most of the decoration (with the exception of the Oval Office) intentionally remained intact as a tribute to the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy.  It appears that the decoration of the Green Room remained until a major refurbishing by First Lady Pat Nixon almost ten years later;  that will be the subject of the next post of The Devoted Classicist.