Saturday, August 22, 2009

Riviera Cocktail

This week has been impossibly busy and it was remiss of me not to have posted earlier and further to the point, I still do not have good photographs of the boiserie panel to post ... I will post some soon.

After a dreadful week, for reasons (and/or persons) best left unmentioned, I took some time out today and lay on a couch in the sunshine to recuperate. Just by chance, I happened to turn on the television and was treated to a screening of 'Riviera Cocktail', a documentary on the life and work of the Irish photographer Edward Quinn. I can recommend this sort of thing for anyone who is feeling even the least bit under the weather ... I am almost entirely recovered!

A website dedicated to the photographer, through which it is possible to buy photographic prints, books and a DVD of the film, also provides the following biography:

Edward Quinn, born 1920 in Ireland, lived and worked as a photographer since the 50’s on the Côte d’Azur, which was during the “Golden Fifties” the playground of the celebrities from the world of show biz, art and business. The rich and the famous came to the Riviera to relax. But the movie stars knew how much their off-screen image counted and Quinn was at the right place at the right time and was able to get spontaneous and enchanting images which catch the charm, sophistication and chic of a legendary era. Amongst a great number of celebrities captured on film by Quinn may be mentioned Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Aristoteles Onassis, Maria Callas, Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham.

In 1951 Edward Quinn met and photographed Pablo Picasso for the first time. Their friendship lasted until Picasso’s death in 1973. This encounter with Picasso was to be greatly influential to Quinn himself and to his subsequent work. Quinn is the author of several books and films about Picasso.Since the 60s Quinn concentrated his work on artists, amongst them Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Graham Sutherland, David Hockney. In the late 80’s an intense relationship, similar to his friendship with Picasso, linked Quinn to Georg Baselitz.

Since 1992 until his death in 1997, Edward Quinn lived near Zurich with his Swiss wife Gret who is continuing to take care of the extensive photo archive.

Highly recommended! A must for anyone needing an afternoon reprieve from dismal circumstances

Better times ahead ....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Labour of Love

As the spring weather starts to warm, I am about to commence restoration of a boiserie panel. It is important in these matters, when using certain mediums, to have air temperature and moisture levels within the right range.

I have spent much of the morning perched at the top of a step ladder, examining painted bell flowers and swags of roses with the aid of dental tools in an effort to make a judicious decision as to the areas of of the delicate decoration that will need the build up of layers of paint removed, without damage to the underlying structure. At the moment the panel, removed from a demolished wing of a chateau, is a dusty pea green and still has the sooty hand marks of the demolition workers on it.

I have photographed the panel but the image was taken in low light and I hesitate to post it, perhaps I might when I have a good image of the finished piece. I will re finish the panel with a studio mixed paint, the solution just strong enough to float a little graphite powder in it, for an impeccably original looking blanc casse finish.

To keep me inspired and focused I have posted some images from my archive of some lovely boiserie panels.

above and below, panels from the Hotel Girard (now a school).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scent of a Colour, Tea Roses

"Beautiful in their irregularity, distinct in their properties, unique in appearance, we confess that we admire them above all others, and that their charms for us would depart were they aught else" said the great rosarian William Paul in 1848.

Tea Roses, which were in their hey day between 1880 and 1910, are to a very great degree forgotten roses. With fewer petals than most old roses, they remain unsurpassed for elegance. Lusciously scented with elongated buds and drooping blooms that tend to nod, they evoke a world of lost charm.

With thoughts of the the unfurling petals of Maman Cochet and the creamy shell like blooms of Devoniensis I have posted some images of deliciously feminine interiors that, like Tea Roses, teeter on the the edge of sentimentality, but are rescued from the fate of cloying prettiness by a sure sense of design.

Hal Williamson, October 08 Home Beautiful

Christian Berard deserves his own post

Hal Williamson, October 08 Home Beautiful

Adelphi Fabric, Designers Guild, photographed by James Merrell

Savigny Silks, Designers Guild, photographed by James Merrell

Paolo Moschino at Nicholas Haslam

I first saw Hal Williamson's beautiful interiors in a post by Habitually Chic and I felt, on reading her words, that she was a little puzzled as to why she loved the images that reminded her of the Ritz and Laduree. The answer is to be found in the elegant restraint that is so evocative.

There is quite a groundswell in the rose growing community to rescue these roses, the best remain in the warm climate of California and in New Zealand and Australia. I am reminded of a Tea Rose of quite a different colour, the great survivor, Lady Hillingdon, and of a quotation that has been quite wrongly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, as it was Lady Alice Hillingdon who first stated, amongst a great many other controversial things, "I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall"

Lady Alice Hillingdon

and her namesake photographed by Mary Beamond
in an Adelaide Hills garden

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Heavy Roses, Steichen

Heavy Roses, Voulangis, France, 1914, is said to be the last photograph taken by Edward
Steichen in France before the Great War.

'Heavy Roses' seems to capture forever the closing moments of the fin de siecle that preceded the collapse of Europe into darkness. Evocative of summers long past, I can never think of the image without imagining the colours of the petals, their margins fading to mauve, with their heavy scent. All summer long, I keep bowls of heavy roses on my table and next to my bed, I hold the colour in my mind like a fragrance.

The rich painterly quality of the image resonates with Steichen's youthful aspirations to be a painter, aspirations abandoned after the war, when he destroyed all of his paintings. Later Steichen went on to become a curator at the Museum of Modern Art for fifteen years and was responsible for many important exhibitions. He became chief photographer for Condé Nast Publications in 1923, publishing regularly in Vogue and Vanity Fair for the next fifteen years.

Returning to the scented colour that words fail to capture, I have found some images to share a little later.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Love ... by the Numbers

thank you Marie-Lan Nguyen (Jastrow)!
Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l'Amour (Psyche revived by the kiss of Love). Marble, 1793.
executed by Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) at the commission of Colonel John Campbell, 1787; later purchased by Joachim Murat, 1801, housed at the Louvre, Department of Sculptures, Denon, ground floor, room 4

EmpireLady is a little tattered today and, feeling all of her 235 years, seems beyond the reach of the reviving power of love, but finds beauty in its stead. The image is of course as perfect as its subject: a split second analysis of the composition will reveal a perfect use of the golden section, as does its subject, through which the divine proportions seem to tumble.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ELIZABETH PEYTON .... live forever!

My favourite contemporary artist is without doubt the American painter, Elizabeth Peyton. Perhaps because as far as age goes, we are almost exact contemporaries.

I first saw Peyton's work many years ago at Sadie Coles, and of course I wish I had bought a piece then! These days her pint sized paintings come at a price approaching the $800,000, a small but exquisite etching that I enquired about recently is listed at $10,000. I have however bought myself a copy of her book and a copy of the illustrated programme of the 'Live Forever' exhibition with text by Laura Hoptman. I have included these books in the Amazon selection that you can access through the right hand side bar 'Empire Bookshop.' Just click on the image of the great stack of collapsing books .

The London showing of 'Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton' opened this week and runs until the 20th of September 09 at the Whitechapel. The exhibition is a 25 year retrospective and is far more comprehensive than the smattering of images posted here. I am recommending it to my friends over there, perhaps it will come down here one day, but in the meantime the books and these images will have to suffice:

I have read scathing British reviews, don't believe a bit of it! The works are luminous and intoxicating, printed or electronic images don't really do the work justice. As for the subjects (the source of much of the aforementioned criticism) yes they are celebrities, you'll find Kurt Cobain, Johny Rotten, Liam Gallagher, Marc Jacobs etc, etc ... but rendered as they are, celebrity is almost irrelevant. The work has been criticized as lacking emotion, perhaps the truth is that the images capture thought .... the act of thinking rather than feeling; introspection rather than the emotion laden communication that the populous applauds when focusing on celebrity.

Peyton's history is absolutely fascinating, you'll have to read the book .... but the influences are clear, Courbet and Hockney come running right at you. I struggled trying to narrow down a selection of images to post, then gave up and posted everything I had.

Elizabeth Peyton ..... live forever!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Chair for EmpireLady?

Sitting comfortably?

EmpireLady is flapping through some old magazines and thinks that she might like a new chair or perhaps two, the old deckchair having suddenly lost its appeal. Some years ago EmpireLady very deliberately stole a little something from the striking individual pictured above, justifying her actions on the basis that Wallis, in her time, had stolen something rather important herself .... the King. EmpireLady's theft was of just a little bit of style ... namely Wallis' curious and terribly elegant way of sitting. An examination of old photographs will reveal that Wallis' perceived beauty is largely as a consequence of the way that she held herself (in addition to keeping herself trim on an excellent diet of lettuce and vodka). To sit properly, one needs a proper chair:

Jansen Chairs are of course absolute favourites. EmpireLady who adores the faded grandeur of original upholstery is very taken with this mid century pair, beautiful, well formed and capacious with strong neoclassical lines - from Greenwich Living

If proportion is everything, then the chair below, sold by Meirelles, has it all. It's not Jansen by any means and it really does need work on the upholstery, but at 820mm wide and 880mm high and with a similar depth (imperial 32" by 34") it is capacious without having the height that might otherwise break up a room intrusively. The dimensions, the depth in particular indicate that it is by no means a banquette. Chairs with these proportions seem to come up at auction described as 'an old chair from a photographic studio' and it would not be a surprise if this were the case here.

Of almost identical proportions are the mid century pair from Jansen below offered by Blend Interiors. Regrettably, EmpireLady's penchant for 'living in collapse' seems to have extended to her budget in so far as it extends to their five figure price tag:Back to the deckchair ....

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