21 November 2015

"capturing wonder" Victoria Thorne

It started with my request for Elsie de Wolfe.  An Elsie wearing green shoes, though the green shoes aren't visible, Elsie materialized!

Friend and fellow blogger-who I've found a kindred spirit in, Victoria Thorne, is sketching-making people I've long admired materialize before my eyes. When one has the gift to capture features- a gleam in the eye or an unturned corner of a grin from a photograph in line and shade, we can see something new-something lost in the image itself. Perhaps it is seeing something beyond, or seeing what the viewer misses, that allows an artist to bring a photograph to life-or at the least, add their vision. Zeroing in on that "thing" that makes a person memorable. This is what Victoria has been able to do. This is why her portraits are compelling, exciting.

WE only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her-
and I go back to 
Black. ~Amy Winehouse


I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. ~"I"

I asked Victoria to tell me how this all started. Here's what she said:

I actually started college in the art department, but wandered over to the English building freshman year, fell in love with Andrew Marvell and stayed there. For many years after, I worked as an artist and copywriter, always freelance, fitting it around the schedules of our four amazing kids.

The art jobs sort became design jobs and, some time last year, I realized that not going back to art–drawing, painting, calligraphy, collage–was sort of like continuing a forced march away from my soul.

So I started again, which felt bumpy at first. I thank God for the support of my family. My kids received (and applauded, usually) regular strange texts with odd doodles, my husband was incredibly understanding as the house became 90% art studio, and my Instagram pretty much turned into a giant pad of newsprint.

The people who stuck with me through months of sketch after sketch after strange little collage followed by yet another sketch: I'm so thankful. Beyond grateful. And those I've meant who've become collaborators and friends: a true treasure.

One of my kids said, several months before I started putting the art out there: Commit. Treat this as a full-time job. Her advice was good. I am so thankful for the chance to do this. And so appreciative that you have asked me how it came about.


When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes - 
And fled with every one ~ED 

In Fashion
Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress. ~GC

Women have always been the strong ones of the world. The men are always seeking from women a little pillow to put their heads down on. They are always longing for the mother who held them as infants. ~ Chanel

In mythology and palmistry, the left hand is called the dreamer because the ring finger on the left hand leads directly to the heart. I find it a very poetic idea. And that's why I only wear nail polish on my left ring finger. ~Gloria Vanderbilt

Bettina Ballard of Vogue called her "the most elegant and most talked-about woman in Paris, and Karl Lagerfeld called her, "the chicest woman I ever laid eyes on."

 IF I were seeking out great fashion icons it wouldn’t be my first impulse to search the rosters of Nobel laureates or members of the Academie Francaise. On the other hand, an examination of the lives of the greatest women of style generally reveals individuals of some cultural sophistication. I can’t think of anyone who is known for her stylishness to be stupid or purely instinctive. The memorable women of fashion have to be intelligent enough to understand the rules and codes, often nuanced, implicit in fashion, and how far they can go in testing the limits and boundaries of those accepted standards. I love the fact that when someone is perfectly put together they are said to look “smart.” That’s as intellectual as fashion has to be. ~Harold Koda

And then, after All -there is the utter charm in many of Victoria's pieces, capturing the whimsy- the wonderment -of a fleeting fashion idiosyncrasy, or the innocence of a child. 

Isn't that what draws us to anything worthwhile?
The inexpressible-the "we just know it" wonder of something that we may not remember indefinitely, but that we can feast on for a time. On Instagram, the essence of that same wonder, Victoria posts her portraits, compiles them, draws insta-ration from the images others post. 

Living in that childish wonder is a most beautiful feeling - I can so well remember it. There was always something more - behind and beyond everything - to me, the golden spectacles were very, very big. Kate Greenaway

If you've a notion to such a feeling, of such wonderment, follow Victoria here, & also on her blog- here.

I'm delving into Instagram too-& you can find me here posting daily. It's another avenue into what's inspiring me this instant.

12 November 2015

FASHION favorite

(Hot pink poncho edged with giant pom-pons. Unknown photographer. Circa 1965-CRM)

It's no surprise-my penchant for fashion. As I sit and write this, a kaftan will suffice most days-any day, yet I do find it fashionating...Its lighting speed change, and its "nothing new under the sun" life expectancy makes it ever a subject of interest.
I just opened a book today that satisfies all those quirks of my own, and many of yours-I suspect. After all, we have been writing each other for years.

FASHION A Timeline in Photographs:1850 to Today is a cunning combination of the scholarly-and the blur that Fashion persists in running along. Caroline Rennolds Milbank is the author, this her newest of numerous books on what we share- a passion for fashion. The book's laser focus on fashion since just before the Civil War until today, illustrates each year's fashion "moment" with photographs and commentary. Harold Koda writes the foreword, solidifying the book's importance as to how we look at & in fashion. Milbank's culling of photographs-which must have been thousands and thousands, or more, is quite brilliant. This book is a heavenly marriage of fashion and photography, and we are immersed, and we are seduced, blissfully drowning in its beauty and weight.

Beauty is composed of an eternal, invariable element whose quantity is extremely difficult to determine, and a relative element which might be, either by turns or all at once, period, fashion, moral, passion. Jean-Luc Godard

Nati Abascal y Romero-Toro in Valentino lace-trimmed ball gown with see-through bodice at the opening of the Valentino retrospective Thirty Years of Magic at the New York Armory. Guests were asked to wear black or white. Photo by Mary Hilliard. -CRM

The best-dressed woman is one whose clothes wouldn't look too strange in the country. Hardy Amies

Walking ensemble with wool cape with ruffle at collar, plaid shirtwaist, taffeta skirt trimmed with pinked-edged ruffles and gathered up over a checked petticoat; gaiters, straw hat with velvet trim; walking stick. Photo by Britton & Sons (Barnstaple, England). Circa 1863. -CRM

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously. Henry David Thoreau

Singers wearing strapless ball-length evening dresses in pale blue tulle. Male musician in a yellow suit with spectator shoes. Photo by Walter Otto Wyss (Los Angeles). Circa 1951. -CRM

Many thanks to the author & publisher for this book-and all photographs are from the book & used with permission.

04 November 2015



 "What's liberating is to be fearless." JB
Bilhuber's now iconic bedroom in Manhattan is covered in a de Gournay Chinese paper. As if Bilhuber's peacock, George, has momentarily stepped out of the "graffitied" walls to preen in front an oyster shell mirror by Eve Kaplan.

Jeffrey Bilhuber American Master is a collaboration of talents. Sara Ruffin Costello adds depth and color to Bilhuber's design aesthetic, while Bilhuber supplies the Style & Substance. Rooms are vibrantly captured by William Abranowicz, and actress and devoted Bilhuber client, Mariska Hargitay writes the book's foreword.

"Rooms should reveal themselves gradually over time." JB
Pure Classicism from the designer in this drawing room with "old school" elegance, and modern creature comforts-a wool throw, reading lamps, and a modern class table. Paintings are sorted out on the milky coffee moire covered walls. Bilhuber's skill in weighing color has always fascinated me. This is one area where he is indeed an American Master, an alchemist. Too, there are shades of Dorothy Draper, yet terribly modern-with a reverent nod to New York's Gilded Age.

"Everything must register on one level or another. That's what details are for." JB

Bilhuber transformed the Coromandel screen into a closet in this dressing room. The lacquered black is repeated on the room's door moldings.

"Beauty and function go hand in glove." JB

"It's easy to get white wrong.-it takes talent to get it right." JB
Quite right-this white. Bilhuber combines a voluminous banquette with slender arms, white pleated skirt and scallops set into simple unlined cafe curtains. 

In the designer's breakfast room a decidedly Russian dacha ambiance predominates, yet Bilhuber walks along the periphery of Victoriana. It's this balance that makes Bilhuber worthy of the scrutiny he receives. Saturated color from the Mauny nineteenth-century block print paper, the green baize covered dining table, and the red carpets are indicative of Bilhuber's mastery of color and genius at pattern play.

"I'm not a decorator, I'm a magician." JB


 "You're only as good as your client." JB

Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber feels his client is critical to a room's success and its staying power. In Bilhuber's own rooms his genius is evident. His hand is in everything. Circling back to his maxim: "It's liberating to be fearless," his rooms are certainly that and never so evident as in his New York apartment with its Gilded Age elegance, Belle Epoque glamour, Victorian sentiment, and present day precision, all evoking the catalysts Bilhuber adores, and masters.

"I adore one powerful, stirring concept as a catalyst to help me create." JB

thanks to Rizzoli for a copy of this book~
Jeffrey Bilhuber American Master by Jeffrey Bilhuber, Rizzoli New York, 2015. Images are © William Abranowicz and may not be reproduced in any way, published or transmitted digitally without written permission for the publisher.

19 October 2015

a Visit with Cecil...

Reddish House with its "lilac-coloured facade," with Cecil Beaton languishing by the door. This photo was just this size in the story, and reproducing it was- without great success-however I have tinted it to indicate a lilac brick. Still in all the brick is more-well- brick-coloured with a smidgen of that favourite-colour lilac, as seen in this photograph of Hamish Bowles at Reddish House paying homage to Beaton-Bowles is certainly a Beaton throw-back.

(Via Hamish's Instagam)

As I've been scouring old magazines and periodicals doing research for my book, I've been amazed at what I still haven't seen... If you follow instagram, pinterest, etc. etc. you know what I'm talking about. The wealth of photographs, new and old, and information (does anyone read anymore?) I do hope so. 

A VOGUE issue, circa 1949, some years after World War II, with rationing in Britain waning- bon vivant Cecil Beaton showed off his country house near Salisbury. Reddish House, according to Vogue's writer (not credited), CB himself ?-was one of Britain's most important 17th century small houses. Andre Kertesz was responsible for the photographs, and I must say nothing is amiss in the facade of Reddish House. It appears infinitely pleasing to my eye, and would be a perfect house to build today. Interesting to are the "colourless" photographs. Adjusting one's eye to a lack of colour details become more vivid. Later, and numerous photographs were taken of Reddish House in colour. They are out there. 

Note too, all Beaton's little extras, flowers in abundance, little chairs, stools, books in all his rooms. I wonder what his rooms were scented with? A Rose potpourri? I think so.

"a vest-pocket edition of a three volume novel"

Beaton's Drawing Room

"...with blackberry-coloured walls and banana-yellow curtains appliqued in red, its fine Aubusson rug, and Louis XV chairs," and a striped velvet sofa. Beaton famously photographed his favourite glamourous recluse, Greta Garbo sitting on this sofa-alone.

Look at Garbo's long hands... Beaton had added the pug, the fringe on the sofa, and gone chintz on the curtains.

In the drawing room, the 18th century deed to Reddish House is draped across a Louis XVI chair.

The Library

The Library was papered in sage green and gold accented by claret-coloured curtains. Noted in the story, Beaton papered the halls and bedrooms with period reproduction wallpapers in a white-with-black or brown design. Interesting.

"like a Balzac setting"

Beaton's Reddish House 30 years LATER with few changes in the Library. 
That- I Love-complete integrity in design.

Beaton's photographs of the library from Architectural Digest Celebrity Homes-1977

The Hall
Beaton used it for dining when entertaining a crowd- often no doubt.

..."coolly gray with marble columns, marble plaques, marble-topped William and Mary table, 18th century sculpture, and a screen made from a collection of 18th century equestrian prints. The curtains were "raspberry" velvet.

In the Master Bedroom a sepia and white print on the walls, bed hangings and lampshade.

This paper is the same as the library paper but in a different colour-way.

CB's Dressing Room

... drenched in a deep green wallpaper, the arrangement-pictures, paintings, and furniture- gave the room a touch of Victorian frivolity.

The Flower Room

Still-Life with Calla Lilies, Skull, and Gardening Gloves 
-and right out of a Tim Walker photo shoot.

 on the grounds- "with a manor-garden which includes a nut-walk, thatched roofed cottages and impeccable box topiary."

Idyllic, Reddish House is still the epitome of all that is good.

The article is littered with (-) hyphenated-words, and I have kept to that writing style in my text. Quotations indicate direct quotes from the article.


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