Marble muscles ripple—the stone carver’s feat charismatic in its unselfconsciousness. Crystals dangle, their effervescence gleaming for centuries as blown baubles from the past. Mother-of-pearl inlay…View More Ateliers of Europe
Tag: Washington DC
Washington DC is one of my favorite playgrounds for visiting museums, the National Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian just the tip of the iceberg.
During a trip to the capital, I came face-to-face with a marvel of decorative interiors in James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room, installed in all its glory in the Freer Gallery of Art. Considering one of his best-known works is his homage to piety in Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother), better known as Whistler’s Mother, you might be surprised he could produce something so splashy. Truth is, the illusion that he was bleak to the battlements of his being couldn’t be farther from the truth and I offer the Peacock Room as proof.
He fancied himself a dandy, often dressing the part, and art historians contend that he was instrumental in freeing painting from decades of unquestioned predictability. Snippets of the skirmish between Whistler and the room’s owner (Frederick Leyland) can be found in Whistler’s letters. They are a treasure trove of grandiloquence that illuminate how enormous Whistler’s ego was. We can thank this character trait that kept him from ever backing down for the Peacock Room, one of the most remarkable examples of a highly stylized interior executed by an artist that I’ve ever seen (with a fine architect’s “bones” as a foundation for it, of course). I’m thankful institutions like the Freer in Washington DC exist to make treasures like this available to the public.
Saluting the Renaissance Book Club
This essay celebrating the first printing presses during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy, is included in my most recent book The Modern Salonnière. The 34 other…View More Saluting the Renaissance Book Club
Dining with History
A month from Sunday, I’ll be winging my way to Paris to attend Maison & Objet, and I’m thrilled to say I’ve been invited to…View More Dining with History
Narratives That Illuminate Design
Narratives That Illuminate Design If you believe that design-centric coffee table books contain nothing more than visual surveys of portfolios, I am out to change…View More Narratives That Illuminate Design
One Special Summer with Jackie O
Hegel’s caveat “history teaches us nothing” may be relevant in cultural and philosophical realities but in the design world the statement is far from succinct.…View More One Special Summer with Jackie O
The Peacock Room à la Whistler
The most recognizable painting by artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler might lead you to believe he was as Puritan as his upbringing. The fact he…View More The Peacock Room à la Whistler
Kips Bay Show House
“The house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind,” wrote Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of…View More Kips Bay Show House
Beatrix Farrand Gardens
Powerful things happen in a garden. Beyond the miracle of riotous color and the vibrancy of burgeoning life, momentous occurrences have transpired on the garden…View More Beatrix Farrand Gardens