Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tulip Time

This is the time of year when tulips are blooming all 'round in New York City and they are such a delight to see. I photographed the vividly striped tangle above in a sidewalk tree garden off of Madison Avenue.

Tulips originated in the Ottoman Empire and so the name for the curving flower is derived from the Persian word for "turban." The bright blooms were brought to Europe in the sixteenth century where they took hold in cool climates like that in Holland.

Right now at the Union Square farmers' market, a vendor is selling spectacular single stems, $1.50 each, ten for $13.

They come in a great variety of colors and shapes.

A bouquet can be separated and placed around the house - on a table

or on a mantle.

It's amazing what one big tulip can do for a room.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Trip to ABC Carpet & Home

This week TD and I had a dinner on the east side so I took a quick trip through ABC Carpet & Home on Broadway and 18th Street on the way over. ABC is one of the most inspiring stores in New York and a great place to shop for gifts, especially at Christmastime.

Its ten floors carry furniture, rugs, fabrics, and lighting. The first floor, pictured here, offers gifts, jewelry and clothes. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that everything in the store is beautiful. The first floor in particular is constantly changing with ever-new displays. It's like a store as work of art. Led by president and chief executive Paulette Cole, whose paternal great grandfather founded the carpet business in 1897, the store is driven by a passion for beautiful things and is also dedicated to selling products that have a positive social impact and are environmentally conscious.

The displays are pretty magical, incorporating the sophisticated merchandise and lighting, plus plants and wood and twigs (click to enlarge).

Nature really is part of the show here.

Wonderful ethnic jewelry is proffered

and delicious scarves and fabrics

and of course jewel-tone rugs.

I liked the little flower arrangements on display, as if bits of things were snipped from the garden and mixed together.

I love how that looks.

On the way over 17th Street TD and I passed these flower boxes bursting with blooms.

Flowers indoors and out is my idea of a nice walk.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm a Good Blog Reader

New Liberty of London for Target boxer shorts, with Bell inspecting.

I'm a little late getting to this post but you know that we had some technical difficulties in the Photography Department here at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things, and then the entire staff went on vacation...
But, over her on her blog A Bloomsbury Life, my chic friend Lisa Borgnes Giramonti in Hollywood reported that she had sped over to her local Target store to buy some of the Liberty of London collection produced for Target. Now, I love Liberty of London so I hopped right on that band wagon. We don't have a Target store nearby here in downtown Manhattan so I went to; you can see the Liberty of London collection here. Some of the offerings were already sold out but I got some boxer shorts. $5.99 each. I love this blue and white floral print

and these mad peacock feathers; very Edwardian/Gilbert and Sullivan, no?

Liberty of London was founded in 1875 by Mr. Arthur Laseny Liberty in London; see how that works? The store offered homewares and fashion, and today the great Tudor revival building on Regent Street in central London is a popular destination. In the 1890's Arthur Liberty worked with designers in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements to create really wonderful floral fabrics that became the iconic Liberty of London prints. The fabrics are like William Morris wallpaper that you can wear.
You know I love flowers, seeing them and wearing them, so I have a number of floral print shirts. A little floral print, on shirts or boxer shorts, makes you smile.
People say to me, "Is that shirt Liberty of London?"

Nope. It's from the Gap. $2 at the Gap outlet store in Connecticut.

This is a similar shirt, but this one was made by Mr. Lauren.

This shirt really does look like a wonderful little paisley wallpaper; it's from J. Crew.

This is a very lightweight cotton summer shirt sprinkled with red flowers from Barneys.

I have a couple of Liberty of London ties including a bow tie.

I bought these probably twenty five years ago; if I remember correctly Liberty of London then had a store in Rockefeller Center. I just love these charming prints, and they never go out of style.

Now that I have photographed my boxers, I can wear them, if I can get them away from the girls. Bell thinks they make a swell pillow.

Rose too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Trip to Florida

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Darlings, we're back from Siesta Key, Florida, where we had a swell sunny vacation. Siesta Key is an island off of Sarasota, and boasts a really beautiful beach which is made of soft white sand and bends around in a graceful crescent. The water is an aqua green color but when a cloud comes along and blocks the sun, the water becomes more blue.

The palette is white, blue, green, khaki sand: those are the colors I wear in the summer time.

We were visiting my parents, and also in the neighborhood is our friend artist John Pirman as well as my mother's sister Monica and brother Brian, so there were a lot of good old O'Donnell stories told about my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and even my great grandparents. You know these stories are based at 611, the family homestead in Herkimer, New York. Though they are not all jolly, I love to hear the stories, and I always hear something new. It's an Irish thing I guess.

Monica gave me a wonderful gift – the bronze-color blotter which was on my grandmother's desk. Back in the day when people wrote with a fountain pen, they blotted over the written ink so that it would dry. The handle of the blotter is shaped like a dog's body which is topped with a gargoyle-like head. Its curving bottom would gently dry inked paper. Monica and my mother both thought it might originally have come from 611. I love it.

Here it is on my desk. The small bowl on the left is a gift from my mother, also from 611. The two snap shots in the frame show 611 and also the garden outside the house. The antique stapler you may remember I bought at the Pop Up Flea because it reminded me of the stapler my great aunt Zibby had on her desk at 611. Do you see a theme emerging here? Seriously, I like having things around me that resonate with memories and meaning.

Monica also gave me this photograph taken at 611.

On the right is my great aunt Milly and her groom Orange James Fikes on their wedding day in 1931. On the left is my great aunt Kay and my grandfather George Mumford, in the wedding party. Isn't this picture dreamy? So beautiful and poignant to me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Trip to the 39th Street Flea Market

A frame purchased at the flea market made out of reclaimed wood from homes in South Africa holds art work by our friend Clover Vail.

Well, I got my broken camera back from Canon! They said they were going to charge $120 to fix it and I happened to mention in passing this blog and voila, it was repaired for free as a courtesy. Thanks Canon.
Since I got it back, I have been using the video function, and so we have something new for Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things: a video! Let me know what you think. I got my MacBook upgraded, bought the iLife program which has iMovie on it, went to a class at the Apple store for iMovie, downloaded the video and edited it in iMovie, and uploaded it to YouTube. I mean, there is a steep learning curve!
We went on Saturday afternoon to the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market on 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, and recorded the visit. Watch to see what we found:

TD and I are off tomorrow for the sand and surf of sunny Sarasota and Siesta Key, rated one of America's best beaches. Have a great weekend.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter from NYC

Flowers at the deli on Seventh Avenue.

Shopping for daffodils at the farmers' market.

Easter lilies and pussy willows.

We're off to our liberal and artistic church Judson Memorial on Washington Square South, and then to friend Abby's home for Easter luncheon with her family on East 9th Street.
Happy Easter, chickens. Hope you have a great day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Ballets Russes

I was having a swanky lunch recently on the seventh floor at Bergdorf Goodman with a friend from college, and afterwards I discovered in the cozy book department there a big, new, glossy book out about the Ballets Russes.
We love the Ballets Russes.
I first learned about the Ballets Russes (that's French for the Russian Ballets) from Diana Vreeland because when you read about her, she talks a lot about the dance company, and in fact mounted a show about it in 1978 when she was the consultant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Boy, I would love to have seen that.
The Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev formed the Ballets Russes, which performed mainly in Paris from 1909 until his premature death in 1929. Many of the company's dancers came from the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, and arrived in Paris as exiles from the Russian Revolution.
Here is a portrait of Diaghilev with his nanny by Leon Bakst from 1906 (all images courtesy The Monacelli Press).

But, the Ballets Russes was a radical departure from classical dance. Diaghilev invited all kinds of artists to contribute, and incorporated into the company all aspects of art, costume design, set design, music and dance. It was really an artistic revolution which announced the dawn of the modern age. Sets were created by Picasso, Braque, Miro and de Chirico. Costumes were designed by Chanel and Matisse.
This robe, based on a design by Henri Matisse for the ballet Le Chant du Rossignol, 1920, is made of silk satin painted with flowers and edged with velvet.

Robe based on a design by Leon Bakst for the ballet Le Dieu Bleu, 1912, of wool with gilt metal, satin appliques and gilt buttons.

The aesthetics, the music and dance were all part of the final creation. Igor Stravinsky, the premier composer of the earlier twentieth century, was hired by Diaghilev when he was a young man, and went on to create for the company his great works The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring. Diaghilev promoted to ballet master the young George Ballanchine who went on to co-found the New York City Ballet and create modern ballet in the twentieth century. Diaghilev moved male dancers who had previously been overshadowed by prima ballerinas to the forefront. Here is Mikhail Fokin in the ballet Le Spectre de la Rose from 1914.

Diaghilev's greatest star (and lover) was Nijinsky, the dancer and choreographer who created ballets which reached far beyond tradition and experimented with the new, futuristic direction of modern dance. Some of his work in fact caused riots and scandal.
Costume design by Leon Bakst for Nijinsky as the Faun in L'Apres Midi d'un Faun.

Diana Vreeland said, in 1978 to the Palm Beach Daily News, that when the Ballets Russes opened, "it was a turning point for all the arts. The brilliant colors and bold rhythms put an end to the paleness and primness of the early part of the century. Nothing has ever been the same since." What a fantastic time to live in Paris, at the dawn of modern art. This deluxe book from The Monacelli Press is beautifully illustrated and includes a number of varied essays which offer a thorough and lively exploration of the many accomplishments of this extraordinary dance company.
A few years ago, TD and I went on New Year's Eve to see the documentary Ballets Russes (2005). There was practically no one else in the small, darkened theater. After Diaghilev died, the company continued on in various forms, and some of the dancers were still alive to talk about it. Many of the old dance clips are of course in black and white, and my memory of that movie is that it simply sparkled in the dark with radiance and delight.