Friday, January 27, 2012

Chanel Spring-Summer Couture

Wow, what a dress. (photos from WWD)
I'm writing this post because I wanted to look at that dress – a wondrous mix of midnight blues sparkling and shimmering over the body like the summer ocean at night under a full moon. And notice the slouchy low pockets which add a casual ease to an incredibly expensive dress. This dress is a simple shape which follows the lines of the body but glitters with sublime color and decoration – just beautiful.
Karl Lagerfeld presented the Chanel Spring-Summer 2012 Haute Couture collection in Paris this week. The entire collection was in shades of blue which is my favorite color. Additionally, the show was presented at the Grand Palais in a set which had been specially built to represent the inside of a...wait for airliner. The airliner was made out of anodized aluminum and took five days to build inside the Grand Palais. The interior included 250 first class seats. A drinks cart circulated and fake clouds floated by the windows. At the end of the show, Lagerfeld, who turns 79 this year, emerged from the cockpit which was complete with glowing dials. I mean really, that sounds like a lot of fun.
This looks like a dress that Coco Chanel herself wore.

The stones on the dress below glow with a greenish tinge.
Lagerfeld told a journalist that he wanted the low pockets to look "like boys whose jeans are falling off." I love the idea of bringing that boyish attitude into the couture. It's what you call French insouciance.
Gumball-size stones decorate this short dress.
Chanel has been mounting recently some amazing fashion shows in the Grand Palais. For the Spring-Summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection, the all white collection was set "under the sea." Models who had pearls on their face and in their hair, walked past giant white choral, and English sensation Florence Welch emerged from a big clam shell to sing her hit "What the Water Gave Me."

Click on the image below to watch the entire couture show. Don't miss Karl emerging from the cockpit at the end. After, click on Fashion Shows to watch other Chanel shows including the Spring-Summer ready-to-wear with the performance by Florence Welch. Don't you love the internet?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The NYC Metro Show

I loved this simple woodblock print of morning glories by Margaret Patterson (1867-195) available at Dalton's American Decorative Antiques.
This week I went to the opening night of The NYC Metro Show, an antique show up at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street through this Sunday. This inaugural show is held at the same time and place as the previous American Antiques Show but it has now expanded to more diverse offerings including Americana and folk art, Outsider Art, mid-twentieth century furniture, sculpture, and textiles. Stop by and see it if you can this weekend; general admission is $15.
These colorful metal toys from Gemini Antique, Ltd. were charming.

Barry Friedman had a series of oversized photographs of deserted Cuba by Michael Eastman that were hauntingly beautiful.

Dalton's American Antiques from Syracuse, New York, offered a wondeful selection of handsome, classic Stickley furniture. TD and I just drove through Syracuse on the way to the funeral in Rochester. Next time we're in the neighborhood maybe we'll stop in Dalton's.

I ran into decorator extraordinaire Bunny Williams who was admiring intensely this large sculptural carved wood peacock. I said to her, "For you or for a client?" and she said, "For me!" She said she also had spotted elsewhere a beautiful John Marin painting, and I love John Marin, but I didn't find the work.

On the way out, I passed a striking looking older woman and I heard her speak with a Southern accent. Tall with wavy white hair, she was wearing a simple black pants suit. She had on big, black, round Carrie Donovan-style eyeglasses, black pumps with a lavish grosgrain bow on each, and a gigantic diamond ring. This look was all about the accessories. A woman friend joined her and even though it was a frigid night, they went out the front door arm in arm with no coats on (checking your coat at these shows and retrieving it again is always such a pain), crossing the street to where the chauffeur leapt out of the black Lexus to open the car door for miladies. Off they zoomed into the night, a modern day Downton Abbey.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Midnight in Paris, and the Murphys

Top to bottom: in the movie, the character Gil Pender travels back in time to meet Adriana; Gil and Adriana talk with Ernest Hemingway; Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
TD and I missed the movie Midnight in Paris, which was written and directed by Woody Allen, when it was in the movie theaters last summer, but we recently watched it on pay-per-view and enjoyed it immensely. Last night the movie won the award for best screenplay at the Golden Globes but the elusive Mr. Allen was not in the audience to receive his trophy. If you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend it.
In it, the main character Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, travels back in time to Paris in the 1920s. I don't know about you, but I am fascinated by Paris in the 1920's when so many artists and writers were living and working there. Hemingway wrote about the era in his book A Moveable Feast which I think I have read five times. Hemingway along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Salvador Dali, and Man Ray all make appearances in Midnight in Paris, and it's such a delight to see all these artists show up on screen. In different media, the artists in Paris in the 20's created the culture of the twentieth century. I was wishing the movie would go on and on and not end. And one is left thinking, who is left out of the cast here? Coco Chanel. Igor Stravinsky. James Joyce. Publisher Sylvia Beach who owned the influential bookstore Shakespeare and Company. And the Murphys.
The Murphys of course were Sara and Gerald from New York City. The couple escaped a stifling life in the United States and set up house in a villa on the French Riveria where they entertained most of the artists listed about and created a life of beauty and art informed by their American way of easy, relaxed elegance. Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins and Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill are two wonderful books about the Murphys.
Gerald and Sara on the beach at Cap D'Antibe.
Traveling in Venice with Cole and Linda Porter.

Gerald Murphy on his boat photographed by Man Ray.
The Murphys were renowned for their style of living, and inspired a recent traveling museum exhibition entitled Making It New. The catalogue stated that for the Murphys, "Life itself became a seminal work of art. The artist redefines the terms and conventions of life without necessarily leaving a single art work object behind." Although the Murphys suffered great tragedy when two of their three children died of disease, and Gerald struggled with his homosexuality, they remain a great lasting inspiration. And Paris in the 20's is a gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Downton Abbey Season 2

Lady Mary Crawley being dressed for dinner by Anna, the head housemaid in Downton Abbey
I loved the first season of Downton Abbey on PBS which tells the story of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants before and during the years of World War I, and wrote about it on the blog. Last night the second season started here in the United States but when I talk to friends about it I am surprised by how many are not familiar with the program. If you are not watching Downton Abbey by all means do tune in. It's a total pleasure and takes you away to a beautiful world.

The drama is shot in part at Highclere Castle, the home of Lord and Lady Carnavon who still live there today. The site has been home to the Carnavon family since 1679, and the castle was built in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry who was responsible for building the Houses of Parliament in London.
The production values including the costumes and interiors are gorgeous. The family members dress in ornate evening clothes for dinner, and downstairs, the servants in uniform are a monochromatic study in black, white, and grey. One of my favorite rooms is Lady Mary Crawley's bedroom, pictured at the top. A deep red pattern decorates the walls and there is always a fire ablaze in the fireplace opposite the bed. Sometimes the female characters are pictured in her bedroom in evening dress having a chat before dinner and invariably Mary says, "I'll be down in a minute." I am often reminded watching this series of John Singer Sargent's paintings, like this – Sargent's The Dinner Table from 1884.
or this oil sketch of Madame X giving a toast.
(watch my video tour of a recent Sargent exhibition in Cooperstown)

But of course the real world interupts the beauty of Downton when World War l breaks out in 1914, which is where we find ourselves in season 2, and honestly one is concerned for the welfare of these characters because you know that some of them will not survive the war. It reminds me of the autiobiography of the Duchess of Devonshire which I enjoyed so much reading last year. She lived through World War ll and noted how practically all of the young men she knew died in its wake – an entire generation.

At Downton Abbey, the war affects those left at home too. With some of the servants enlisted, the household becomes disorganized, and its refined manners and way of operating begin to crumble. The aristocratic art of living starts to crack. But Lord Grantham tries to reassure his servants and relieve them of pressure during wartime. "The world does not turn on the style of a dinner," he says. "Mine does," replies Mr. Carson the butler.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Life in 2012

A view of the Hudson River this summer at sunset
TD and I had a wonderful holiday season packed with many activities with family and friends. In the middle of it, my aunt Molly died. She had been sick for a long time but still it was a surprise to me when I received the news. I wrote about Molly here on the blog before, and we attended her birthday party. She was a larger-than-life figure in my childhood who was always taking us on adventures. Summertime was her strong suit and so she was often leading us to swimming pools, the beach at the lake or picnics in the park. She raised five children and she said to me once, "I loved children so. The 'terrible twos, the troublesome threes', I never experienced that. The children were like sponges and they absorbed everything up." TD and I drove up to her funeral service which was held on Friday in Rochester. At the end of the service, her son Peter, my cousin, delivered a great remembrance. He said, "What is the lesson of Molly's life? Have fun, play hard, spend time with your family, enjoy the present moment." Driving back from the funeral to New York City in the car we received an email from our friends April and Matt with the joyful news that their baby had just been born, and two beautiful pictures of little smiling Miles Perry. That made us so happy. Birth and death and everything in between – that is life. We embrace the happy and hope to avoid the sad though sometimes it must come. I am wishing you dear reader more happy this year. Have fun, play hard, enjoy the present moment.