Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Still on the Borderline

[Image @Francesca Galloway]

For now the best places to find my textile finds and news are still here and here, but I'm popping in to share this stunner from Francesca Galloway: a 17th-century painted and dyed Northern Indian cotton cloth with intricately designed borders. (I do have that weakness for borders, you know.)

See Chintz in Progress here.


The Finds

[1920s Indian embroidery at Joss Graham, a 2015 LARTA exhibitor.] 
Just a reminder that when I'm not here, you can find noteworthy textiles here and here. But more importantly, the London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair (LARTA) is once again going to offer an online peek at the exhibitors' wares. The Fair goes live at 6 p.m. on April 16th, if you want to mark your calendar.  


Lighten Up

[Via Tumblr]

Just to offer a palette cleanser (alternate spelling intentional) after the decadence of the previous post, here's a reminder of Whistler's other passion -- white. I first posted the video link over the holidays so it easily could've been overlooked but the clip is fascinating and worth a watch.

Filthy Lucre

[Darren Waterston, Filthy Lucre, 2013–14. Oil, acrylic, and gold leaf on wood, aluminum, fiberglass, and ceramic, with audio and lighting components. Approximately 146 x 366 x 238 inches. Courtesy the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York. Installation view, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA. Photo: Amber Gray.]
Speaking of ruins, Darren Waterston’s installation Filthy Lucre, the focal point of MASS MoCA's Uncertain Beauty, remains on view there for just four more weeks but will be reappear in May at the Freer-Sackler galleries in D.C.  Part homage and part parody, Waterston’s piece -- actually a complete interior -- deals with James McNeill Whistler's infamous 19th-century Peacock Room, which as we've covered in past posts, has been permanently displayed at Freer-Sackler since the 1920s. In the galleries, Waterston's work will be shown as Peacock Room REMIX, and visitors will be able to see the original room and the alternate reality in juxtaposition with one another.

[Darren Waterston, Filthy Lucre, 2013–14.  Photo: John Tsantes.]

With melting blue-green paint, gilded-but-crumbling architecture, details including 250 hand-painted pots, scattered ceramic shards, and new interpretations of Whistler's own paintings, Waterston acknowledges the opulent beauty of the Victorian dining room, however in his reimagined space things have spiraled out of control. So it's a comment on the tumultuous history of the Peacock Room but it's also about decadence in general. More here.

There's also an accompanying catalogue.


Garden Delights

[Photo my own]

I'd read that carnations used to have scent -- a very good scent, in fact -- but until the other day when I came across an exotic-looking bunch, I had never experienced this for myself.

The flowers I found were spicy but not cloying and made me wonder, in general, what gardens smelled like centuries ago. 

Wild and semi-wild gardens are what I personally gravitate to, but there is a charmingly structured and recently restored Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle famous for its use of scent.  The castle itself has essentially remained in a state of wonderfully romantic ruin since the 17th century. Before then, though, in 1563, Elizabeth I gave the place to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (aka the Joseph Fiennes character in the visually stunning 1998 movie, Elizabeth). Although not addressed in the film, the castle and surrounding gardens seem to have ultimately been a significant part of their relationship. 

You can get a good overview of the grounds, including the Aviary, here, but this BBC program also includes an up close glimpse of the garden that will make you wish Cate Blanchett could've visited it in the 90s movie. If the time frame of the plot had been a bit different, that is. Apparently more than half a dozen historic castles were used throughout filming, but oh what the production team could have also done with Kenilworth...   


Mood Indigo

[Japanese, 794 - 1185. Collection of the Freer-Sackler.] 

If you look closely at this late-12th-century indigo-dyed paper, you can make out fine ruled lines.

It's a sutra, or Buddhist text, related to the bodhisattva Fugen, but at first glance I was just attracted to the delicate metallic lines on the deepest blue ground and couldn't help imagining how cool it would've been back in elementary school to have silver pencils and spiral notebooks filled with sheets of indigo.

Find more on this Heian period piece, here, along with similar indigo-dyed pages.

Flower Field

[Sugar camellias being made in Ron Ben-Isreal's studio. Photo by Mel Barlow.] 

Maybe you've noticed that intricately crafted sugar flowers are back (think of Blake Lively's wedding cake and the past two White House holiday seasons, for which the rising culinary star, pastry chef Maggie Austin, created head-turning blooms). But these flowers aren't just back from the 90s. The Tudors' and their entourage enjoyed various forms of sugar work, too. If you're curious about the connection between sugar flowers and Britain's great country houses, or just want to learn more about today's masters of the art form, check out my story in the February issue of flower.

[©NTPL/Andrew Butler]

Usually when I'm talking about flowers and Powis Castle in Wales, I'm mentioning the bold red poppies on the 18th-century Indian chintz tent nabbed by Edward Clive, 1st Earl of Powis (it will soon travel to London for the V & A's big fall show) or I'm describing the Clive Album. However, there are loads of fresh flowers to be found at this National Trust property, including varieties kept in massive pots. Get inspired here. And learn more about the gardens in general, here.


Shimmer and Shine

Set to hit theaters in April, Woman in Gold is a multi-layered story of Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann's quest to reclaim Klimt's portraits of her aunt, most famously the first work, Adele Bloch-Bauer I from 1907. The movie deals with Nazi-seized art, and more broadly the Nazis' attempts to erase an entire culture (when taken, the portrait's original title, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was eerily changed to Dame in Gold, obscuring Adele and her Jewish identity). While the plot centers on Altmann's legal battles, the film will likely generate even more interest in Adele -- as art patron and muse -- as well as in Klimt, his golden period, and early 20th-century Vienna.

But in the meantime, new opportunities to see Klimt's work and other examples of Klimt-era Viennese opulence are available across the U.S.

Gustav Klimt’s "Adam and Eve" opens at the MFA, Boston January 17. On loan from the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, and completed between 1917-18, this is the first piece by Klimt to go on view at the MFA. There will be a related five-week course, A Golden Age in the World of Gustav Klimt, but each session is scheduled during a weekday afternoon.

Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer II, a sort of companion to the better-known portrait now owned by NEUE Galerie, was done in 1912 and is currently on loan to MoMA.

Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine remains on view at the Dallas Museum of Art through October 18, 2015.

And some links from my past posts:

A 2008 video from Tate Liverpool filmed in conjunction with Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900, this installment of TateShots includes decorative arts and paintings.

[Screengrabs from Jona Frank's mini film]

Erica Tanov takes inspiration from Klimt, here, while curator Gemma Blackshaw talks about another woman in a luminous portrait by Klimt in this podcast.



[On my iPad: Saint Laurent ad featuring Joni Mitchell. Pattern behind device is Portland Collection.] 

Layers -- visual and maybe metaphorical ones, too -- feature in Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane's new ads with Joni Mitchell. Not only has she always created nuanced and multi-dimensional music, but, on the textile front, Mitchell has a long history of mixing interesting patterns. If you're new to this blog, last year Schuyler Samperton fortuitously shared a round-up of Joni-inspired textiles.  

[From Harper's Bazaar UK, February 2015]
And with lace still coming on strong, here's a link to the earlier Love Lace post. While the exhibition left the Powerhouse Museum in 2013, the app lives on.


Now and Then

[Ellisha Alexina's Piey in Indigo] 
The reference to old Turkish motifs is unmistakable (at least to fans of stylized 17th- and 18th-century Ottoman florals typically found in embroideries), but Ellisha Alexina's handprinted textile designs have a fluid, dreamlike quality that makes them distinctly fresh.

[Rajah in elderberry also by Ellisha Alexina]

This looser, painterly feel makes sense because Alexina, based in Easthampton, Massachusetts, started as a painter and then became immersed in textiles at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

[Detail of embroidered cover, Istanbul, 16th/early 17th century. Textile Museum 1.22. 
Acquired by George Hewitt Myers.] 

Although this previously posted antique piece, above, is tighter in style and much more boldly colored than Alexina's work (softness is her hallmark), its design with serrated carnations and iconic Ottoman tulips reveals similarities. According to the Textile Museum, which by the way reopens in March, Ottomans had specific tulip standards. Almond shape was de rigueur, and the flowers were often rendered with super-long, sharp, serrated petals. Lale Devri (the Ottoman Empire's Tulip Period) ignited a craze for real tulips -- the rarer the better -- in gardens and indoor rooms, and depictions of tulips for textile designs remained very much in vogue until the flower was usurped by the rose in the late 18th and 19th centuries. For details, the mircosite for Flowers of Silk and Gold: Four Centuries of Ottoman Embroidery is still available but at a new home.


Glow Time

[A previous Munro installation via Longwood Gardens]

Here's something else to look forward to in 2015: British artist Bruce Munro's installation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, May 2 through October 3. Known for his Field of Light first shown about 10 years ago at the V & A, Munro will do multiple installations throughout the ABG but the showstopper is likely to be his Forest of Light with over 30,000 illuminated stems popping up in the Storza Woods at dusk. Seen from above on the Canopy Walk, the sight should be magical evoking a mood that's sort of Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose-goes-pared-down-industrial.

Grand Opening

[Longquan ware vase, latter half of 13th century,  Southern Song or Yuan dynasty. Stoneware with celadon glaze and Japanese lacquer repairs. Freer Sackler.] 

The Freer Sackler is starting the new year with a bang, releasing images of 40,000 Asian artworks (the galleries' entire holdings) via a free resource called Open F|S. This means that the public will be able to access objects not on view and if interested use the images for anything ranging from massive mood boards to more scholarly pursuits  -- essentially any personal or artistic project under the non-commercial umbrella.

Check out the gilded "scar" on the old vase, above. Rather than hide its imperfections, a Japanese artisan highlighted the flaws as he repaired them.

[Carrying case,  20th century. Cotton with mirror glass, open chain, buttonhole, and stem stitches; laid work. Gujarat/Kutch or Sind, India or Pakistan. Freer Sackler.]

According to the museum, slight asymmetry also figures in the design of this handbag with pakko (meaning well-done) embroidery. The unconventional approach is supposed to stave off bad fortune.


Film Festival

[Screengrab from Ang Lee's Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon]

Last month I instagrammed a wish that Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou's staggeringly gorgeous but hard to find 1991 movie) would stream on Netflix or appear in iTunes. Hasn't happened yet but my fingers are still crossed; The Met's spring blockbuster, China: Through the Looking Glass -- set to open May 7, 2015, examining China as ever-enduring fashion muse -- might help build momentum. The Museum says that some of the show's "reflections" will materialize in film clips from acclaimed Chinese directors including Yimou and Ang Lee, which will complement the exhibited clothes and vignettes centered on women with presence such as Oei Huilan.

In the meantime, other easier to access textile-filled flicks include Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon And The Last Emperor, subject of a past post, dovetails with the eras highlighted in The Met's upcoming show. (Actually, in one way or another all of the suggested films do, as the exhibition covers territory from the 18th century to the present, but Emperor shows more mingling of Western and Eastern fashion in the 1920s.)

[17th–18th century Chinese saddle made for the Tibetan market. The Met.]

According to The Met, this opulent saddle is not unlike styles owned by the emperor Qianlong centuries before last emperor Pu Yi came on the scene. Though I'm highlighting it here just as a nod to the horseback riding scenes in Crouching Tiger. Well worth a look, the saddles and accompanying horse blankets in the movie seem wonderfully rugged by comparison.

Less Expected Mix

[Paul Gauguin, Still Life with Peonies, 1884. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, NGA.]

With its blue-grays, muted purple-y-pinks, rusty-reds and bits of gold, Gauguin's palette here is slightly more subdued than the electric color mixes seen in his later works from the South Pacific but nonetheless rich. Although part of the NGA's collection, the painting is currently on loan for the traveling show, Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse, which is now at the Dallas Museum of Art but headed to the VMFA in March (at the latter the exhibition title will be Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower. )

But back to Gauguin's piece, his colors bleed and swirl together a little like a paisley pattern from the same era.

[Details: Kashmir Shawl, India. 1865-1875. Marla Mallett Textiles.]

The palette of either object could be a great jumping off point for an entire room.