Thinking about my grandmother and her collaboration with Rex Whistler, I thought about other creative forces who have left their impressions on walls, and on me... When Elsie de Wolfe's father died, leaving her and her mother penniless, she had no choice but to go to work, first as an actress then as a decorator. At that time society looked down on such careers (they'd need a few valium if they knew what us working Mum's got up to now-a-days) Through sheer determination and incredible discipline de Wolfe achieved remarkable success as an interior decorator. And just look what fun she had with walls...
Michael Smith uses hand painted murals to give rooms a whole other atmosphere, transporting you to another space and time. Poetic, magical and evocative. As Rex did with my naked grandmother.
Rose Cunningham came from Australia where no one had even heard of decorating, let alone had thought about looking down upon it as a career. Here is Rose's romantic rendition of wall paper. Believe it or not the walls were yellow and the curtains flame red. Like my father she had a passion for color and mixing old with new but she was a stickler for convention. Upon hearing David Hicks had decorated Helena Rubestien's apartment with walls covered in purple tweed, an idea borrowed from one of Helena's Balenciaga suits, her eyebrows shot up and she said 'Tweed in the city?'
Inspired by these creative forces I painted this concierge onto the wall of a tiny bed and breakfast in The Bahamas.
In a previous post, Dolly and Bun were seen sitting inside the dining room of my parent's home. Not where a bun should be.
The dinning room panels were originally painted by Rex Whistler, in grisaille (this is a fancy word for painting in grey, but you already knew that) for my grandmother Edwina Mountbatten in 1937, for her boudoir, in her Park Lane apartment.
Much to Rex's annoyance my grandmother, being a woman of some character, insisted he paint them on panels, not directly onto the wall, thankfully so, since a bomb, during the war, destroyed the rest of the room, but the panels had already been removed for safe keeping.
Whilst Rex was working on the panels, my grandmother sent a message, with the elderly family butler, to the artist in his studio. Rex asked the butler if he would like to see the progress of his work, and revealed Father Time on one side of the clock and my grandmother, completely naked, representing Venus, on the other side. The butler was shocked rigid "Oh no, that's not right" he said "On no Her Ladyship should never have allowed for that" And he never again looked at the Rex Whistler clock.
Having lined my mother's study in my parent's first home Britwell, my father then rearranged the panels once more when they moved to The Grove. Over the fireplace, is a view of Broadlands, the home my mother grew up in, flanked either side by trophies of fishing and military, and above that Sabi
, their pet lion.
Twenty four years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed our planet, I blindly followed a boy friend to Boston. His surprised room mate asked how long I was staying "A couple of years" I replied. I took a degree in photography, although not sure how I managed to graduate, and with honors, as most of my time was spent in the school of I-Am-A-Deliquent-Jack-Ass-Where-Did-I-Park-My-Motorbike? Yes, I rode a motor bike, which went about as fast as a sewing machine.
It was especially nice therefore to be invited back to Boston, as a semi functioning adult, by the Design Center, to give a talk on my father. And to be able to show off, to David, the city in which I was a student. To show him Fenway Park, where I have fond memories of cold pizza being thrown on my head during a Red Sox game and Beacon Hill, where I had dinned with Nat King Cole's daughter, Natalie. And to show off the gilded, gold leaf dome on the State House and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.
And to the Museum of Fine Arts, where I could ooh and arrgh over Alex Katz and large chunks of modern art as David determinedly strode towards The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, a painting that has held his fascination for years and to discover more John Singer Sargent in the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. And to Newbury Street, where as a student I never dreamt of stepping foot, but now I came to admire Shreve Crump & Low who have sold fine jewelry since 1796, and my own collections for a little less time.
Here in The Design Center's Stark Carpet show room I am standing awkwardly between two panels of David Hicks carpets in order to make the connection between the hexagon's on the carpet samples and the hexagon's dangling from my ears. But it failed.
India is wearing the Diamond Hexagon Pendant from her Hicks on Hicks Collection.