Monday, May 4, 2020

Learning from Ledoux

Claude Nicolas Ledoux has always been one of my favorite architects but finding information about him is a struggle. The few books written on him are hard to find and incredibly expensive. The little that is left of his built-work is in France of course so not easy for me to get to. Recently Ashley Hicks had a 2-part talk about Ledoux which you can watch on his Instagram TV (link HERE) showing a few projects I wasn't familiar with.
I learned a few months ago there is a Ledoux Museum at his Royal Saltworks project and Ashley Hicks says he had even stayed there overnight and there is a sort-of hotel on the property. But like many things in France there is little information about this online. Wouldn't that be a fun post-covid trip to plan (whenever that may be).  A bit about the museum on their website HERE.  
The altered but still lovely Pavilion of Music designed for Madame du Barry at Louveciennes is one of his few remaining residential projects. On the market for a staggering $50 million Euro you can see the real estate listing HERE with drool worthy photography. 
The little I've seen in person of his work includes the Hotel D'Hallwyll which I snuck into and posted about HERE.   There is some paneling salvaged from the Maison Hosten in Paris circa 1790 at the Getty Museum which I wrote about HERE and you can read more about on their website HERE.
Ledoux's largest built projects was a number of tollhouses surrounding the city of Paris which were built within a wall. Only a number of these survive and each is different.  The images I've shared in this post I took in the Park Monceau  (behind the Musee Nissim de Camondo which I wrote about HERE) where this tollhouse now houses public restrooms. Another has been repurposed into a small museum as the Musee de la Liberation de Paris.
This may seem a rather pointless post but it includes a number of links to websites that I've put together in my own self-education about the work of Ledoux. I think we need a major exhibit of his work (hello Moma) to raise awareness and research on this very modern of architects and city planners.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

John Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

While much of the city is on self-imposed quarantine as we figure out Covid-19, most of our museums are still open (for now) and there is one show you can't miss if you are in Washington, John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal.
As most of you are not here in Washington and won't be traveling in the near future, I thought I would share some of my favorite pieces.
One of my favorite things about the exhibit, other than the art of course which is naturally in B&W, is the galleries are painted in a wide range of colors to keep things from being sterile.  Much of the paper varies in tone and white walls would have made the drawings appear dirty. We need more color in our museums!
While we may all know Sargent for his portraiture, he quit oil portraits in 1907 to concentrate on other things. However, he continued to do charcoal sketches for his friends and those who interested him in the worlds of art.
 I'll start with Sargent's 1912 sketch of art collector Sir Philip Sassoon, lent from the collection of Houghton Hall. Sassoon collected Sargent's works which were displayed at his London house where he would organize exhibitions. He was the youngest member of parliament at age 24 in 1912, the year he inherited a vast fortune, and remained a member until his early death.
Nearby hangs a portrait of Philip's sister, Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, also painted by Sargent in 1912 at the age of 18. See how the colored wall help the portrait?  Sybil became a Marchioness through marriage and spent her life restoring Houghton Hall.
Next we have this 1923 portrait of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, lent by her daughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This was sketched shortly before her marriage to the Duke of York who later became king.
Above is a 1914 sketch of Lady Diana Manners, better known as Diana Cooper. Cooper would lead one of the 20th centuries most interesting lives crossing from her aristocratic background into intellectual and even acting worlds.  I love that she refused later in life to be known by her grand title, 'Viscountess Norwich', because she thought it sounded like "porridge".
The author Henry James was one of Sargent's close friends and was painted by him numerous times but this sketch from 1912 was commissioned by their mutual friend Edith Wharton.  Dissatisfied with the likeness, Sargent gave the work to George V for his collection of recipients of the Order of Merit (as one a cast-off to a king!).  This portrait is also lent to the exhibition by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Possibly the most interesting to me personally is this portrait of William Adams Delano from 1922.  The architect is known for his collaboration with Chester Holmes Aldrich (Delano & Aldrich) but also taught at Columbia. Delano became friendly with Sargent during his work on the Grand Central Art Galleries which Sargent had a hand in founding.
Arguably the most famous portrait in the exhibition is of William Butler Yeats from 1908 commissioned for his first volume of collected poetry. Oddly enough Yeats appears younger than his 43 years in the portrait; drawing being the original Instagram filter, haha! 
The last portrait I'll share is a rare self-portrait of Sargent dating to 1902.  The artist is only known to have completed 6 self-portraits in his lifetime because he found it boring and was never satisfied with the results. I don't know why, it looks pretty great to me (though I'm also loath to take selfies)!
Portraits in Charcoal is open now through May 31, 2020 at the National Portrait Gallery here in Washington.  Don't miss it!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Architectural collection at the Palais de Chaillot, Trocadero, Paris.

One of the great tourist attractions in Paris lies in Trocadero, the Palais de Chaillot. The palace was partially rebuilt and remodeled in 1937 for the Exposition Internationale in a classical moderne style we would call Art Deco. However, tourists aren't there for the building itself but generally for the best view in town of the Eiffel Tower just across the river.
While tourists jockeyed for selfies in front of the tower I was admiring the crisp neoclassical details and these fantastic gilded statues gracing the courtyard.
8 gilded statues above fountains showing the 'rights of man' flank this terrace. I didn't come just for the Eiffel Tower views though but rather to see an amazing exhibit in the Paris Architectural Museum housed in Chaillot.
I'm not sure how in all of my travels to Paris I had never visited this museum (which was completely deserted, btw) but am so glad I can now add it to my Parisian repertoire.
The exhibit I'm speaking of is the "Masterworks of Architectural Drawing from the Albertina Museum" - a who's who of design history and quite the collection on view in Paris only until March 16, 2020.
Get up close and personal with these incredible drawings such as this rendering of the Hofburg in Vienna.
This stock exchange above for St Petersburg was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1783 but never finished due to funding.
On the modern spectrum of the collection is the model by architect Adolf Loos in 1927 for Josephine Baker's unbuilt townhouse in Paris. 
Loos was a fan of Bakers and designed the townhouse gratis which may explain why it was never built!
Above is only a detail shot of an amazingly detailed painting from 1793 of the Augustus Bridge in Dresden by Johann Gottfried Klinsky. His accurate depiction of Dresden beyond the bridge is pretty amazing;  Compare the Frauenkirche with photos from a post I wrote in 2010 HERE.
I can never get enough of floorplans, even landscape plans. This plan of the Nymphenburg Palace and Gardens date to 1736 by both Dominique and Philipp Girard. 
Trained at Versailles, Dominique was a landscape architect who specialized in water features.  Starting in 1715 he began work at Nymphenburg which was later documented by his son Philipp in this painting in 1736; one of many gardens throughout Europe which were based on Versailles.
Each structure in the garden is carefully rendered and noted to a legend.
The pavilion above is reminiscent of the French Pavilion at the Petit Trianon at Versailles. See photos of that structure from my visit in 2009 HERE.
There are numerous other landscape plans with great details such as the scene above.
This gate was designed for the Beloeil Palace in Belgian by Charles de Wailly in 1782; unfortunately never built because of the French Revolution.
Antonio Galli-Bibiena designed this baroque theatrical backdrop in 1745.
Antonio Canova's monument for the archduchess was immortalized in this drawing by Domenico del Frate in 1805. 
Clemens Holzmeister designed an over-the-top cathedral in 1942 that towered 150 meters high made of reinforced concrete that could hold 14,000 worshipers.  Notice the scale figures of people in the drawing. 
Besides this exhibit which will be closing shortly, sadly, the museum has an enormous collection of plaster architectural fragments such as this copy of an arch at the Hotel de Rohan les Chavaux du Soleil above. One could spend all day wandering around the permanent collection.
A number of plaster architectural models dot the halls as well.
If you haven't been don't delay your visit to the Cite de l'architecture & du Patrimoine at Trocadero -you won't regret it!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Villa Kerylos and the 'Villa of Delirium' by Adrien Goetz

The Cote D'Azur conjures up all sorts of romantic images, and one of the most romantic (and intellectual) houses dotting the coast is the Villa Kerylos
Kerylos was the brainchild of wealthy archaeologist Theodore Reinach and designed for him in 1902 by architect Emmanuel Pontremoli, a prominent professor at the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  Designed as an updated ancient Greek palace, the house was complete with ancient looking frescoes and modern conveniences disguised behind antique forms. As most readers of this blog know all about the Villa Kerylos already I'll leave it at that.
 By Christophe Recoura -, CC BY-SA 3.0
A wonderful new book, 'Villa of Delirium',  has just been translated into English from the original French by award winning author (and member of the prestigious Institut de France)  Adrien Goetz,  and is soon to be released by New Vessel Press.  Historical fiction, the book traces the building and history of the villa through the eyes of a favored servant.  The novel really brings the house and early 20th century history alive with a few salacious details.
 By culturespaces/christophe Recoura -, CC BY-SA 3.0
The New Vessel Press offers a lot of translated European fiction and is a publisher to check out for sure.  This book will be released May 5, 2020 and information about it on their website HERE.
I've never been to the Villa Kerylos (or even to the French Riviera for that matter) but this book transported me there in a way beyond any pictures I've ever seen of the house.  I found myself constantly googling to see if items in the book were true or fiction (most were true!). Check out this book (and author!) for yourself is my highest recommendation. 
All images from Wikipedia article on the Villa Kerylos