Monday, February 4, 2013

I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours [Part I]

Wiley Purkey
Well, there's been such a huge response that I'm going to be making this into a series of posts. I'm getting palpitations thinking about all the money I could blow on the books I don't have here. 

Artist Wiley Purkey submitted this great selection. The period in American Art around the 1920s is fascinating to me. Artists reacted in different ways to the mechanization of Industry. Disenchanted by the industrialization of America, the likes of Edward Hopper captured the sense of urban isolation felt by so many. An intensely private man, and a lifelong celibate, he painted this America from the inside. The Regionalists, on the other hand, represented an artistic belief that rural America and back-to-basics labor off the land could replace urbanization and the factory-line. Illustrators Howard Pyle, and his student N.C. Wyeth, espoused a similar (called Brandywine) Romanticism of New England. Burchfield portrayed similarly heightened visions of the American landscape, turning his back on the urban world of his old friend Hopper. Andrew Wyeth was called a 'Regionalist' by his detractors, but he painted a "Pennsylvania [that] seems to groom itself with a cold gray tongue" [source]. This was not quite the Romantic regionalism of his contemporaries. Wyeth's was darker, more private. A rural version of Hopper's urbanity. Impressionists in Winter is, in my opinion, the best of Impressionist art. When the artist's palette is reduced to almost nothing, there's a reliance on composition and value that is almost Japanese at times. Not surprising then to see a copy of Whistler's beautiful Etchings here too.

Book Links: 

Andrew Wyeth
James Montgomery Flagg
Maxfield Parrish

Theresa Cheek, of Art's The Answer!
Art's The Answer! is the fantastic blog written by Theresa Cheek, who clearly has a passion for the decorative arts, and for sharing all she comes across. Konemann does a great job of bringing out large format, lavishly photographed, and reasonably priced books on architecture and ornamentation. This is just a tiny selection of Theresa's vast collection on a huge variety of subjects. Be sure to check out her blog. And just peeking in on the far right is a book that's very popular with my West Coast friends, called Ca'toga. It's about the Dali-meets-Baroque-meets-Antiquity estate of Venetian artist Carlo Machiori. I've yet to come across a book dedicated solely to the painted surfaces of Versailles, but I'm sure it's out there. Until then, I love to browse through books such as Splendors of Versailles, for snippets of Oudry's landscapes and Fontenay's flowers and vases. Incredible stuff.

The St. Laurent book is a rare glimpse into the decor stylings of one of the 20th Century's very best designers. Jacques Grange features heavily in the selections, and though the lavishness of the homes becomes makes me feel a bit claustrophobic after a while [I want to run off and live in Wyeth's cabin by the end of the book], it's well worth the investment.

The Private World of Yves St. Laurent & Pierre Bergé
Splendors of Versailles

The 1920s once again putting on a strong show, this time from a European design perspective. Karen of Chicago's Des Travaux sent us this great shot, showing some of the stalwart classics we all know and love, along with some real treasures. Jansen Furniture is a great book about the powerhouse Paris-based design company, who's ebony and ivory geometrical inlay doors are a real treat. I narrowly missed the opportunity to create replicas of those doors once. Jean Dunand is also a master interior designer, and perhaps the greatest lacquer artist of the Art Deco period. I've downloaded any image of his incredible standing screens that I can get my hands on. Paul Poiret is the creator of the most beautiful dresses ever made. Click the link and you'll see what I mean. It's tragic that he was ruined completely by WWI and made bankrupt. As someone who'd backed myself into a rarified corner of decorative painting, I'm all too aware that tough times reveal the precariousness of this business. Elkins, on the other hand, thrived, and by the end of her illustrious career had created a huge number of interiors for the West Coast glitterati. And what I wouldn't give for that copy of Antonio Basoli's stunning designs.

Art Instruction books that I see on a lot of shelves (including my own):

The Art of Faux (P. Finkelstein)
Handbook of Painted Decoration (Y. Guegan)

Okay, gotta go. Keep sending them in! I'll upload more shots when I have a chance.


  1. This could be a wonderful series! Thanks for taking the time to catalog these on your own fabulous blog!

  2. Replies
    1. Send them to me at

  3. I'm enjoying this a lot! And it tickles me to know that I share at least one book with each of these other artists.