Monday, February 11, 2013

What's On Pierre Finkelstein's Shelves?

Pierre Finkelstein is the owner of Grand Illusion Decorative Painting, in New York City. His client list includes many of Forbe's wealthiest from around the world, the very best interior designers, celebrity clients from Bon Jovi to Bill Gates, and venerable institutions such as the Getty Museum in L.A. and the Frick Museum in New York.

Firstly, I'd like to thank Pierre for letting us into his private atelier to view what is clearly a lifetime's worth of incredible reference books, and that's not to mention the filing cabinets full of catalogued photographs from all over the World, and what must be a vast digital library too. This is a man who understands that no matter how good you are, you're never too good to learn from the past.

Author, painter, teacher, bookseller, even manufacturer of his own line of brushes and tools, Pierre's been at the top of his game professionally for years, so it's not surprising that his shelves are overstuffed with obscure reference manuals and folios of vintage prints. These are the shelves of someone who clearly uses books. 

Of his collecting and his "thirst for reference," Pierre admits that he is "a book and brush fiend:"

"What can I say?" he adds, "I especially cherish the folios i have acquired over the years, and my rare out of print editions of paint and decorative  manuals. I have paid as much as $600 for an out of print Italian  book on ceiling painting ( took me 10 years to find it) and $250 for a 10 page folio.. no matter the price, if one plate (page of a folio) or one page will give me the idea that I need to realize a several thousand dollar project, it is a well worth investment."

I won't list every title, because I couldn't possibly, but here are a few highlights. Starting from the top, a Strand bag gives a clue to the possible source of some of Pierre's purchases. Boasting "eight miles" of shelves, with most of them seemingly dedicated to art books, Strand is a must-see for any New York tourist. 

Next shelf down, we start with Gamle Trehus, literally "old wooden house;"  a book about architectural details in Norwegian folk buildings. Continuing with the North European theme, Brockdorf's Palace, otherwise known as Frederik VIII's Palace, in Copenahgen is the subject of this book dealing with the restoration in 2009. Neo-Classicism in the North is a book I highly recommend for those interested in Swedish interiors, and that particularly Scandinavian color sense and formality with regard to decorative painting.

Nicolas Petit and Jean-Francois Hache get the monograph treatment for their outstanding marquetry. Williamsburg: decorating with style is more a reference book on period details than it is about painted interiors per se, and is more general in theme than the highly recommended Paint in America volume by Roger Moss, which gets into fascinating detail about historic colors of america. It's a much dog-eared and underlined book on my own shelf. Architect Russell Versaci's popular book on how to convincingly create that New Old House look, from an American perspective yet using classical ideas of proportion. Paris Rome Athens is dedicated to the Grand Tours of some of France's best known architects of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, featuring many of their stunning ink-wash renderings of antiquities.

Moving to the right I can just about make out a few classic instruction books such as Spencer's The Art of Woodgraining, The Art of Marbling, and Parry's Graining and Marbling. All worthy tomes. Borghini's Marmi Antichi is a hefty reference manual identifying literally hundreds of marbles, as is Hoepli's Pietre Decorative. Faustino Corsi's original 1833 version of Delle Pietre Antichi is available for free PDF download, but of course the FMR version is much sexier.

I'm a sucker for books on French wallpaper, so I spotted Joanna Banham's Papiers Peints right away, along with Papiers Peints Francais (Rizzoli, French version), and Les Papiers Peints En Arabesques.  Textile designer Fortuny sits next to stencil books by Althea Wilson and A. Desaint . The justly ubiquitous Dover publications are next, along with a couple of Pepin press classic reference books. Pepin's print quality has always trumped Dover's, in my opinion, although Dover is just so damn cheap and they cover so much ground that they're unbeatable.

Large format Konemann volumes on Italian Palaces, and smaller books on Italian frescos are hidden behind a loose stack of books.

Thomas Jayne's The Finest Rooms in America
Masseuci's book on Antonio Bassoli
Antonio Bassoli; decori e Arredi
Les Boiseries du Musée Carnavalet
Now Playing: Hand-Painted Poster Art from 1910-1950
Identifying Marble, Jacques Dubarry Lassale, published by H. Vial
Venetian Palazzi, published by Evergreen
Felice Giani, two volume set by Anna Ottani Cavina

Barberot's rare Traité Pratique series is here represented by his book on cabinetmaking (or Menuiserie), published by C. Béranger in 1911. I couldn't find that one for sale, so nice score, Pierre!

Okay, well that should keep you all busy for a while. And I didn't even get to the bottom shelf (below), or any of the Henri Vial editions that Pierre offers on his website.

You'll just have to hit the reference library for copies of these superb vintage titles, I'm afraid

These last three images are of some of the many excellent titles that Pierre offers for sale at his site

A parting shot of another set of Pierre's personal collection.
You'll just have to do your own digging for these titles!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Christophe Huet, Singeries at the Hotel du Rohan

Famous for his magnificent monkey paintings - known as Singeries - Christophe Huet painted this extraordinary set of panels for the Hotel du Rohan, in Paris. Popular to this day, these cheeky and occasionally racy anthropomorphic painted scenes of monkeys cavorting in human garb were hugely fashionable in Eighteenth Century France.

Though Berain and Audran were justly as famous in their day, Huet has perhaps been better remembered because of the quality of his surviving examples at the Chateau de Chatilly. Bertrand du Vignaud, head of the World Monuments Fund in Europe, says, “I consider the Grand Singerie the most important décor in the chateau,” claiming that “It is Huet’s masterpiece."

I was thrilled to come across this practically unknown set of phototype plates of his Cabinet des Singes for Rohan from a volume called Les Vieux Hotels de Paris, printed in 1905. One of a series of large folios containing beautiful prints, these books were an attempt to archive surviving examples of interior and exterior decoration around Paris at the turn of the 20th century.

His work at the Hotel du Rohan is lesser known than Chantilly, but deserves recognition. Originally built in 1705, and home to successive cardinals and bishops, Huet's Rohan panels were eventually commissioned some time around 1750 by the Cardinal de Soubise, who gave the Hotel (by which term they mean mansion) a complete transformation. According to the book Debut de l'Imprimerie en France, Huet was assisted in painting the panels by Dutour, who painted the animals, and Crespin, who painted the landscapes. Huet is said to have painted the "flowers," by which I am assuming that means to include the ornamental borders and frames.

Those were heady times, to be sure. Marie Antoinette would regularly come poncing by for some cake with her entourage, before the whole party went tits up. Then, during the Revolution, it was placed into receivership and all its furniture and magnificent library were scattered to the winds. Later, after Napoleon had acquired it, the National Printing Press settled into it as their plush new 10,000 square meter HQ. It was eventually left to the National Archive in 1927, when Robert Danis was responsible for the gargantuan task of restoring the mansion to its former glory. Years of abuse, including the stripping out of the grand staircase to accommodate printing offices, left it a shell of its former self. Despite extensive efforts, much of the old decorations have not survived.

The panels have that unmistakable Huet look. His linework when seen up close and in black & white, has  the quality of an engraving that's received washes of color.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Thomas Jayne Wins Arthur Ross Award

I had the pleasure of restoring these antique Chinese panels for Thomas Jayne

Congratulations to Thomas Jayne for winning the Arthur Ross Excellence Award for Interior Design, announced by ICAA today. It's no surprise really, as Jayne and his team have been producing stunning interiors informed by history yet resolutely facing the future, for over two decades.

Beaux-Arts apartment in New York City [photo Peter Estersohn]
Schooled with the likes of Parish-Hadley and Kevin McNamara (who once quipped that "rich people don't need towel bars because they never hang up their towels"), and having received a scholarly education at Winterthur, the Met and the Getty, Jayne was a shoo-in for the Architectural Digest Top 100 list of best decorators in America.

Philadelphia townhouse [photo Peter Estersohn]

Join us on February 28th as we attend Jayne's lecture in promotion of his new(ish) monograph, American Decoration: A Sense of Place, published by Monacelli in 2012.

Cabinet Room, downtown loft, New York City [photo Peter Estersohn]

 His traditional schooling might otherwise imply the production of dry "period" rooms, but Jayne is always conscious of the current time and place. And that place, for him, is America.  In his most recent book he traces his lineage back 400 years in America, through each of his family's homes, citing the likes of America's very first interior designer, Elsie De Wolfe, as influences. He refers to her ability to reference and assimilate European taste and style into something quintessentially American, and while he allows that there is no such thing as an absolute definition of American decoration,  it is something he consciously strives to achieve in his own work.

[photo Peter Estersohn]

He also, somehow, finds time to write weekly for his blog, for a personal glimpse into the working mind of one of America's top designers.

Jayne also authored the renowned Finest Rooms in America, showcasing the very best in interior and architectural design, from classics like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frances Elkins, to contemporary designers such as Bunny Williams, John Saladino, and of course, Albert Hadley.

[photo Peter Estersohn]

[photo Peter Estersohn]
Guest bedroom, [photo Peter Estersohn]

West Side apartment, New York City [photo Peter Estersohn]

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.