january 5th, 2020
Every time you refer to her as Virginia Woolf’s big sister, Vanessa Bell rolls her eyes at you from the grave. An acclaimed modernist painter and founding member of the lauded Bloomsbury group, Bell also dominated the world of modernist book cover design. Bell was the queen of the unclean line, and her book covers were the visual manifestation of her sister’s uninhibited, musical prose. If you fear asymmetry, read no further. If you crave kinetic graphics and broken rules, carry on.
december 12th, 2019
French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank championed minimal interiors through the mixing of styles and cultures. According to Frank, “the noble frames that came to us from the past can receive today’s creations.” The severity of modern design was lessened by Frank’s all-encompassing approach that gladly mixed styles, cultures, and materials to create multi-dimensional surfaces and compositions. Frank’s playful combination of spare and rectilinear details, inspired by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, and sumptuous materials such as shagreen, mica, and straw marquetry helped soften the oftentimes austere interiors pioneered during the period in France and abroad.
december 12th, 2019
Genia Rubin left Russia in 1927 and worked originally as an assistant to Karl Freund, before a long life as a fashion photographer. His subjects, and in works included Wallis Simpson, Lisa Fonssagrives, and Ivy Nicholson, and the work shows the surrealist influence of his friendship with Andre Breton.
october 12th, 2019
Helena Rubinstein (1872-1965) was the world’s first self-made female millionaire. She launched her business in Australia making face cream from the lanolin in sheep wool, then opened her New York salon in 1915. It would be the first of a national chain.
Rubinstein’s “Day of Beauty” program is shown in these pictures, which followed clients “shoot the works” in her 715 Fifth Avenue salon. The salon also featured a restaurant and a gymnasium, with artwork commissioned from Joan Miró and Salvador Dali.
august 25th, 2019
Spry quickly caused a sensation with her unorthodox displays, taking inspiration from the 17th and 18th century Dutch Masters’ still lifes and their unlikely ingredients. One of her first commissions was for a display in the window of Atkinsons, an Old Bond Street perfumery.
It was Spry’s democratic attitude to decoration that broke the mold of floristry forever. Spry’s writing encouraged garden foraging – using whatever one could find to express themselves artistically. Her 1957 book A Millionaire for a Few Pence offered to improve the quality of people’s daily lives with just a few flowers and a little imagination.
august 14th, 2019
An imaginative visionary who claimed to have “smuggled art” into his body of work, photographer Erwin Blumenfeld often embraced mischief when he produced his images.
His friendship with Dadaists impacted how he experimented with photography and his life experiences, which took the German-Jewish photographer from his Berlin birthplace to a failed business in Amsterdam to internment camps in France and eventually to the United States, also fed into the dark visual subtitles of his images.
“While producing commissioned work for fashion houses and magazines, he surreptitiously incorporated references to avant-garde art,” Kooiman stated. “Blumenfeld was one of the first to realize fashion photography was not about displaying the latest fashion, but about creating iconic images.”
august 25th, 2019
Cecil Beaton was a British photographer and designer best known for his elegant photographs of high society. Working within a cinematic approach, his black-and-white images are characterized by their staged poses and imaginative sets. He was mostly self-taught as a photographer, though he did study in the studio of Paul Tanqueray. Beaton was hired by Condé Nast in his early twenties, and chronicled the golden age of fashion with his 8×10 inch camera for the glossy pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair, lensing 20th-century icons from Marlene Dietrich to Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Sergei Diaghilev, Lucian Freud, Albert Camus, Jean Cocteau, and Salvador Dalí, among endless others. During World War II, his focus shifted to documenting the realities of war throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, forging a prolific and varied career. “Be daring, be different, be impractical,” he once declared. “Be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”