‘Studies for two angels’ – Gaetano Gandolfi
“When you seek beauty in all people and all things, you will not only find it, you will become it.”
The artist and Beauty: Discovering the Divine in the Old Masters
I relish the opportunity to immerse myself in nature and uncover beauty in the natural world. From an exuberant profusion of early spring flowers to the delicate lacing of frost on a fresh, young leaf; there’s plenty of inspiration to be found out there, and I make sure to experience it as much as possible!
The beauty of art
I use those experiences and moments of inspiration in my design work. Beauty can be found within the realm of the artist. Never is this more obvious than when experiencing a work of art. I often find myself contemplating in front of a painting; not only admiring its appeal, but wondering exactly why it is so beautiful; trying to ascertain exactly how the image manages to evoke such an emotive, powerful reaction within me. Whether it is the form, material, craftsmanship or subject matter, true art is always a reflection of nature.
Just like nature, which is seemingly effortlessly beautiful, art too is created with an intent. An intent to stir… when observing art, I’m not only assessing my own reaction to it, but also trying to enter the mind of the artist. Art, like nature is a two way process, involving both the creator and the observer.
Finding inspiration from the Old Masters
One of the chief delights of living in New York is the easy access to some of the most remarkable exhibitions in the world. Two such events really exemplify this; the Winter Antiques Show and ‘Master Drawings in New York’. I seized the opportunity during the latest snow storm to attend both of these events surrounding myself with paintings, sculpture, antiques and more. As I wandered from space to space, taking in the polished, touchable luster of a particular cabinet, or the artful pencil lines of a preliminary sketch, I found myself thinking of how these antique classic works of art could be translated into the modern home, how their unique appeal could be used as a springboard to create a new, fresh and exciting room in a home today, hundreds of years later.
Particular works of art
Of course, it would take too long to outline each and every piece of art that engaged me…there were probably enough to fill a book! Here are just a few of my personal favorites.
1. Apter-Frederick’s 18th and 19th century furniture.
Apter-Fredericks, at the Winter Antiques Show, were perhaps one of my favorite exhibitors. Hailing all the way from London, they specialize in 18th and 19th century furniture, mirrors, clocks and other works of art. The 18th and 19th centuries were both superb eras for furniture. The smooth curve of the finely turned legs on a particular dining table held me in real captivation. It was such a pleasing line, so effortlessly elegant! Likewise, the rich, lustrous shine of a lacquer paneled cabinet, which allowed the natural grain of the wood to interplay with the inlaid design, really enthralled me. I just love to see the natural beauty of wood brought to life by such skilled craftsman and designers.
2. ‘Studies for two angels’ – Gaetano Gandolfi.
Mia N. Weiner exhibited a pair of studies at the Master Drawings New York at L’Antiquaire & The Connoisseur, Inc., and they were even more breath-taking in the flesh than can be imagined. Gandolfi, an 18th century Italian painter, uses such freedom in his sketching; with the merest of lines suggesting the feathers on the angel’s wing, and a simple succession of undulating marks and shadows suggesting the soft fabric and gentle curve of their graceful form. There’s a lot that can be said for simplicity; sometimes, it’s the simple forms, shapes and styles that have the most visual impact and emotional appeal.
3. Philip Colleck’s collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century furniture (specialists in chinoiserie).
Based right here in New York, Philip Colleck is one of my favorite antiques dealers, and he always has some astounding pieces of chinoiserie. Chinoiserie furniture not only has the power to immediately take the breath away, but to draw the viewer in, enticing them to explore further. The detailed far-eastern inspired designs just beg closer inspection; and provide the perfect dynamic statement in an otherwise simple interior design scheme.
4. Samuel Yellin.
I was delighted to see one of Samuel Yellin’s floor lamps at the Winter Antiques Show. Many years ago, I worked with a client on a house built right after the turn of the century and the original metalwork; light fixtures, door hardware, gates and grillwork was designed and hand forged by Samuel Yellin. As a designer, I was privileged to be given the rare opportunity of working with the still family owned Yellin firm, seventy five years later. We designed new hardware for the interiors including curtain rods that worked beautifully and seamlessly into the original design. I consider Yellin to be one of the most innovative metalworkers in the early 20th century and today. He combines solid, attention-grabbing forms with incongruously graceful detailing; creating a harmony of masculine and feminine which is captivatingly beautiful to observe. This bold, striking lamp at the show was no exception. There is a recent article about Samuel Yellin on the Metropolitan Museum’s website “Poetry and Rhythm of Iron.” Some of their greatest works can be seen at The Cloister, Princeton University, and the Memorial Quadrangle Gate of Yale University.
Inspiring designs, translated to interior décor.
Of course, an obvious way to incorporate the beauty of the Old Masters into your home is to hang a framed drawing on a wall, or place a beautiful piece of antique furniture in a prominent place. However; as an interior designer, I always try to step outside the obvious, and integrate the beauty of an masterpiece in other, new and more subtle ways.
A beautifully designed piece makes a good starting point when considering décor for a home. Many of my clients find themselves moved when I find and present to them something beautiful, be it a painting, sculpture or piece of furniture which seems to be the perfect fit. They’re not quite sure exactly what it is that stirs emotions within them, but they know that they want to incorporate that feeling into their family home. It’s then my job to extract the core of the beauty within the object, and use that as a wonderful springboard from which to generate ideas and a fluent, cohesive design concept which will above all…stir.