Archive for 6 July 2008

Capturing the Ephemeral

Deb and I recently spoke at NeoCon 2008. Our topic was “Master Class: Lessons from the Design Greats.” We covered Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Drapery, Sister Parish, John Fowler, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, David Hicks and there were many more we would have like to included, had time permitted: Michael Taylor, Frances Elkins, Tony Duquette, Syrie Maugham, and the list goes on…

It was fascinating researching all these designers, each of whom we knew something about, but there were so many surprises and inter-connections and similar patterns to how they developed their business; we’re seriously thinking of turning our presentation into a book. But the one thing that stymied us in our research was the lack of images, especially from those designer/decorators working at the beginning of the 20th c. Unlike architecture or sculpture or other fine arts, the art of interior design is especially ephemeral, with classic works “revised”, “updated”, “freshened” or otherwise modified based on changing tastes, changes in owner or changes in life circumstances. 

Which brings us to today’s design focus (not on a Friday, but I cut out early over the holiday weekend!) Jeremiah Goodman carries on a European tradition by artists such as Alexandre Serebriakoff and Mario Praz, both of whom painted portraits of illustrious interiors; famed for either their own sake or their owner’s sake! Goodman, age 85, was born the son of a butcher in Niagra Falls, NY, and got his start illustrating advertising and promotional materials for Lord & Taylor after the Second World War.

Not only did he have artistic talents, he had  the ability to make acquaintances easily and soon was on friendly terms John Gielgud, Richard Rodgers, Elsa Peretti, Alex Liberman and others. Within the space of a few years he was sketching Tony Duquette’s living room (before the fire), Gianni Angnelli’s office, Billy Baldwin’s centennial installtion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Betsy Bloomingdale’s salon and thousands of other rooms that are lost to history.

Powerhouse Books published a monograph on Goodman last year titled Jeremiah: A Romantic Vision that collects over 100 of these iconic interiors. It’s well worth the price at Amazon, as it’s too new to find second hand yet. Oh! and Jeremiah was also the illustrator of choice for covers of Interior Design magazine from 1952-1967…so starting looking for vintage copies of those!


“Diana Vreeland, Living Room” aka Garden in Hell by Jeremiah Goodman

Apartment foyer of Baron Jay de Leval, Mexico City, 1978





Apartment foyer of Baron Jay de Leval, Mexico City, 1978[/wp_caption] 



Living Room of Cecil Beaton, Redditch House, Broadchalice, Wiltshire, England, 2005

Living Room of Cecil Beaton, Redditch House, Broadchalice, Wiltshire, England, 2005



Living Room of Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, 2002

Living Room of Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, 2002


For more on Jeremiah Goodman, check out these posts on The Peak of Chic and Interior Design.

6 July 2008 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment


July 2008

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