Monday, August 27, 2012

Edith Wharton's World.

I am not usually one to follow much of what goes on within the pages of Vogue, I was however instantly taken with their recent spread that was done to recreate the world of Edith Wharton. The images are the work of the fabulous Annie Leibovitz, photographer extraordinaire. The series is called "The Custom of the Country" after the book of the same name written by Wharton in 1913 about a girl, Undine Spragg (great name isn't it), a Midwestern girl who attempts to ascend in New York City society. It is one of my favourite Wharton books and well worth a read.
The series is absolutely stunning in every detail. Instead of models, save Natalia Vodianova, Leibovitz used actors to portray the cast of characters to great effect. The shoot took place over 4 days at The Mount, Wharton’s summer residence in Lenox, Massachusetts. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I do. The text accompanying the images are from Vogue unless they are in green.
Wharton (model Natalia Vodianova, left) and Anna Bahlmann (actress Juno Temple, right) was Wharton’s faithful secretary and lifelong confidante.
To escape the heat, Wharton, accompanied by intimates Henry James (novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, far left) and Morton Fullerton (actor Jack Huston, far right, from one of my favourite shows Boardwalk Empire), motored over the hills and valleys, her loyal chauffeur, Charles Cook (actor Elijah Wood) at the wheel.
Nearby Chesterwood was the country home and studio of dear friend and sculptor Daniel Chester French (artist Nate Lowman, center), who would go on to design the statue for the Lincoln Memorial.
With Fullerton, Wharton revealed a side of herself—vulnerable, passionate—that she usually reserved for characters in her fiction. Despite his personal feelings, James encouraged the affair, writing to her, “Live it all through.”. Love this iamge, it reminds me of Manet's painting The Luncheon on the Grass.
Wharton’s starry, intellectual circle included, from left, her niece, Beatrix Farrand (actress Mamie Gummer); James; diplomat Walter Berry (writer Junot Díaz); Fullerton; architect Ogden Codman, Jr. (writer Jonathan Safran Foer); and painter Maxfield Parrish (actor Max Minghella).
Although accustomed to battles of the drawing-room—not battlefield—variety, Wharton shared with her friend Theodore Roosevelt (actor James Corden, center) a personal vigor, self-discipline, and fighting spirit that seemed uniquely American.
Nothing would have interested James more than watching his two friends Wharton and Fullerton as they circled each other. How wonderful is this room? And that dress? "Extremely" being the only acceptable answer of course.
So there you have it, the beauty of Edith Wharton's world. Wharton has always been one of my favourite authors. One of my prized possessions is a first edition copy of The Decoration of Houses from 1897, a book she wrote with architect Ogden Codman as a manual for interior design. The Mount, which was designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902,  embodies the principles outlined in the book. I hear she also wrote something about the age of the innocent or something.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"That's one small step for man..."

 Neil Armstrong
( 5 Aug. 1930 - 25 Aug. 2012 )

The landing on the surface of the moon occurred at 20:17:39 UTC on 20 Jul 1969. When a sensor attached to the legs of the still hovering Lunar Module made lunar contact, a panel light inside the LM lit up and Buzz Aldrin called out, "Contact light." As the LM settled on the surface Aldrin then said, "Okay. Engine stop," and Neil Armstrong said, "Shutdown." The first words Armstrong intentionally spoke to Mission Control and the world from the lunar surface were, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Once Armstrong and Aldrin were ready to go outside, Eagle was depressurized, the hatch was opened and Armstrong made his way down the ladder first. At the bottom of the ladder, Armstrong said "I'm going to step off the LEM now". He then turned and set his left boot on the surface of the moon at 2:56 UTC, 21 Jul 1969,  then spoke the famous words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

And with that one step history was written and the entire human race changed. Yesterday, at the age of 82, Neil Armstrong passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. To many, myself included, Armstrong stood as something beyond humanity, somehow beyond normality. Granted all he did was simply step off a ladder down into the dirt, but many legends begin with the most mundane of actions. It is what Mr. Armstrong represents that elevates him.

As this is Sunday morning I wanted to incorporate a "Sunday Morning Classic" as part of this post. I choose a piece I felt truly befitting an astronaut. So as my sendoff to Mr. Armstrong may I present Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, op. 30, as performed by the world famous Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Everyone should recognize it straight away.

Farewell to you Mr. Armstrong, shall you forever be a part of the heavens and a part of our hearts.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Classics.

So it has been awhile since I've done one of these posts and I am so happy I have a bit of time this morning to do one. As I do only have a bit of time, leaving for church relatively soon, let's get straight to the music shall we.

Today's selection is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, 2nd Movement". There is something so emotional and moving about a piece done entirely, or almost entirely, by the violin. This is just such a wonderful piece for a calm morning, enjoy.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Barbour: True Heritage.

If forced to choose just one jacket to have for the rest of my life my answer would be instantaneous and it would be, "a Barbour", their Bedale Jacket to be exact. I had a wonderful Bedale that from my father years ago after he had wore it for a tad over ten years. With total regret and sadness the jacket was destroyed on my move to Chicago and I have just been unable to buy a new one for some reason. Perhaps it is because they are so much better broken in.

Among many families a Barbour jacket is a combination of a cool weather essential a work jacket and a rainy season necessity. Among other families, like mine, it is also a preppy staple and a right of passage. From the moment you done that waterproof waxed cotton shell you instantly know there is something special about it, the feel the look the weight of it speaks to its perfection and heritage. You are wearing something that is made to last, that is made to endure. The company has been making quality outerwear since 1894 in their factory in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England and currently hold royal warrants to supply "waterproof and protective clothing" to HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and HRH The Prince of Wales.

A recent documentary, A Jacket for Life, showcases the 30-year love affairs that several Barbour owners have with their jackets — showing us why those relationships last longer than many marriages. This film is an intimate portrait of the relationship between Barbour and its customers seen through the Customer Services Dept at South Shields who, like surgeons, bring them back to life.

If you are interested in getting your very own Barbour jacket, and hooray for your marvelous decision and wonderful taste, but don't live in the U.K. or New England your best bet for getting one will probably be from Orvis or BESTGEAR.


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Joy of Color.

We tend to think of the past in black and white. When flipping through images done before the 1950s, the world is awash in many shades of grey. While artists of the pre-color photography era painted portraits of great events and imagined scenes of famous places and things in color, they are few and far between and not always easily accessible.

So, I was surprised to find, while paging through some new additions to the collection of texts at the Internet Archive (one of my favourite resources), that paintings aren’t the only source for seeing the colors at the turn of the last century. There, I found to my utter delight an 1884 text titled American Racing Colors: Colors of the Owners of Racing Horses as Worn by their Jockeys at the Meetings of the American Jockey Club.

The book contains little else but color pages of owners silks from the early modern era of horse racing, when involvement by wealthy urbanites and interest by the general public — especially in New York — made it one of the most popular sports in the country. It is a fascinating source and one that literally sheds light on the colors of racing’s past. What follows are a few selections from the book…

My insatiably curiosity about everything horse racing related I was able to dig up a little info on a few of the owners, much to my complete and total surprise.

David Durham Withers -- Withers was an influential racing owner, breeder, and official who served as the president of the Board of Control, an organization that evolved into the Jockey Club in 1894. He was part of the ownership group, along with George Lorillard, who built the second Monmouth Park in 1890. Racing historian, H.P. Robertson, wrote of Withers: “...he brought racing jurisprudence to a position of respect it never had held before.” The Withers Stakes, named in his honor, has been run in New York since 1874.

Pierre Lorillard -- Prominent owner and breeder whose family’s wealth traced back to the start of the Lorillard Tobacco Co. in 1760, one of the oldest tobacco firms in the United States. Pierre Lorillard founded the Rancocas Stable in New Jersey where he bred horses for his racing stable. The Lorillard family won the Belmont, Preakness, and Travers Stakes. Iroquios, owned by Pierre Lorrillard, was one of the first American-breds to win the Epson Derby.

E.J. ‘Lucky’ Baldwin -- The prominent California businessman, most well know in the racing world for building the original Santa Anita Race track, was described in his obituary in 1909 as a “pioneer, soldier of fortune, and owner of horses.” He campaigned his horses at the most prestigious meets in the country and won the American Derby at Washington Park in Chicago three times, including a win in 1896 with the Emperor of Norfolk, one of his best horses.

James R. Keene -- Arguably the most successful owner of his era, Keene campaigned such legends as Colin, Domino, Maskette, Peter Pan, and Sysonby. With his longtime, Hall of Fame trainer James Rowe, Keene won nearly every prestigious race run in New York and New Jersey including six editions of the Belmont Stakes. In an article about Keene, published in 1905, the author wrote: “...the world-famed ‘white, blue dots’ has been borne by a long list of equine heroes whose famous deeds make racing history.”

August Belmont, Jr. -- The namesake and builder of Belmont Park in New York, bred and owned a slew of stakes winners and legends. Belmont bred and owned the great Beldame and bred a total of five Belmont Stakes winners and four Jockey Club Gold Cup winners. He also bred Man o War but is best remembered for selling him to to Samuel Riddle in 1918.

Design Tip:

From an interior design point of view images like these look great framed, especially a set of them. An old interior designer trick when working with a small budget, and sometimes even with a large on, is to find great images from magazines or design books or even the internet and frame them. When printing images the real trick is in the paper you use. My preference is to use premium photo paper with a soft gloss or matte finish, the typical gloss paper can look quite shinny once under glass. I decided to try out one of these myself and was quite pleased with the results.

I have an idea to frame a set of these to use in my hallway over the coat hooks. If it ends up looking as I think it will I will be sure to share it with everyone.

Perhaps I'll have a look through my archives and see if I can find any other images I found online that would look great framed to share with everyone...perhaps it will inspire you to put up some great new framed art.

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