As a blogger, it’s probably sacrilegious to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with technology. There are (many) days I fantasize about throwing my iPhone into the ocean and spending my precious little free time buried in books and needlepoint… But! I have met SO many incredibly talented people through Instagram and the Blogosphere, and I hunger for the knowledge they impart. Today, I am delighted to introduce you to one of these incredibly talented individuals, Emily Jackson aka “Stuffy Muffy.”
I met Emily via Instagram about a year ago, and we quickly became kindred spirits. Emily grew up in Colombia, Ecuador and Boca Raton, Florida before making her way to Atlanta. By day works in marketing for fine art and interior design, and at night she is busy zushing up her 1940s Buckhead home and writing scintillating blog posts. Emily and her husband have an adorable Westie, Sir Wallace Wigglesworth, and they are expecting their first child – a precious baby girl – this fall. You can follow along via Instagram to see Baby’s nursery progress… it is full of chintz, bows, and all things pink! Emily’s Instagram account and Blog (Stuffy Muffy) are as educational as they are eye candy, offering a tongue in chic cocktail of a la mode art, delicious decor, and marvelous musings… a fun twist on formal. I am delighted to welcome Emily to The Glam Pad, as she has graciously agreed to guest post on a fascinating topic… Chic society ladies, and their art. Welcome Emily!
Society’s Artful Ladies: Patrons, Collectors and Artists
Written by Emily Jackson (Stuffy Muffy)
The marriage between art and high culture is a long and blissful one made fascinating by some of society’s most stylish ladies. Whether lecturing on art history, creating their own works or curating an impressive personal collection, these women have left an elegant legacy in the world of art. Find out how the likes of Bunny Mellon, Rosamond Bernier, Gloria Vanderbilt and more carved out their specific passion for fine art.
If you have had the pleasure of visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, it may thrill you to know that its establishment was made possible by a woman. Lillie P. Bliss eschewed the conventional role of a female in the early 1900s; she never married, collected cars and purchased a second apartment for the sole purpose of displaying her beloved modern art. She first became enamored with contemporary art during a visit to the Union League Club of New York, where she experienced an exhibit by living artist Claude Monet in 1891 and the passion was ignited.
While building her modern collection, Lillie traveled to Europe to bone up on the latest art trends and worked with dealers to secure fabulous pieces. During this time, she hit it off with fellow art enthusiast Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and together they began the establishment of an institution that would exclusively exhibit modern art in New York. This would prove to be no simple task! In 1929, classical art was very much du jour with museums refusing to show contemporary work. Lillie didn’t mince words on the subject, writing to a National Academician that “the truth is you older men seem intolerant and supercilious, a state of mind incomprehensible to a philosopher who enjoys finding the new men in music, painting and literature.” I quite admire Lillie’s gumption!
Sadly, Lillie passed away before MoMA would become a museum but without a generous endowment in her will, the vision would never have come to fruition. Ms. Bliss donated over 150 works of hers which served as the museum’s permanent collection and satisfied the first requirement needed to become the Museum of Modern Art. She also left a few notable works to the Met which they happily accepted and can be seen hanging to this day. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was no stranger to wonderful patrons like Lillie P. Bliss and one in particular would spark a new found appreciation for art history in the city.
Enter Rosamond Bernier, master lecturer and artist charmer extraordinaire. Rosamond was a colorful character; she was married three times, flew her own plane and played zookeeper to a menagerie of exotic animals while living in Mexico. It was in Acapulco as a young bride and Sarah Lawrence drop-out where she met Frida Kahlo, the first of many notable artists that she would befriend. Kahlo gave her a Mexican makeover, draping her in layers of pre-Columbian necklaces, flowing skirts and brightly hued blouses.
This sort of zest for new experiences had Rosamond saying “adios!” to her first husband and moving to postwar Paris as a Vogue correspondent. While she made the social rounds and cemented her status as a lifetime member of the International Best Dressed List, she became close to artists such as Picasso, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Matisse and Max Ernst. These inspiring relationships influenced the pages of her glossy venture L’Oiel, a monthly bilingual arts magazine that was published from 1955-1970. She and her L’Oiel co-founding husband split (a not-so-pleasant kind according to sources!) during its last year in publication and she bid adieu to France.
Upon returning to the United States as a new divorcée, a friend who was impressed by Rosamond’s insight on Surrealism and gift for stylish talking suggested that she start lecturing on the subject. The Met booked her for four lectures after seeing her perform at a university and voilà! Ms. Bernier was the hottest ticket in New York City, her cultured evenings selling out months in advance. She espoused theatre and art history on stage at the Metropolitan Museum, always donning a designer gown and never relying on notes. She wove personal artist tales in with academia and a dash of drama while delivering lectures on topics from royal collectors to French Impressionism. Rosamond would sachet across the stage under the glow of her slide show at over 1,000 lectures spanning 40 years. At the age of 92 she retired from the stage in 2008, the year her beloved third husband, New York Times art critic John Russell, passed away. Rosamond’s legacy includes her critically acclaimed lectures as well as a number of PBS documentaries she hosted, one in which she interviewed Paul Mellon, husband to our next artful lady.
Very much in the headlines today thanks to a highly anticipated biography on her life, the late Bunny Mellon’s name is synonymous with style. While most will equate her legacy with divine gardening talent, Mrs. Mellon was a preeminent collector of fine art. Her father-in-law Andrew Mellon founded The National Gallery of Art with her husband Paul becoming its primary donor and force behind making it a distinguished museum. What was so wonderful about Bunny’s collection of several hundred works is that it was a truly personal assemblage displayed with her signature aesthetic of simplicity.
Oak Spring Farm, the sprawling home base for Bunny and Paul, was a reflection of their artistic fervor. They moved out of the neo-Georgian mansion, the Brick House, on the property and turned it into a museum for all their acquisitions. Grand Degas scenes hung contentedly next to children’s drawings and bronzes of cherished horses. Racks were installed to hold art that wasn’t displayed and each hanging piece was accompanied by a placard. Round-the-clock security kept safe these priceless pieces with Secret Service-esque guards, video monitoring and a poster of pictures showing trespassers past. In true Bunny fashion, some works were propped up against cabinets and chairs to lend an unpretentious air.
In November 2014, Sotheby’s held an evening fine art sale auctioning off the Mellon collection’s Pissarros, O’Keeffes, van Goghs and many other Masterworks which fetched $158,737,250. This was followed by two more auctions with lots including fine jewelry and décor. Among the items were Dutch Delft china, a ruby brooch and a table commissioned by Bunny from a “dear friend,” artist Diego Giacometti. Before Bunny and Diego, there was Alberto and Peggy; referring to Diego’s prolific artist brother and Ms. Guggenheim, world-class collector.
What do you get when you mix an eccentric personality, a boatload of modern art and a Venetian palazzo? The Guggenheim Collection, curated over decades by the one and only grande dame of Venice. New York-bred Peggy spent her life culling together modern works in Europe before and after World War II so she could exhibit them for the masses.
Peggy’s true talent was discovering artists. While living in 1920s Paris and hob knobbing with the bohemian set, she met the likes of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Wassily Kandinsky. Her French gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, played host to some of the city’s most anticipated openings including Alexander Calder, Henri Laurens, Picasso and Max Ernst, whom she was married to for a few years. In reading her autobiography, Confessions of an Art Addict, I observed that Peggy had a few romantic liaisons with artists, most were sort of unrequited but she still walked away with plenty of priceless pieces!
Ms. Guggenheim settled in Venice in 1949 and spent 30 years there. She rode around, signature wild sunglasses on, in a gondola, sunbathed in the nude on her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni rooftop (which was much lower than all the other rooftops!) and gathered likeminded visionaries at her famous dinner parties. If one attended a Peggy Guggenheim event you’d be dining with the likes of Jean Cocteau, artist Arshile Gorky and Truman Capote. Peggy wasn’t the only one of Capote’s swans that had an unwavering passion for art!
Heiress, denim designer, author and actress; Gloria Vanderbilt has had many titles but one above all is her favorite. In her 2016 documentary Nothing Left Unsaid we find out that she is very much an artist at heart, visiting her New York City studio every day to create new work at the age of 93. Her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, was an accomplished sculptor and founder of The Whitney Museum so it is no surprise Gloria took such an interest in the visual arts. After a couple of failed marriages, Gloria found herself back in New York City and studying at The Art Students’ League; kicking off a lifelong career in art. Her formal artist’s education was a fabulous one, being taught directly by Met curator Robert Beverly Hale and posing for renown artists such as John Carroll and Marcel Vertes.
In her studio, just a floor below her Beekman Place apartment, she works in mediums of collage, faux naïf paintings and her famous multidimensional dream boxes. Gloria’s many residences, decked out in quilted patterns and gingham, have always been her favorite places to display her pieces over the years. She even paints her fireplace surrounds with objects such as suns and stars, sometimes adding quotes. According to her friend and author Wendy Goodman, her dwelling is “a constant laboratory for her. She’s always repainting and redecorating. It’s like a tonic for her.”
Ms. Vanderbilt has found success as an artist, having had exhibits at some of the most chi-chi galleries in the city, her most recent solo show was a collaboration with 1st Dibs Gallery in 2014 entitled “The Left Hand is the Dreamer.” More of a photography buff? You’ll enjoy the work of our next and final artful lady!
A member of Austrian aristocracy and the world’s oldest paparazzi, Princess Manni Sayn-Wittgenstein has seen decade’s worth of the world’s glitziest parties. Known to the jet-set as “Mamarazza,” a term bestowed unto her by Princess Caroline of Monaco, Manni buzzed from New York Fashion Week to European state dinners, always with a Pentax tucked in her Chanel bag. Much like Slim Aarons, she photographed beautiful people in beautiful places, having the advantage of knowing most of them personally. She clicked away on subjects including Brigitte Bardot, Leonard Bernstein, Aristotle Onassis and Yves Saint Laurent for over 50 years.
What started as a hobby became a career of necessity when her husband, Prince Sayn-Wittgenstein, was killed in a car accident leaving her to support her 5 children. She began to professionally capture society’s most fascinating faces in the 1970s, providing the photos to international magazines. Over 2,000 of her images were published in an art book aptly titled Mamarazza in 1999, she credits designer Karl Lagerfeld for landing her the literary deal. Today, her photos are revered as social history and can be found at gallery exhibits from Germany to the States.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the artful side to these female tour de forces and have perhaps been inspired to visit a museum, pick up a paint brush or even start your own collection, as Ms. Bernier once said “you can make the history of art into the history of everything, and you should just amuse yourself.”
~ Emily Jackson