“REAL FANTASY” and A RABID AESTHETE: CECIL BEATON at BROOK STREET



 

©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1938 ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



To this day, the name Cecil Beaton conjures up an abundance of signifiers for talent and taste: celebrated photographer, award-winning theatre, set and costume designer, illustrator, diarist, playwright, writer, dandy, socialite and intimate of royalty.

The impact and appeal of the 20th century prolific polymath have not dwindled since his death in 1980 and Cecil Beaton is still relevant today, commanding admiration and fascination with an ever-growing international audience.



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The influential Beaton has in fact been celebrated in various ways in the last six months and will be even more for the forthcoming weeks.
The acclaimed Cecil Beaton at Home exhibition which took place this summer at the Salisbury museum has now transferred, in part, to London until December 5. It is hosted by none other than the prestigious Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler – both decorators were close friends of Beaton – in its legendary Mayfair townhouse and
 A-Gent of Style was privileged to be given a private appointment last Wednesday morning at Brook Street for a guided tour.



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Nancy Lancaster, the owner of Colefax and Fowler, with her aunt Nancy Astor and Cecil Beaton in the 1950s (Unknown photographer) ©Colefax and Fowler

Nancy Lancaster, the owner of Colefax and Fowler, with her aunt Nancy Astor and Cecil Beaton in the 1950s
(Unknown photographer)
©Colefax and Fowler

 

Cecil Beaton with his pug in the Winter Garden, Reddish House 1961 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton with his pug in the Winter Garden, Reddish House 1961
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Aptly named this time Beaton at Brook Street and once again beautifully and intelligently curated by Andrew Ginger of Beaudesert Ltd, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of Beaton’s interiors and creative inspirations, and to delve into his inner sanctum and fantastical world.

 Cecil Beaton at Home – Town & Country takes us upstairs to the iconic Yellow Room which has been transformed beyond recognition for the occasion to become the temporary backdrop and repository for the reconstructed vivid room sets and vignettes of the effete’s houses, displaying some of the private retreats created by Cecil Beaton himself at his two country houses in Wiltshire (Ashcombe and Reddish) with the addition this time of his London home, 8 Pelham Place.

 

Against a red velvet upholstered wall stands Twiggy, recreating the iconic image Cecil took of her at Pelham Place for Vogue Oct 1967. A collection of vintage prints from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's include celebrities of sixties London, also shot at his home, including Mick Jagger © Beaudesert

Against a red velvet upholstered wall stands Twiggy, recreating the iconic image Cecil took of her at Pelham Place for Vogue Oct 1967. A collection of vintage prints from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s include celebrities of sixties London, also shot at his home, including Mick Jagger © Beaudesert

 

 

 

Twiggy by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, 1967  ©Conde Nast/Beaudesert

Twiggy by Cecil Beaton, Vogue, 1967 © Conde Nast



Cecil Beaton's original sofa from Reddish House sits beneath a copy of the Swinstead oil painting of his mother Esther ©Beaudesert

Cecil Beaton’s original sofa from Reddish House sits beneath a copy of the Swinstead oil painting of his mother Esther ©Beaudesert

 

 

Beaton on the original sofa at Reddish. Spot the original chintz on the curtains © National Portrait Gallery, London

Beaton on the original sofa at Reddish. Spot the original chintz on the curtains, source unknown

 

 

A corner of Cecil's Pelham Place sitting room with black velvet upholstered walls, an African mask and a copy of the portrait by Christian Bérard ©Beaudesert

A recreation of a corner at Pelham Place of Cecil Beaton’s sitting room with black velvet upholstered walls, an African mask and a copy of the portrait by Christian Bérard ©Beaudesert

 

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 


The star of the show is undeniably the extraordinary ‘Circus Bed’ – a recreation of Beaton’s own bed originally designed by Rex Whistler in 1931 and made by circus-round-about-makers Savages – which has been made this time by specialist bed makers Beaudesert. The bed boasts Neptune, unicorns, sea horses, glittery back curtain, embroidered bed cover, gilded barley-twist posts and many frivolous Rococo designs – most probably instigated by Beaton’s trips to Austria, Italy and Germany – enough to make Liberace’s own boudoir look butch. On show are other delightful recreations painstakingly executed by Andrew Ginger and his team such as the reprinted rose-pattern chintz that Beaton cherished to cover a sofa from Reddish, hessian curtains from Beaton’s studio at Ashcombe ornamented with a plethora of mother-of-pearl buttons, and the replica of the 18th century-style ‘Rabbit Coat’ made of corduroy with muslin roses, woolen yarns and plastic egg shells that Beaton wore in 1937 at one of his infamous fêtes champêtres (it was one of his four outfits for the evening. As you do).

Cecil Beaton's Circus Bed, originally designed by Rex Whistler, recreated by Beaudesert Ltd ©Beaudesert

Cecil Beaton’s Circus Bed, originally designed by Rex Whistler, recreated by Beaudesert Ltd ©Beaudesert

 

Cecil Beaton wearing The Rabbit Coat covered with broken eggs and the trousers with bees.  (Photo by John Phillips//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Cecil Beaton wearing The Rabbit Coat covered with broken eggs and the trousers with bees. (Photo by John Phillips//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

 

'Replica of the Rabbit Coat made under licence from the V&A for Beaudesert by Jackie Josey & Claire Proctor .' (and ©Beaudesert

Replica of the Rabbit Coat made under licence from the V&A for Beaudesert by Jackie Josey & Claire Proctor ©Beaudesert

 

Cecil Beaton and the 'Rabbit Coat', 1937, Gordon Anthony © National Portrait Gallery, London

Cecil Beaton and the ‘Rabbit Coat’, 1937, Gordon Anthony © National Portrait Gallery, London



Bronze bust of Cecil beaton by Frank Dobson in front of the pearl buttoned curtains recreated by Beaudesert ©Beaudesert

Bronze bust of Cecil beaton by Frank Dobson in front of the pearl buttoned curtains recreated by Beaudesert ©Beaudesert




Part of the focus and angle of this show is to reassess and reacquaint the audience with Beaton’s overlooked flair and tastes for interior decoration as well as with his extraordinary life and legacy of work through the eye of artworks (such as a beautiful Christian Berard oil painting, an African mask), furniture, possessions, artefacts and garments. It is fair to say that Beaton’s anti-conventional, complex spirit and his bold, daring attitude to life transpire in his sophisticated, fanciful interiors more often than not replete for instance with velvet on the walls, marbleised skirting, silver braids, cushions made from geisha kimono sashes, gold satin curtains, gilded doors, Scamozian Ionic columns, Giacometti lamps, and wolf fur throws amongst exceptional modern art and, of course, lavish flower arrangements.

Reddish, the library, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Reddish, the library, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Reddish, the 'hallway, decorated for Christmas, circa 1950s', The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Reddish, the hallway, decorated for Christmas, circa 1950s, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Reddish, the Drawing Room looking south to the Garden, date unknown (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Reddish, the Drawing Room looking south to the Garden, date unknown
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

 

Reddish house, from the garden, ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Reddish house, from the garden, ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Mirror and ornaments at Ashcombe (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Mirror and ornaments at Ashcombe
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Evelyn Waugh, Sibyl Colefax, Phyllis de Janze and Oliver Messel (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Evelyn Waugh, Sibyl Colefax, Phyllis de Janze and Oliver Messel (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

 

Cecil Beaton with Mickey the cat at Reddish house ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

Cecil Beaton with Mickey the cat at Reddish house ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Drawing Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

The Bedroom Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963 (Cecil Beaton) ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

The Master Bedroom Room, 8 Pelham Place, 1963
(Cecil Beaton)
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



The exhibition focuses also on the publication of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles by Beaton’s official biographer, Hugh Vickers, some photographs of which are on display throughout the showrooms. There are also some rarely seen paintings by Beaton himself and photographs on loan from The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s, private lenders and Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, which can all be viewed throughout the main rooms on the ground floor and two other rooms on the first floor,  grouped thematically as Stage & Screen, Writers & Scholars, Society & Politics, Royalty, The Coronation, Colefax & Beaton, and finally modern Beaton prints. They are nine modern high quality prints taken from Beaton’s original negatives from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s which have been printed exclusively for the Brook Street show by Sotheby’s, and are available for sale only for the period of the exhibition. Be ready to be dazzled by these original, unearthed gems. There is also a series of lectures and screening (see below for details).



Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1930s (Cecil Beaton) © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Cecil Beaton self-portrait, 1930s
(Cecil Beaton)
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s



Cecil Beaton embodies the glamour of the 20th century, creative genius, fearlessness, irreverence as well as theatrical excess, decadence and flamboyance and thanks to this wonderful and triumphant collaboration, the legacy of one of Britain’s Renaissance men can live on and prosper.

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Beaton at Brook Street

Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm

Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, 39 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4JE

Admission free


Lectures information:

Doors open at 6.30pm and lectures commence at 7pm (prompt)

The Beaton Image on Wednesday, 26 November:  A rare showing of this excellent 1984 BBC documentary, with introduction by Andrew Ginger, curator of CECIL BEATON AT HOME – TOWN & COUNTRY

My Fashionable Life on Tuesday, 2 December: Fashion historian Dr Ben Wild considers Beaton’s own style and sartorial elegance in this beautifully illustrated lecture.

The Man, the Magazine, the Century on Thursday, 4 December: Josephine Ross, author of BEATON IN VOGUE, explores Beaton’s extensive contribution to Vogue magazine through his drawings, photographs and essays.

Evening lectures at 39 Brook Street, W1. Tickets £25 each, including a pre-lecture glass of wine. Contact Colefax Group Press Office on +44 (0)20 7318 6035, email: pressoffice@colefax.com

Signed copies of the book will be available at £28 each (rrp £30) or £50 for two throughout the exhibition. A selection of Cecil Beaton framed modern silver gelatin prints are for sale during the exhibition at £1,600 each.


Cecil Beaton by Gordon Anthony, 1935 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Cecil Beaton by Gordon Anthony, 1935 © National Portrait Gallery, London




– Images by Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s and Beaudesert Ltd

The exhibition would not have been possible without the generous support of Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive





 

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