Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The White Horse in the English Countryside

In February it was announced that Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger had been awarded the £2million public art commission to mark the Ebbsfleet International station in north Kent. It is expected that his giant sculpture of a white horse standing 50 metres high will be seen by 60m people a year and will eclipse Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North in Gateshead. It will be twice as tall as the angel and a man standing next to it will be no taller than one of the horse's hooves. The picture above is the artist's impression of how it will appear.

The artist and maquette of White Horse © Mark Wallinger

Kent County Council which commissioned the project wanted a rearing horse, which is part of the county emblem, but Wallinger made it a resolutely unheroic representation blown up in scale. It will however resonate with local history since Ebbsfleet marks the end of the horse-rearing downland country; and this was where the Anglo Saxon heroes Hengist (Stallion) and Horsa (Horse) arrived to fight the Picts around 455 AD.

Wallinger's white horse also follows the English tradition of carving such images into hillsides.

There are or were at least twenty four of these hill figures in Britain. Most of them are chalk hill carvings and Wiltshire, being the most ideal landscape, can boast thirteen of them.
Contrary to public belief they are mostly not of great antiquity. Only the Uffington horse not far across the border in Oxfordshire is certainly prehistoric, some 3,000 years old. The rest were mostly made in the last 300 years and their dates and origins are impossible to establish with certainty.

The Uffington Horse

The Vale of the White Horse 1939 - Eric Ravilious' image of the Uffington Horse

Eric Ravilious ( b. 1903) a quintessentially English artist, illustrator and designer painted these figures in watercolour in the period before and after the outbreak of the Second World War.

Train Landscape 1939 - A view of the Westbury white horse from the Vale of Pewsey

The Westbury Horse 1939

Chalk Figure near Weymouth 1939 - cut on the downs at Osmington to commemorate the visit of George III to Weymouth

The Imperial War Museum in the introduction to the exhibition Imagined Realities 2003/2004 wrote this: 'Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) is now one of the most popular artists of his period. He was a painter of watercolours and murals, a book illustrator in wood engraving and lithography, and a designer of transfer-ware pottery. He applied a dry and precise style of working to imaginative and romantic subject matter form the world around him. From 1940 he was an Official War Artist, painting memorable pictures of ships, aircraft and coastal defences, until his tragic death in a flying accident off Iceland in 1942.'

Check out the IWM's impressive site and the online exhibition here.

Image Top from The Times Online
Ravilious images from Ravilious in Public: A Guide to Works by the Artist in Public Collections Foreword by Lloyd Grossman and Introduction by Frances Spalding pub. Black Dog Books Norfolk 2002

Jackie Kennedy in India

It's grey, it's chilly so why not have a dose of Jackie Kennedy's luminous charm and India's dazzling warmth. You couldn't have a more magical combination. These pictures were taken on her goodwill tour with President Kennedy in March 1962. One of my all-time favourite dresses is the apricot silk with the flat bow at the waist, part of the glorious wardrobe that Oleg Cassini provided for her. And please note her gloves!

With these images I am celebrating the fact that Google has teamed up with LIFE magazine to put their whole archive on line from which these are taken.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sunday Supplement: Another Gesture

images © Rosie West


If anyone really took my Why Dont You..? recommendation seriously about slathering porridge oats on your body in the shower, it has been pointed out to me that it may seriously block up your drains. Well that's not very nice. Sorry!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Shabby Chic? Amusing Kitsch?

Well not exactly. These images which would not look out of place in World of Interiors are in fact all Nevada brothels. How you perceive things is all a matter of context I suspect. These establishments are all legal incidentally.

Images from top: My Place and Simone's de Paris, Winnemuca 2003; Parlor, Shady Lady Ranch, Goldfield 2002; Ash Meadows Sky Ranch 1987; Beauty Shop, Mustang Ranch 1987; Chicken Ranch 2002; Angel's Ladies 2002; Joe and Sally Conforte Suite, Mustang Ranch 1987; Angels Ladies 2002

Taken from Brothels of Nevada Candid Views of America's Legal Sex Industry by Timothy Hursley published by Princeton Architectural Press, NY 2004

Friday, 27 March 2009

Why Don't You..?

Diana Vreeland wrote a column full of audacious advice for Harper’s Bazaar entitled ‘Why Don’t You..’

Her suggestions ranged from the vaguely practical ‘ rinse your blond child’s hair in dead champagne to keep its gold, as they do in France’ to the slightly less manageable ‘have a private staircase from your bedroom to the library with a needlework carpet with notes of music worked on each step – the whole spelling your favourite tune’ to the charmingly absurd ‘do your closet shelves in immaculate white organdy, pleated, with Lubin’s scented pink flannels wrapped around your things ‘. Actually I’d probably go for the organdy if I didn’t have to pleat it. Doesn’t everyone have an endless supply of scented pink flannels?

My random recommendations for enlivening the anxious days of the credit crunch are surely more grounded?

- Make a poker work sign for your desk saying ‘These Things Shall Pass’ and only contemplate it on bad days.

- Ladies, be independent of fashion, and wear a cashmere sweater on your head arranged anywhere between a turban and a wimple and fastened with a large piece of costume jewellery (a la Little Edie Beale)

- Gentlemen, whilst out shopping with your wife slip away and buy a bunch of flowers. When she’s at the hands of a particularly snooty shop assistant, tap her on the shoulder and thrust the bouquet into her hands with the words ‘I wonder if your husband would mind me giving you these?’ (One scented flower head in a screw-top jar will do if you’re short of cash)

- Only if you’re supple, practise tumbling and enter a party with a cartwheel followed by a double somersault. Check your underwear first.

- As a token of your affection, write your very best friend or lover a cheque for a million pounds/dollars (and pray he or she won’t try to cash it).

- Start starching and ironing your bed linen for the Five Star hotel feeling you can no longer afford. (Only real starch will do. A spray can will give you repetititve strain injury.)

- Buy yourself a silver-plated teapot and some bone china off e-bay and make your own tea ceremony. Take a tray to a sunny spot and sit there for at least half an hour.

- Buy a pair of sheepskin slippers and polish the parquet by skating around toThe Blue Danube.

- Save on product by giving your hair a final rinse with beer. (Lager won’t do) You won’t really smell like a brewery and your hair will bounce and shine.

- For silky milky skin exfoliate with a handful of wet porridge oats and hope somebody else will clean the shower tray afterwards.

- Finally, download Judy Garland’s Trolley Song and The Can Can to your i-player for days when the sun won’t shine.

The Way They Were

Peter Schlesinger documented the jeunesse dorée of the 60s and 70s - and some not so young icons of his stylish world - in a delicious book of intimate portraits called A Chequered Past [pub. Thames & Hudson London 2003]. Our images of these people, like Manolo Blahnik, may have moved on so I thought it would be good to see the way they were. Many years ago I saw Cecil Beaton on Salisbury station wearing that very hat. You wouldn't have snapped such a great man on a camera phone even if they had been invented by then.

Wayne Sleep then Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet. Paris, 1970. He is remembered for dancing with Princess Diana at the Royal Gala Performance at Covent Garden in 1985.

Fashion photographer Eric Boman with Paloma Picasso au naturel 1971

Moments later: Paloma after she had stumbled down the front steps in her wedgies and lay giggling on the gravel, not realizing that she had broken her foot.

Min Hogg, founding editor of World of Interiors 1978. The actor Rupert Everett cites her as a wicked practical joker. Who would've believed that?

Manolo Blahnik in a stylish take on pyjamas 1973

Blahnik revisits the famous image of Nancy Cunard for a drag ball at The Porchester Hall swimming pool and Turkish baths 1972

The fabulous socialite Lady Diana Cooper who had a penchant for yachting caps. This is in London, 1977 and not the Cowes Week Regatta. That would have been too utterly predictable.

Celia Birtwell, textile designer, whose partnership with Ozzie Clark was iconic in the 70s

Hockney draws Cecil Beaton at Reddish House 1969

Top: Cecil Beaton and David Hockney at Reddish House, Beaton's country house in Wiltshire

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Goodbye Caroline

I made this drawing for Caroline, my husband's Private Secretary who left today to take up another post. (No she doesn't look like this but is attractive in a more relaxed way.) She's very bright, capable, vivacious and everybody's going to miss her. Caroline is getting married at a London Registry Office in December when I shall be featuring her rather unusual but stylish wedding outfit. Better not say what it is now in case her fiance´is reading this.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Eternal Head Scarf

I don't know about you, but I go in and out of headscarves darling! I wish I was joking. I love the things because Jacqmar silk squares featured strongly in my childhood. My mother's bridge friends would come round in the afternoon and leave their scarves with their scented fur coats over the banisters. I would compare the designs, try them on and replace them very carefully. I also remember being amazed when my eldest sister was given half a dozen Jacqmar scarves for her 21st birthday.

I had some gorgeous Hermes scarves in the 70s, the most conventional era of my life, and then suddenly got embarrassed by them so they ended up in the dressing up box, or as the world's most upmarket security blanket for one of my kids. Ouch. Ouch. Who would have guessed they'd be rehabilitated in the 1980s as must-haves and collectors' items?

And now, apparently, headscarves are the fashion accessory du jour, or were when I last looked. All over the autumn/winter collection catwalks, tied conventionally under the chin. Kate Moss has been known to wear one! This reminded me of a delicious book I have, The Scarf by Andrew Baseman [pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang NY 1989] and I shall now revisit it and indulge my nostalgia.

The One That Got Away. Hermes 'Promenade de Longchamps' (1970)

Elsie de Wolfe moves the scarf knot from under the chin to the side of her neck

Diana Vreeland styles the model Bijou (1942)

My all-time favourite. Dior's "Roses sur Paris" (mid 1950s)

Bernard Buffet design (c 1959)

Emilio Pucci (1960s)

Detail: 'Hera' by Liberty. The famous peacock feather pattern was designed in 1887 by Arthur Silver

And finally, the world's most iconic wearer of the headscarf, Queen Elizbeth II with USA President Ronald Reagan riding at Windsor 1982

Photo copyright Arthur Edwards

Image at top courtesy shesinvogue.blogspot.com; Jacqmar scarf at http://www.samayalingvintage.com
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