Instagram has taught us how to manipulate light and mood so that spaces and lifestyles are permanently edited into insta-interiors, I am permanently re-framing my visual life into its little square boxes. But sometimes photos are so ubiquitous, they fail in their literalness to capture the essence of a space or place, however much mood one applies to the square. Are we failing to focus?
Enter Jeremiah… I took a day off on Monday and drove to the American Museum in Bath to see a retrospective of Jeremiah Goodman’s work, still going strong at 92 he is the finest illustrator of 20th century interiors, his path dissecting with multiple designers and tastemakers who have acquired legendary status: Elsie De Wolfe, Cecil Beaton, Billy Baldwin, Carlos dei Bestugui, Ruby Ross Wood, Dorothy Draper….it’s a stella list and subsequently the rooms depicted are described as ‘haute interiors’. His opening quote leapt out at me:
I have always felt that memory is more accurate than a photograph. Reality is just a word for me and still is.
This seems the antithesis of modern life where we snap away endlessly to capture the present and lose our presence in the very moment that we are seeking to preserve. It is now so easy to record everyday life, that absorbing it, being in it seems to have become a little lost. It made me stop, this quote, oh yes … and photo it. It made me think about interiors, landscapes and scenes I remember and what makes them memorable, or for that matter… timeless. So I took some time to walk around Jeremiah’s exhibition as curated by Dean Rhys Morgan.
Jeremiah’s skill lies in his ability to capture the essence and character of a room. What makes his work endure is his focus on the human character they express, they instantly engage you because they are a work of art. His teacher insisted that each paint stroke must matter, so he focuses his painting on pairing back to the essential elements to then allow the viewer to imagine past this. Edward Albee says that Jeremiah’s paintings teach him how a room feels, that they transcend journalism (and photos) through a certain interesting and inventive distortion giving a sense of each element in a room and how they relate rather than a literal translation of what a room looks like.
This chat reminds me of how important it is to see the original works of art, to visit the exhibition and breathe in the painting.
The light was kind of fierce, but what’s lost in a printed or digital version of these works is the marks on the paper, the textures and details of his rendition.
When you peer in to the pastel drawing of John Dickenson’s sitting room, yes .. he of the ‘plaster tables’ and’paw feet’ fame,
It feels densely layered and exudes masculine chic so now look below at a photo of the legendary west coast designer’s home:
Jeremiah explains how Dickinson was very precise and each lamp had to be the same height and correspondingly the palette was rigidly controlled.
Then come in to maximalist swirl of ‘the garden from hell’, aka Diane Vreeland’s legendary sitting room created by Billy Baldwin:
Jeremiah represents the all encompassing paisley fabric only in tones of red, because that’s how you remember this room right as entirely RED.
There are all sorts of wonderful interiors on display in the exhibition, so I am just going to give you a little taster of them …
One of his client’s said:
Which brings it sharply into focus that we need to look at our ‘everyday’ through a lens that distills and distorts so that what we frame has meaning and captures the essence of something, to create images that are more than ‘the moment’ or ‘the scene’. Which photos will stand the test of time and offer the viewer a true experience and a unique way of seeing? What memories will we truly hold?
Juliet at exhibition
Dean Rhys Morgan
Can’t get to the exhibition? Buy the Book? A Romantic Vision: Jeremiah Good, 2004