Geneva Anderson digs into art

Time after Christmas? The de Young’s Paley Collection show closes on Sunday, December 30, 2012—it’s gorgeous, includes many of Modernism’s masterworks, and is doable in 90 minutes

Paul Gauguin, “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892), Oil on burlap, 36 1/4 x 28 3/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Paul Gauguin, “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892), Oil on burlap, 36 1/4 x 28 3/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

William S. Paley’s story is legendary: the determined son of a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant who was in the cigar business, Paley built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.  He married two legendary American beauties—Dorothy Hart Hearst and style icon Barbara ”Babe” Cushing Mortimer and he enthusiastically built one of the 20th century’s greatest private art collections.  It was his first wife Dorothy and her friends, like Averell Harriman, who in the early 1930’s, first introduced him to European Impressionist and post-Impressionist artworks and he was smitten.  Soon, he was avidly courting Matisse and buying the best artworks of pioneering modern masters Cézanne, Gaugin and Picasso.  Upon his death in 1990, Paley’s legendary collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures went to the William S. Paley Foundation which transferred it to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), where it went on display in 1992.  Highlights of that collection are on display through Sunday, December 30, 2012, at the de Young Museum, the exclusive West Coast venue for The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism which opened September 15, 2012.   

The exhibition of over 60 artworks from Paley’s remarkable collection is the perfect post-Christmas excursion.  If you saw the phenomenal “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” at SFMOMA (2011) and liked it, you’ll appreciate this collection too, which also reads like the tops hits of Modernism.  Unlike the Steins who were expats living in bohemian Paris and collecting works directly from avant-garde painters like Matisse and Picasso, Paley’s early collecting was a function of his European travels and he often paid top dollar for works that caught his fancy.  But the tastes of these powerful collectors more than overlapped—Paley actually purchased several paintings that were originally owned by the Steins.  If you think you’re experiencing déjà vu while walking thorugh this show, you may well be.  A few of the Picasso’s were at SFMOMA in 2011 for “The Steins Collect.”   

The exhibition hosted by the de Young includes major works of Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, with significant works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Roualt, and Andre Derain.  Not to be missed masterpieces include Gauguin’s “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892) from the artist’s first visit to Tahiti (first gallery); Degas’ large-scale pastel and charcoal “Two Dancers” (1905) (second gallery); Picasso’s celebrated monumental painting, “Boy Leading a Horse” (1905-1906) (next to last gallery), Derain’s vibrant Fauve painting “Bridge over the Riou” (1906) (final gallery), and Matisse’s “Odalisque with a Tambourine” (1925-26) (next to last gallery).   

Paul Gauguin, “Washerwomen” (1888), Oil on burlap, 29 7/8 x 36 1/4 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Paul Gauguin, “Washerwomen” (1888), Oil on burlap, 29 7/8 x 36 1/4 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

As you enter the Herbst Exhibition galleries, you are hit by the color in these artworks and the tremendous power of color to convey emotional energy.  Gauguin’s large and vibrant “The Seed of the Areoi,” painted during the artist’s first trip to Tahiti in the 1890’s opens the exhibition.   The immensely popular painting retells a Polynesian version of a universal story of creation and Gauguin’s mistress is the model for the queen of the Areoi clan.  Masterful is the only word for its color, from the complementary purple against yellow in its background to the neighboring shades of brown, yellow and red in its foreground.  While Gauguin claimed he found this palette in the natural Tahitian landscape and in villages, scholars point out that no such colors co-existed naturally there at the time.  While pleasing to our modern eyes, his palette would have also been quite shocking to his turn-of-the-century European audience.   

Equally enchanting is a smaller Gauguin gem, “Washerwomen,” which he painted during his two-month stay with Vincent van Gogh at Arles in 1888.  Four women are shown bent over on their knees on a riverbank, lost in the timeless rhythm of scrubbing.  With postures evoking those adopted by figures kneeling in prayer, Gauguin superimposed a symbolic meaning on the tranquil scene that links these women to religious ritual practice and to the larger cycle of life. 

Henri Matisse, “Odalisque with a Tambourine,” Nice, place Charles-Félix, winter 1925–1926, Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Henri Matisse, “Odalisque with a Tambourine,” Nice, place Charles-Félix, winter 1925–1926,
Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

The six Matisses in the exhibition attest to his stature as the legendary colorist and master of red.  From his 1903 “The Musketeer,” which is an early expression of his understanding of how color can be used to block spatial relationships to his bold “Odalisque with a Tambourine” (1924-5), “Woman with a Veil (1927) and “Seated Woman with a vase of Amaryllis (1941), we see his imaginative pairings of natural forms of flowers, fruit, women juxtaposed against the simple geometry of inanimate objects such  tables, walls, floor tiles to create motifs bursting with energy and sensuality and color.  The placement of these spectacular Matisses alongside eight of Picasso’s paintings and drawings acknowledges the great rivalry between the two artists who engaged in a kind of mental chess game all of their adult lives.  Picasso, the younger of the two, was always trying to get Matisse to notice him while Matisse was no doubt jealous of Picasso’s flamboyance and success.  Paley appreciated the genius of both.

Pablo Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse” (1905-6) has been given its own wall in one of the later exhibition galleries.  The painting was originally owned by Gertrude Stein and was at SFMOMA for “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” (2011).  Paley bought it in the 1930’s while he was on a ski trip in Saint-Martiz, Switzerland, after it was carried into the lobby of the Palace Hotel by the famous Swiss art book publisher Albert Skira, who also served as his dealer of sorts.  The painting has been smuggled out of Nazi Germany by the dealer Justin Thannhauser and given to Skira to sell and he went right to the Paley, who immediately fell for it.  This important work from Picasso’s Rose Period (1904-6) marks a point in Picasso’s career when his work was on the brink of ingenuity and, at the same time, steeped in history.  As William Rubin, MoMA’s former Director Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, explains in the catalogue, the work was pivotal in the context of the artist’s oeuvre and within the spectrum of art history as a whole.  Picasso both draws inspiration from his contemporaries and demonstrates his extensive art historical knowledge, even referencing as far back as Ancient Greek sculpture.  Ruben also suggests that boy in the painting, P’tit Louis, acts as the artist’s surrogate and that the work can be read as Picasso himself leading his loyal steed into the future, into the age of Cubism.  

Other Picasso pieces included in the show are “Nude with Joined Hands” (1906) inspired by Picasso’s trip to the Pyrenees village of Gósol with his muse Fernande and “The Architect’s Table” (1912), his highly abstract Analytical Cubist masterpiece. 

Pablo Picasso, “Boy Leading a Horse” (Paris, 1905–1906), Oil on canvas, 86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Pablo Picasso, “Boy Leading a Horse” (Paris, 1905–1906), Oil on canvas, 86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

As an avid grower of old European roses and gardener, I was struck by the paintings of flowers in the exhibition.  Édouard Manet’s “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” is less than 8 inches high but captures what we gardeners live for.  With its creamy impasto of peachy yellow and off white and the softest pink, Manet alludes to the ephemeral beauty and pure delight of the rose in the peak of its bloom.  The placement of the roses on the table away from water which would sustain them mirrors Manet’s own fragility at the time.  His painting was inspired by the numerous bouquets that visitors brought to him in the winter of 1882-83, when he was mortally ill.   

Henri Rousseau’s delightful naïve still-life “Flowers in a Vase” (1901-02) alludes to the vibrancy that flowers can bring to any setting.  While the painting seems freely executed,Rousseau took great care in the arrangement and coloration of the flowers as well as in creating the green that runs through the bouquet’s foliage, the complimentary green wall behind the arrangement and the ornamental spray of green ivy at the bottom of the composition.    

Renoir’s “Strawberries” (circa 1905), featuring freshly-picked bright red strawberries loosely laid out on a creamy linen tablecloth beside a delicately patterned tea cup is poetical.  The appeal of the freshest possible food with no fuss is timeless.     

As for the exhibition’s many sculptures, the small and simply-posed terra cotta nudes of the French Catalan artist Aristide Maillol are exquisite.  Their faces are quite crude, showing no emotion but the compositions in totality convey a myriad of complex feelings.  Maillol took his inspiration from early classical sculptors but imposed his own modern and expressive take on form, creating fluid and rhythmic female portraits.  In contrast to Maillol stands the detailed perfection of Auguste Rodin’s “The Burghers of Calais,” a half-dozen small commemorative portraits meant to depict the varied and complex emotions the six burghers of Calais actually underwent as they offered their lives to save their fellow citizens from King Edward III during the Hundred Year’s War.  

Aristide Maillol, “Seated Woman with Chignon,” 1900, Terracotta on black marble base, 6 7/8 x 4 x 5 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Aristide Maillol, “Seated Woman with Chignon,” 1900, Terracotta on black marble base, 6 7/8 x 4 x 5 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Mid-way through the exhibition is a fascinating series of large-scale color photographs that show many of the paintings showcased in Paley’s 20-plus-room apartment at 825 Fifth Avenue in New York City, where he lived with his second wife, socialite “Babe” Paley.  Their brightly colored and patterned apartment occupied a full floor in one of the most prestigious buildings in Manhattan and was decorated by the renowned Sister Parish and Albert Hadley (or Parish-Hadley), the French firm of Jansen (which assisted with the Kennedy White House), and Billy Baldwin.  Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse” was the first thing people saw as they entered the front door and stepped onto the 18th- century parquet floors which perfectly accentuated the natural hues in painting’s lower register.  The foyer was the only room where people remained standing.  In the other rooms, intimacy and comfort were the rule and smaller artworks were gracefully intermingled with furnishings and personal objects.  As William Ruben writes in the catalogue “Paley’s collecting was entirely personal.  He thought of his paintings as the most important elements of a seamless private world…”  (p. ix) 

Catalogue:  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism (revised 2012, 176 pages, $39.95, on sale for $29.88) lets you get acquainted with the artworks that Paley lived with.  The catalogue was originally published in 1992 to accompany an exhibition celebrating MoMA’s acquisition of his extraordinary personal art collection.   This newly-redesigned edition of the book has been released to accompany the collection’s second tour throughout the United States and Canada, which commences at the de Young.   Authored by William Rubin, MoMA’s former Director Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, and Matthew Armstrong, the catalogue is organized in alphabetical order by artists.  It devotes at least two full pages to each artwork in the collection—a full page photo and at one full page of analysis by Rubin, who worked with Paley as he made his purchases.  

Édouard Manet, “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” (1882-83), Oil on canvas, 7 5/8 inches x 9 1/3 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Édouard Manet, “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” (1882-83), Oil on canvas, 7 5/8 inches x 9 1/3 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, (MOMA) with which Paley began a long affiliation in 1937.  Serving as trustee, chairman of the Painting and Sculpture Committee, president of the Museum and chairman of the Board, Paley was chairman emeritus from 1985 until his death in October 1990. 

For other ARThound coverage of the Paley and Nureyev exhibitions, click here.

Details:  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism closes Sunday, December 30, 2012.  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Parking:  By entering Golden Gate Park from 8th Avenue (at Fulton Street), you can park for free for 4 hours on the street on John F. Kennedy Drive and have easy access to the museum.  Otherwise, enter on 10th Avenue (at Fulton) and park at the Music Concourse Garage (M-F $4.50/hour and $5/hour on weekends).  Tickets:  $20 Adults; $16 seniors, students with I.D.; $10 youth 6-17; members and children free.  Fee includes access to all museum collections and exhibitions including Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (October 6, 2012 – February 17, 2013).  More information:   (415) 750-3600 or

Exhibition Venues:  September 15-December 30, 2012—de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco;  May 2- September 8, 2013—Portland Museum of Art in Maine; October 10, 2013-January 5, 2014—the Fine Arts Museum of Quebec;  and  2014—the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Related Lecture: “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” Docent Lecture by Rita Dunlay, Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 2:15 p.m., Koret Auditorium, Free to public.  Museum admission is not required.

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sandra Ericson, creator, Center for Pattern Design, talks about Balenciaga, the de Young exhibition and her “Balenciaga in Depth” seminar this weekend at CCA

Balenciaga's puffy and voluminous evening gown in turquoise silk gauze, summer 1958, epitomizes his ability to sculpt audaciously with fabric. While very modern in its feel, the dress echoes the abstracted influence of a gown depicted in a Goya portrait. Fabric swatch is attached in lower right. Archival House photograph.

In the course of researching the de Young Museum’s amazing Balenciaga and Spain exhibition, I had questions about the precise techniques that made Cristóbal Balenciaga the consummate designer and master sculptor in textiles that he was.   I turned to Sandra Ericson for answers.  Sandra taught fashion design, pattern design, and textile courses at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for 31 years.  In 2006, after retiring, she established the Center for Pattern Design  (CFPD) in her hometown of St. Helena, CA, as a way to focus on the people in the fashion industry who actually cut the cloth.  At CFPD, Ericson teaches advanced courses in cutting, draping, pattern design and construction and also takes these courses on the road.  She is the turn-to resource for a lot of fashion insiders and museum curators and is a respected authority on French designer Madeleine Vionnet who pioneered draping on the bias, the bias cut and ruled haute couture in the 1930’s, designing sensual gowns for Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo that did marvelous things for their bodies.  What a pleasure to have Sandra explain Balenciaga with an insider’s detail to attention. 

Geneva Anderson:  Does “pattern designer” accurately capture what you do and what your center emphasizes?  

Sandra Ericson: I am a pattern designer and after 31 years of teaching at City College, I established the Center for Pattern Design  in 2006 as a way to bring the focus back to those persons who actually cut the cloth, an important part of the fashion industry.   Before the recession, which brought back a return to value, the fashion industry and the discipline of fashion got very theatrical and celebrity-driven

Francisco de Goya, The Marquessa de Pontejos, c. 1786, Andrew W. Mellon collection. Image: National Gallery of Art.

and concentrated on the designer as the single figure in the fashion company.  Often, the designer did not cut his own work and it really became a situation where the credit did not go to the craft people who did it.  Primary among those craft people are the people who actually understand fabric, the body and who can interpret design and cut a two-dimensional pattern that looks amazing in three dimensions.  I wanted to focus on people who could do that and this requires a special skill set. 

This requires spatial visualization so that you can imagine what something lying flat on the table in an odd shape will look like in three dimensions.  You have to have a good grasp of all the textile characteristics so you know what will happen when you hang the fabric and gravity and body motion come into play. You also need a good sense of anatomy and how the body moves and what makes clothes functional, not just decorative.  When you look around the world for people who can do really that well, there are few.  Balenciaga is one of the most important from the past who we can look to.  When something like the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition comes along, I get excited because I want people to understand what made his clothes terrific–it was his ability to cut and his meticulous attention to detail and construction and, finally, his eye—discerning  how the overall effect is going to been seen and thought about and how it accentuates the wearer.

Geneva Anderson:  Balenciaga is known for the balloon skirt, the baby doll, the sack dress, the 7/8 length bracelet sleeve, his masterful manipulation of the waist, and he’s been called the “king of dissymmetry.”   Explain these.

Balenciaga's dramatic wedding dress of white silk-satin and silk gazar, summer, 1968, shown on the eve of the Paris student riots, is austere in its simplicity. It is meticulously crafted with very few carefully placed seams that run along the bias. The headpiece repeats the lines of a nun's stiff veil and reflects the ever present influence of the church on Balenciaga. Image: courtesy Balenciaga Archive.

Sandra Ericson: All of those are related to a singular skill—the ability to sculpt.  His medium was textiles and he was particularly famous for using textiles that were sculptural in nature, especially silk gazar, a heavy silk with a very springy quality.  He also worked with silk “zagar” but it’s very rare and you can’t find it these days.  When I do the Balenciaga draping class, I will look for something comparable to the gazar for us to work with.   Because we will be draping on the half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high and all the measurement are exactly half of a size ten person, I will be able to go out and find something that will have the qualities that Balenciaga’s fabrics had.  A very heavy satin, duchess satin, (made from silk fibers) is an example—it’s stiffer, fuller, heavier, and has a lot more body than full silk has.  In his coats, he used fabrics that might have been double woven, fabrics that could retain their dimensions even though they were folded or manipulated or gathered.  

Balenciaga was a person who inspired a lot of designers who came after him in the architectural mode–André Courrèges, Ronaldus Shamask.  In the mid-1970’s I actually took a class in architectural design and one of the presenters,  interestingly, enough was a guy named Salvatore, who was Balenciaga’s right hand man and he gave our group several patterns that belonged to Balenciaga but were not out there in circulation.  I kept those and when I do my class, I will be bringing those in. 

I’ve also made several of the pieces myself that he made famous.  He was strong, very architectural but careful –he had a way of doing a coat so that he set the collar on the neckline back a little bit so that if you were a lady who was no longer standing up too straight, you looked as if you had perfect posture in the coat. 

The voluminous silhouette of Balenciaga's "chou" wrap, from winter 1968, is entirely dependent on the stiffness of silk gazar, while the evening dress is done in a more fluid black silk crepe. Photo: Balenciaga Archives, Paris.

I’ve made that coat several times and will be bringing one in.  He had a way of working with a woman’s body so that whatever was a perceived negative about her figure disappeared and you focused on the most wonderful parts.  In the 1950’s you have to remember that people with money were not necessarily young.  Ladies might have thick waists or necks, but the wrist is the last to go.  The 7/8 length (or bracelet) sleeve made the wrist look delicate and drew attention there.  He  also lowered the waist in the back so you had a beautiful curve in the back.

Geneva Anderson:  In terms of construction, these ideas are incorporated right as the fabric as being cut? 

Sandra Ericson:  His clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients, so he knew what needed to be done on a body by body basis.  In terms of the general construction of the pieces, he was ever committed to cutting the cloth in the way that women would be exhibited in the best possible way, cutting off a line just before a beautiful physical curve on the body would take the eye into unflattering proportions. Kind of design by restraint!  Likewise, he would suggest or replace a shape rather than define it as it was on a particular person – again bearing in mind that his clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients whose proportions he knew.

A lot of his high fashion clothes though were reproduced in one way or another for the mass market and became ready to wear.  I used to send my students down to the Sunset Market in the Sunset district in the City when I teaching over there because the Balenciaga coat would still be going up and down the aisles pushing the grocery cart. It was such  a popular style coat with a small stand-up folded over collar, straight in the back and the sleeves were usually cut in one and looked sort of molded and stopped short of your wrists.  Sometimes, it had fur on the collar.  

Several of Balenciaga's designs contain overt allusions to the matador’s costume—cape, bolero, the bolero’s edging of borlones (pom pom tassels), medias (stockings) and headgear. Legendary Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín (1926-1996) was friendly with Picasso, had a romance with Eva Gardner and was written about by Ernest Hemingway. Here, he wears an ornate bolero with traditional embroidery and sports an anadido or plaited pigtail worn until retirement from the ring and then ceremoniously cut-off. Photo 1960.

Geneva Anderson:  Who was buying and wearing Balenciaga back in the day?

Sandra Ericson: Socialites. The celebrities in that period were mainly people who had social stature and there were film and theatrical people as well.  It was the Babe Paley era, debutants, wives of important men.  They went to Paris for their fittings.  In the Bay Area, they would have had fittings at I Magnin.  When the whole architectural trend waned, and things went to the tight denim of the 1970’s, his influence and that way of working faded and he closed his house in 1968 and he died way too young in 1972.  A lot of designers from that era and this is what happened to Madeleine Vionnet too–  they are exquisite, perfect, in what they do — but they are so finely attuned to a certain way of working that is very difficult to follow fashion.  A lot of them feel philosophically committed to the aesthetic they have been enthralled by and when that no longer is the fashion it is very difficult to change that philosophy and that’s what happened to Vionnet.  Balenciaga was also a very private person, so once he had done it and he saw the way the world was moving in the 1960’s, a lot of factors contributed to the closing of the house.



Balenciaga's cocktail hat in ivory silk satin, 1953, is a whimsical reference to the añadido or tiny braided pigtail that a matador wears until his retirement. Originally, the bullfighter's own hair was used but the pigtail later became a separate element, a castañeta, that is attached to a flat fabric-covered disc and is placed beneath the montera. Photo: John Rawlings, 1953

Geneva Anderson:  How strong were Basque and Spanish influences on him?

Balenciaga’s winter 1946 bolero in burgundy silk velvet and jet and passementerie embroidery by Bataille deonstrates his engagement with historical styles and with the influence of bullfighting. Collection of Hamish Bowles. Photo by Kenny Komer.

Sandra Ericson: He was from Spain and he, of course, was living in a Catholic country. In those days, before Vatican II which ushered in a new era for the Church, Catholicism was very old-fashioned, formal, and rigid.  The Church vestments were very sculptural, things were done in platinum, and there was an air of solemnity about everything.  There’s the sense of a very heavy structure laid over the religion and the dress code and that a strong influence on Balenciaga, living in a strongly Catholic society.  Fashion designers become translators of their era: they are masters of the zeitgeist who interpret everything that’s going on in an aesthetic way.  And because fashion is for human beings, it becomes almost a complete mirror of the society a designer is living in.

A lot of the pieces in Balenciaga and Spain are definitely ecclesiastical or nationalistic without reservation — a strong indicator of his identity with his culture certainly.  There are two other factors too–one, a presentation of the idea that women could be members of the clergy, or bullfighters, or run a country as royalty.  None of this was even remotely possible in general for women.  The second thing is that it shows he was not beyond co-opting a design concept and using it for his own — maybe evidence of his business pressures. Familiar ideas sell.

Balenciaga’s cocktail dress of rose peau de soie and black lace, winter 1948, suggests a modernized version of the lace dress worn by Dona Tadea Arias in Goya’s 1973-4 portrait at the Prado. It also reflects his conservatism in his expression of femininity which was not highly sexualized. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Mrs. C. H. Russell. Photo by Joe McDonald/FAMSF

Geneva Anderson:  What is the significance of the re-emergence of the House of Balenciaga under the ownership of Gucci and the design influence of Nicholas Ghesquière, who is supposed to be like Balenciaga because he is a self-taught designer.  He’s known for hip interpretations of Balenciaga classics, such as the semi-fitted jacket and the sack dress and is worn by celebrities like Madonna and Sinéad O’Connor.   How do you see transitions like this?

Sandra Ericson:  Anytime somebody buys a house that had a very strong leader, designer and a strong aesthetic, they are doing it primarily for business reasons.   It’s not as if anyone is going to resurrect Balenciaga or copy him and the person who is coming to fill those shoes is going to be who he is in his own time.  He or she can’t be anything else because everybody can only be who they are in their own time.  What the house is hoping is that the brand, the name, will carry enough social cache that it will allow them to be financially successful in a completely different time.  It’s kind of akin to hitchhiking on a name–if it works, that’s great but it’s very difficult for a new designer to come in and interpret another person’s work that is that personal.  So far, they’ve had three designers come to house of Vionnet and it hasn’t clicked.  If the person is good in his own interpretation of his own time, then they’ve got something to work with.  If the talent is short, then that won’t happen because staking it on Balenciaga’s name isn’t enough.

Geneva Anderson:  Tell me more about the “Balenciaga in Depth” event you’ve organized.

Sandra Ericson:  I’m doing a 3 day series of events and it all starts on Friday May 20 with a morning tour of the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition with someone who worked on the exhibition and this followed by an elegant box lunch.  In the evening, there will be a reception at CCA followed by a slide presentation explaining more of the history and chronology of Balenciaga. I will talk about the design issues, pattern, fabric, and construction pattern and an overview.  On Saturday and Sunday, at CCA, there will be a master class in draping where we will do two Balenciaga classics.  We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people

Balenciaga's cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung and black lace with black silk satin ribbons, summer 1966, illustrates his understanding of women as feminine, properly sexy, sugary--bows, ribbon, lace--and fabrics that are about femininity. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Eleanor Christensen de Guigne Collection (Mrs. Christian de Guigne III), gift of Ronna and Eric Hoffman. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

in the class.  Each person will work with a half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high, and all the measurements are exactly half of a size ten person. I am certainly not planning on duplicating the talent of Balenciaga but I want people to understand how he worked, how to cut cloth the way in a similar way and how to work with similar cloth so that they can begin to embrace fashion design as a more sculptural activity, as a form of art.

We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people in the class.  Each person will have a half-scale dress form

Center for Pattern Design Details: for further information, contact Sandra Ericson, Director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, California 94574, 707-967-0852

Balenciaga and Spain Details: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.  Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance.  For a complete listing of the numerous special events associated with the exhibition visit its webpage Balenciaga and Spain.

ARThound’s previous coverage of Balenciaga:

What is Balenciaga really all about? St. Helena pattern designer Sandra Ericson is offering a chance to cut, fit and sew two Balenciaga masterpieces this weekend at San Francisco’s CCA (May 17, 2011)

 Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit (March 23, 2011)

 Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011  (March 13, 2011)

May 21, 2011 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment