Saturday, March 21, 2015

Régence, Regency, Jazz Age What Color Was It? (Part 1)


On opening night of the exhibit Cosmopolitan Consumption (Information here), several visitors asked if the original color of some of the objects was brighter or stronger. Luckily on the underside of a number of the objects sections of the original color was intact and in one case a snippet of original fabric remained in an unfaded state.  Aside from a quick view of the bottom of an object, the ongoing advances in the scientific research of historic colors has greatly enhanced our understanding of the use and palette of color over time. That is great for the original object, but how do we actually see these colors from one generation to the next.  Each generation predisposes itself to how it views the world. This predisposition is one way that conservators and curators can see some ‘improvements’ and restorations with the naked eye. An example of this is the way in which faces are painted or over-painted, the Flapper or Bright-Young-Thing face on the Georgian portrait. Oops how did that happen?  Hmm.  One of the most difficult premises for an artist is to distance their self from their time period.

Dice in another version also on Ebay 3/15

A chance encounter with a new color palette from an artist whose work I know jolted me the other day when I saw a series of pochoirs rendered in the 1920s by Guy Arnoux, but based on scenes from the French Régence (1715-23).  I enjoy Arnoux’s cartoonesque style, which is firmly rooted in the early 20th century, but often illustrates the past. A technical note, pochoir is a refined coloring technique that employs stencils and gouaches to illuminate prints.  There is a vibrant quality to the technique that appeals to my eye. 

Hunting vibrant

The technique was employed in the first quarter of the 20th century by the haute couture French fashion journal La Gazette du Bon Ton. That being said, the series that I came across on EBay that was shocking in its color palette.  I knew the series; Jeux et Divertissements. I have a couple of the prints from the series that I found in an antique shop years ago. I considered the examples I own as being the standard color range, but on this other group, the colors were intensely modern, at least for the 1920s. The coloration might be jarring to our modern eye and our understanding of the correct colors of the 18th century, but it might have been less so to the 1920s’ eye.

Hunting soft or faded Palatte


Jeff Hopper is a Consultant, Historic House Steward and Social Historian

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