Monday, 21 April 2008

Builder of Dreams

A Surreal Life: Edward James

Edward Frank Willis James (1907 - 1984) the son of American railroad magnate William James and Evelyn James (nee Forbes), a Scots socialite, who was spuriously reputed to have been fathered by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).
On the death of his father in 1912 James inherited the 6,000 acre West Dean Estate in Sussex. Where, in 1964, he would establish the Edward James Foundation, a charitable educational trust. Which in turn founded the West Dean College, an institution that supports the visual and applied arts.

Monkton House was James' masterpiece of Surrealist decor.

The hall at Monkton with the famous carpet woven with the paw prints of his favourite hound.

Salvador Dali’s White Aphrodisiac Telephone

Salvador Dalí and Edward James
Mae West Lips Sofa, 1938. One of a pair created for the dining room at Monkton, which had upholstered deep-buttoned walls.

James behind his desk in the Tent Room at his Wimpole Street house, London. Behind him hangs Picasso's Femme Assise Au Chapeau. The composer Igor Markevitch lounges at the right. Interestingly this photograph was taken by Norman Parkinson in the late 1930s

In art, as he was in life - slightly disjointed from the world around him.

Swans Reflecting Elephants by Salvador Dalí
James' portrait is to the left.

The Pleasure Principle: Portrait of Edward James by René Magritte

La Reproduction Interdite by René Magritte

Las Pozas

James' herculean task began in 1949, Las Pozas is a sculpture garden more than 2,000 feet above sea level, in a tropical rain forest in the mountains of Mexico. It included more than eighty acres with natural waterfalls and pools punctuated by towering concrete Surrealist sculptures and follies. From 1964 until his death in 1984 this was James' world. His dream.

I have seen such beauty as one man has seldom seen,
Therefore will I be grateful to die in this little room surrounded by the forests,
The great green gloom of the trees, my only gloom - and the sound, the sound of green.
- Edward James

Now playing: La Lupe - Puro Teatro
via FoxyTunes


An Aesthete's Lament said...

I am such a James fan ... his sister, Audrey, was deeply stylish as well, though not in a surrealist vein ... and, Tilly, oh, Tilly ...

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

AL - isn't it funny, but we never hear of his sisters?Tilly? Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't she evil? Not necessarily an unattractive trait, but didn't she break his heart? That is one of the few things I draw the line at. Do tell...

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Do you think that one must draft one's final words? (I'm thinking of: "you mean that's it?") His quote is a wonderful paragraph or two. The reference to "my only gloom" I find to be very refreshing, especially among artists. Surrealism not being one of my favourite movements (Precisionism, Cubism, other 'isms do, instead), I will cop to loving the idea of the paw imprinted rug. But Barrymore deserves at least as much, if only for not biting the children.

Pigtown-Design said...

Thanks for the introduction!

Paul Pincus said...

You just know you've stumbled across something amazing/singular when your heart starts to

The hall at Monkton!...It looks like heaven to me.

This must be in the running for post of the year. -pp

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

E&EL - I hope there will be Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is ?" somewhere in the back ground.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

PP - I'm glad you liked it. If you get a chance to see the catalogue from the V&A Surrealism exhibition it is wonderful.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

Fairfax - if you do come back, we must go and see Monkton.