Thursday, 5 May 2016


Sunday, May 8, 2016, it’s Amsterdam’s turn. After the successful previous editions in Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, the cavalcade of well-dressed, and often mustachioed, gentlemen and elegant ladies will bring the sartorial bike ride to the capital and cycle along the canals. Furthermore, this year, the Tweed Ride will be supporting a special cause: the Red Cross.
In 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross was founded through Henry Dunant’s initiative. The Red Cross has become the symbol for neutral and impartial assistance for those in need: whether these are the victims of conflict, earthquakes, those in distant countries, or people in the Netherlands who are struggling.
“The Red Cross always helps everyone, everywhere”
The Tweed Ride was founded in 2009 on Savile Row in London, the heart of classical men’s fashion and home to the best tailors in the world. Love of tailoring, the finest tweeds, along with (vintage) bicycles and paraphernalia brought together a mixed cohort that, fuelled by cups of tea, made its way through the city. Meanwhile, now all over the world comparable ‘rides’ and ‘runs’ are organised. And of course, Amsterdam could not be left behind!
The bike ride is quite the sight to behold. To the delight of the public and press, a sartorial strut of round about 150 ladies and gentlemen make their way through the city to a splendid picnic spot where the gents and ladies can indulge in cucumber sandwiches and tea and scones, accompanied by the authentic sounds of an old crank gramophone.
Upon retrieving the starting permit, participants will also receive a dandy linen bag (musette) with a few sandwiches, refreshments and more stylish goodies provided by the sponsors. At the finish of the Amsterdam Tweed Ride, several prizes will be awarded in multiple categories, including, finest tweed outfit, most original old bike, shiniest shoes, and best groomed ‘handle bar mustache’! Tally ho!
Do you have questions about Tweed Ride - Amsterdam Edition? Contact Paul van der Blom & Cees Huisman

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

WOMEN IN DIORSPRING-SUMMER EXHIBITION Christian Dior Museum, Granville. From May 5th to September 25th 2016 /VIDEO : La quintessence de Dior comment Christian Dior envisageait la haute couture

The House of Dior was established on 16 December 1946, in "a private house" at 30 Avenue Montaigne Paris B. However, the current Dior corporation celebrates "1947" as the opening year. Dior was financially backed by wealthy businessman Marcel Boussac. Boussac had originally invited Dior to design for Philippe et Gaston, but Dior refused, wishing to make a fresh start under his own name rather than reviving an old brand. The new couture house became a part of "a vertically integrated textile business" already operated by Boussac. Its capital was at FFr 6 million and workforce at 80 employees. The company was really a vanity project for Boussac and was a "majorly owned affiliate of Boussac Saint-Freres S.A. Nevertheless, Monsieur Dior was allowed a then-unusual great part in his namesake label (legal leadership, a non-controlling stake in the firm, and one-third of pretax profits) despite Boussac's reputation as a "control freak". Monsieur Dior's creativity also negotiated him a pleasant salary.

On 12 February 1947, Dior launched his first fashion collection for Spring–Summer 1947. The show of "90 models of his first collection on six mannequins" was presented in the salons of the company's headquarters at 30 Avenue Montaigne. Originally, the two lines were named "Corolle" and "Huit". However, the new collection went down in fashion history as the "New Look" after the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar Carmel Snow exclaimed, "It's such a New Look!" The silhouette was characterised by a small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which emphasised the bust and hips, as epitomized by the 'Bar' suit from the first collection. At a time of post-war fabric restrictions, Dior used up to twenty yards of extravagant fabrics for his creations, favoring the luxury textiles of Robert Perrier. The New Look became extremely popular, its full-skirted silhouette influencing other fashion designers well into the 1950s, and Dior gained a number of prominent clients from Hollywood, the United States, and the European aristocracy. As a result, Paris, which had fallen from its position as the capital of the fashion world after WWII, regained its preeminence. The New Look was welcomed in western Europe as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime and de-feminizing uniforms, and was embraced by stylish women such as Princess Margaret in the UK. According to Harold Koda, The Costume Institute curator in charge, Christian Dior credited Charles James with inspiring The New Look.

Vogue April 1, 1947
“Christian Dior, new house with new vigor, new ideas, here makes a variation of his market-woman skirt—stiffened, standout, pleated at a low mark. The hat is by Maud Roser, white piqué, banded with navy-blue chiffon.”

Sublime Elegance of a Portrait
Christian Dior Museum, Granville

From May 5th to September 25th 2016

As part of the Normandy Impressionist festival, the Christian Dior Museum’s exhibition invites visitors to discover this great designer’s work and inspiration through the women who have chosen and worn the creations of his fashion house.

After the designer’s sketches, the workshop realization and the presentation on the catwalk, customers give new life to the creations, adapting them to their personalities and the world in which they live. Worn by the customer, the dress takes on her identity, her unique personality and her history. The exhibition evokes these moments in the lives of women, made resplendent by the designer creations. They show how the Dior fashion house helps to “make women more beautiful”, in the words of Christian Dior himself, and to construct their social identity.

The Femmes en Dior exhibition reveals the allure of the stars who wear Dior. These figures of elegance, from both France and other countries, include women from the worlds of the aristocracy, entertainment, theatre and cinema. These portraits in Dior show icons of refinement and distinction such as the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lady Diana, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Soraya, or stars like Maria Callas, Elizabeth Taylor, Olivia de Havilland, Josephine Baker and Marilyn Monroe. The exhibits portray Dior’s major customers and close friends: Geneviève Page, Suzanne Luling or Mitzah Bricard, for example, alongside stars of today such as Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron and Rihanna.

A selection of models evoking both famous and anonymous women wearing Dior illustrates the fashion house’s style and its many faces. A stunning collection of ninety haute couture dresses, as well as photographs, drawings and paintings, showcasing the elegance of women in Dior, as well as the harmonious way in which a Dior design and the wearer’s individual image and personality enhance one another. Magazines show them at events or social gatherings. Memories, anecdotes, family portraits, and press images all highlight the uniqueness of each woman in Dior.

'dior' Comes To Blenheim (1958)

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Hôtel d’Orrouer. Chez Givenchy ...

One of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century, Hubert de Givenchy resides in Paris in an elegant hôtel particulier, built for a marquise in 1731. He talks to Apollo about how he has tailored his art collection accordingly.
Susan Moore, Friday, 28th September 2012 in Apollo.

It seems entirely appropriate that Hubert de Givenchy should live in one of the most soberly perfect aristocratic hôtel particuliers in Paris. The Hôtel d’Orrouer, designed in 1731 by the architect Pierre Boscry for Marguerite-Paule de Grivel d’Orrouer, marquise de Feuquières, stands secreted behind a vast stone wall on the rue de Grenelle. When one of the great wooden doors of its triumphal arch of a porte-cochère opens, it reveals a courtyard of gravel and box, plus two classical golden-stone façades of such pared-down simplicity that they verge on the austere. It is a description that might equally fit the exquisitely tailored and infinitely flattering ‘clothes without ornament’ that the couturier – born Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy in 1927 – designed for his great muse, Audrey Hepburn.

Once inside the hôtel, it is clear that the same elegant aesthetic is at work. There is opulence and luxury in terms of materials – ormolu-mounted or gilded furniture, mirrors, candelabra, hardstone vessels, mirror-black vases and bronzes, plus rich embroideries and carpets – and a profusion of objects, but there is a rigour and symmetry in their arrangement that ensures an effect that is masculine and surprisingly unfussy. Nothing is extraneous. As his great mentor Cristóbal Balenciaga once said: the secret of elegance is elimination.

M. de Givenchy has always seen the furnishing and decoration of his various apartments as an extension of his work as a designer. ‘What I try to achieve is principally a harmony between architecture, decoration and colour,’ he explains, as we sit at his desk overlooking a manicured garden. He offers me a choice of tea, coffee, water, Coca-Cola or Champagne, duly delivered by a white-coated butler. ‘This house already has a marvellous decoration of its own with the gilded boiseries of Nicolas Pineau [1684–1754; so I did not need to “decorate” very much. But I do try to find associations between objects in a way that looks natural. I am not interested in creating something
that people say is different or amusing.’

Moreover, he looks appalled – in so far as his impeccable manners allow – when I refer to him as a collector. ‘Madame, I am not a collector,’ he insists. ‘I think of collectors as people who acquire a repetition of the same things – little boxes, or spoons. I have no desire to accumulate.’ He does, however, concede that collecting is in his genes. Three generations of his maternal family who owned or worked for the Gobelins and Beauvais tapestry manu-
factories made and sold various art collections. So, who or what influenced him?

‘I learned from the people I met over the course of my career, many of whom were collectors,’ he explains. ‘When I was very young, I chose to be a dress designer. My mother was wonderful about it, although she said it was not the kind of thing your father had in mind for you – he died when I was two years old.’ It began when M. de Givenchy started work with Jacques Fath – he was 17 – and he had the opportunity to meet Marie-Laure de Noailles. The recklessly eclectic salon of the iconoclastic vicomtesse de Noailles was remarkable in combining the spare minimalist interiors and furniture of Jean-Michel Frank with great Old Masters and Schatzkammer silver-gilt, as well as the work of her Surrealist protégés. It was to exert a profound influence on the taste of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, among many others.

‘At that time, Paris was a dream,’ M. de Givenchy continues. ‘You had Antenor Patiño, you had Arturo Lopez-Wilshaw and Charles de Bestegui.’ (The latter’s Château de Groussay has been described as having the greatest private interiors concocted in the 20th century.) ‘Of course, at the beginning I was not received by these people but, little by little, I was introduced to them, and many were very kind when they heard I was interested in furniture and invited me to visit. Of course, I looked and I looked, and I saw every style and tradition, and I realised what I did not like and what I did like.’ He pauses: ‘And this is my education – and what an education! Those people really understood French 17th- and 18th-century decorative arts and had a real understanding of quality and beauty.’

At the same time, he also began to haunt the premises of the Parisian antiques trade. ‘In the beginning I was scared to open the doors because I had no money to spend, but I went anyway. I remember often going to the Galerie Ramsey, the great antiquaires on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and Mr Hammel was very nice to this tall young man who never bought anything. He would spend time telling me everything about a particular chair, [or]
a style. I would visit Etienne Levy, Maurice Segoura, Jean-Paul Fabre and Didier Aaron. I would ask questions, and I began to understand more and more, and the more I learned, the more interested I became.’ He would also mark up auction catalogues and dream.

His salary was very small when he began with Fath but it improved as he progressed to Robert Piguet, Lucien Lelong and, finally, the eccentric Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1952 he opened his own design house, and had more time – and funds. ‘When at last I had the opportunity to buy a beautiful object, I bought a chair – a giltwood Louis XVI bergère. It is not, of course, the most important thing that I own but I will never sell it,’ he declares passionately.

While his fellow designers wanted to furnish their apartments immediately (Christian Dior, for instance, had a penchant for Napoleon III papier mâché: ‘I never liked that epoch, for me it is sad’), M. de Givenchy understood almost from the start the importance of working slowly and buying the highest quality objects he could afford. He also never asked any expert for advice. ‘Little by little, I pursued my dream of acquiring furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries, and contemporary art.”

At this time, he also started travelling regularly to the US. His new clientele included the likes of Mrs Charles Wrightsman and Mrs Paul Mellon, and his art education continued apace through his access to these grandest of American collections. It was through an American in Paris, Bettina Shaw-Jones, Schiaparelli’s assistant and subsequently Mrs Gaston Bergery, that he met the ‘most important collector and decorator I had ever known in Paris’. This was the extraordinary Misia Sert, the subject of two recent exhibitions in Paris (the Musée d’Orsay’s ‘Misia, Queen of Paris’ travels to the Musée Bonnard in Le Cannet; 13 October–6 January 2013). An arbiter of taste and fashion, she bought together the artistic and musical elite of Paris. After the death in 1945 of her estranged third husband, the Catalan painter José María Sert, she inherited his apartment on the rue de Rivoli with all of its contents. It was here that M. de Givenchy visited the by now very frail and blind Misia.

‘Her apartment was like an Ali Baba’s cave,’ he recalls, ‘and it was incredible. The taste of her close friend Coco Chanel was in fact the taste of Misia – rock crystal, coromandel, gilt bronze and Boulle…and there was a particular Boulle armoire…’ After Misia’s death in 1950, Sert’s former secretary, the journalist Boulos (Pierre Ristelhueber), contacted M. de Givenchy to ask him if he knew anyone who might buy the armoire as no one seemed to be in the least bit interested in Boulle. ‘On the front of the armoire was a chariot of Apollo and the bronze was of extraordinary quality – I would dream in front of that bronze,’ sighs M. de Givenchy.

He asked around, offering the piece to Helena Rubenstein, the Princesse Gourielli. ‘One day, Boulos said: “Every time you visit you touch the armoire and caress the horses. Why don’t you buy it?” I said the price is impossible and I have nothing like it! In fact, when he told me the price I was so surprised that I said yes.’ The armoire spent 18 months at the restorer’s, which gave M. de Givenchy the chance to completely rethink his apartment on the Esplanade des Invalides, in effect just one big room.

While most collectors of French decor-ative arts might aspire to graduate towards owning a single piece by the greatest and most influential of all French cabinetmakers, M. de Givenchy all but began his collecting career with one. But displaying it became the next issue. ‘Apart from a few good chairs, all I had was a Rothko and a Miró, and they had nothing to do with a Boulle armoire. So I asked Charles Sevigny, an extraordinary young architect with great taste, if he could help. I asked him to make an enormous screen made of bronze-tinted mirror, and put the armoire directly in front of that. The comb-ination of Rothko, Miró and Boulle was wonderful.’ His second Boulle acquisition
for the small apartment was the hardly less remarkable six-legged bureau plat known as the Ashburnham desk, previously owned by Antenor Patiño.

And the Rothko? ‘One day Mrs Mellon sent me a postcard of a marvellous Rothko painting from the collection of the architect Philip Johnson. I said that I thought he was a great painter, and that it was important to have a painting by him in the National Gallery of Art in Washington [Paul Mellon was a founding benefactor and trustee of the institution]. She said she agreed completely but that Paul did not care for this period of art.’ Soon after, in February 1970, Rothko committed suicide. Mrs Mellon wrote to M. de Givenchy and asked if he would like to visit Rothko’s studio next time he came to New York. ‘We go to the studio one morning and there are 800 Rothkos. Mrs Mellon buys 14, and I decided to reserve one for me. At that time Rothko is not so expensive – and there were no other Rothkos in Paris!’ His painting is now in the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

‘Another time she wanted to buy some work by Braque. I told her that the best Braques were to be found with the Maeghts in the South of France and that she should make some time to go. I call up Marguerite Maeght – she is a great friend – and we all have lunch. Bunny bought four or five Braques that afternoon. That was what my life was like: I would visit a client for a fitting and we would end up doing something completely different. Life is marvellous!’

His continued joie de vivre is evident as he discusses, eyes twinkling, his latest project: ‘What is important is to create, and creation is the most important thing in life for me.’ M. de Givenchy has always been a man in need of
a canvas – be it a muse, a mannequin or a building. That much is clear as we talk about the various architectural ‘canvases’ he has had to work with in Paris, in the country and in the south of France.

After he sold his company in 1988, M. de Givenchy decided it would be a good idea to sell the piano nobile of the Hôtel d’Orrouer and move downstairs into the pied-à-terre (he had three labradors at the time and was planning to spend more time in the country. At this point in the story he has the good grace to laugh and say: “What a pied-à-terre!” for the ground-floor apartment is a mirror of the one above, but with slightly lower ceilings. The principal contents of the piano nobile were duly sold by Christie’s in Monaco in 1993, where they set a record for a single-owner collection of decorative arts, and the heavenly project of creation began again – twice, after he decided not to sell the piano nobile after all.

It was during a conversation with Christie’s Charles Cator and François de Ricqles that M. de Givenchy revealed that he had long cherished the idea of creating his own modest version of La Galerie de Girardon. François Girardon (1628–1715), arguably the most influential sculptor in France under Louis XIV, was also an extraordinary collector of sculpture, amassing over 800 pieces that ranged from classical antiquities and copies after the antique to the contemporary. Around 1708, he commissioned René Charpentier (1680–1723) to draw its highlights, and Gilles-
Marie Oppenordt (1672–1742) to design for them a grand and imaginary architectural setting. The subsequent engravings constitute an important record of both Girardon’s oeuvre and his collection.

Mr Cator was so enthusiastic about the idea that he suggested they stage it at Christie’s Paris as an exhibition to coincide with the Biennale des Antiquaires. The show, which ran from 11 to 26 September, presented some 10 pieces, or pairs, from the Givenchy collection, set against a backdrop of the engraved Girardon plates. Most are bronzes, although two 17th- or 18th-century Italian polychrome marble busts of Claudius and Alexander the Great also took a bow, as did a pair of Louis XV marble vases of around 1700–65, which have astounding and apparently unique ormolu mounts of masks and snakes .

M. de Givenchy insists that he knows ‘absolutely nothing’ about bronze. ‘It is all instinct,’ he says. He buys when a work of art delivers a coup de foudre and he knows he must live with it. Yet his is an incredibly sure eye, as these sculptures bear ample witness. Here, for instance, is a pair of bronze figures representing Venus Marina and a sea goddess, probably Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, that he bought over 40 years ago and which Christie’s Paris’ sculpture specialist Isabelle Degut has now attributed to Robert Le Lorrain (1666–1743). The Amphitrite appears to be the only known cast. Similarly, the bronze of Harpocrates, Greek god of silence, is also the only known model of its type. Based on a Roman marble, it is now believed to be the work of an Italo-Flemish sculptor working in the circle of François Duquesnoy (1597–1643).

Interestingly, some of the pieces are mirrored in the Girardon engravings, not least the beautiful bronze of Bacchus of around 1700 , attributed to Girardon himself. Again, it appears to be a unique cast and one of only two known figures of this size by the sculptor. The others are the pair of bronze river gods representing the Nile and the Tiber, also after the antique . He coveted these bronzes the moment he saw them at Wildenstein’s in New York three decades ago, and was told repeatedly they were not for sale. He was able to buy them about three years ago. ‘Some pieces are your destiny,’ says M. de Givenchy, who was fortunate enough to find their grand and very probably original bases at Kugel in Paris.

His wish is that someone take on and extend his sculpture collection and realise a Galerie de Girardon in their own home. I ask whether he regrets selling any works of art. ‘C’est la vie. Life has different stages. You must realise that in life what you want more and more is simplicity – a simple room, a perfect bed, one nice table, a few objects that you really like, and a good book.’ Perhaps the secret of life, like elegance, is elimination.

Hubert de Givenchy expose chez Christie's
Béatrice De Rochebouet Mis à jour le 22/06/2012

Le célèbre créateur s'apprête à reconstituer, à sa manière, la galerie imaginée par le sculpteur Girardon au XVIIIe siècle.

Les années n'ont pas entamé l'enthousiasme d'Hubert de Givenchy. Ce monstre sacré de la haute couture, à l'élégance et la délicatesse innée, a l'œil qui pétille et le verbe qui s'emballe lorsqu'il parle de son projet d'exposer chez Christie's, à Paris, pendant la prochaine Biennale des antiquaires, une partie de sa collection de bronzes, dans une reconstitution de la célèbre galerie Girardon. Pour lui, c'est un retour dans cette maison dont il a été l'ambassadeur, bien avant son rachat par François Pinault. Comme au temps de ses défilés haute couture, ce petit-fils d'un grand décorateur d'opéra pour le sultanat de Constantinople renoue avec l'art de la mise en scène, dans le plus pur classicisme français. En maître de cérémonie, il reconstituera ce décor éphémère à l'harmonie parfaite que le sculpteur avait imaginé pour le Louvre. Ce qui le guide? Le simple goût de la fête, en souvenir des bals mémorables chez les Rothschild, à Ferrières, ou chez Charles de Beistegui, au château de Groussay.
Dans son salon de la rue de Grenelle, l'hôtel Ourrouer, entre cour et jardin, Hubert de Givenchy nous raconte avec modestie sa passion pour l'art. Pas seulement le XVIIIe, dans lequel il refuse qu'on l'enferme, car il a toujours mélangé époques et styles: du mobilier Boulle entouré de grands canapés recouverts de housses en lin blanc, des plantes vertes et, sur les murs, un Rothko vert sombre et orange qui est allé rejoindre la Fondation Beyeler ou un Miro, aujourd'hui sur les cimaises de Beaubourg. Et - pourquoi pas? - une petite touche d'Eileen Gray. «Les modes changent, explique ce défenseur des styles qui croit au retour en force du XVIIIe, s'il est de qualité exceptionnelle. À condition de ne pas le remettre dans une atmosphère totalement d'époque, ­comme à Camondo, et de lui apporter un souffle de fraîcheur avec des Delaunay, Arp et Giacometti. Et surtout, ne pas l'alourdir avec des pompons et passementeries.» Cet amateur a toujours détesté les petits objets, les petits guéridons, les petits bougeoirs! Son ami, l'actrice Audrey Hepburn, dont les photos en noir et blanc peuplent son intérieur, le définissait ainsi: «Il est comme un marbre, grand, droit et beau.»
La passion des objets n'a jamais quitté Hubert de Givenchy, depuis qu'il a retrouvé miraculeusement cette paire de rideaux brodés venant de chez Lilianne de Rothschild, chez son ami l'antiquaire Maurice Ségoura. Le couple de Canadiens qui l'avait acquise lors de la vente en 1993 chez Christie's à Monaco d'une partie du mobilier de son hôtel de la rue de Grenelle, s'était aperçu qu'il lui manquait deux mètres de hauteur pour la placer dans sa résidence. Elle a donc repris place, dans les boiseries du salon tapissé de velours vert du premier étage.
Il ne regrette rien

Une histoire en amène toujours une autre. «C'est la vie des objets», lance cet homme au goût hors pair qui a su allier ses talents de créateur à ceux de collectionneur. À ce mot, qu'il déteste, il préfère celui de «sélectionneur», tant il refuse le «côté accumulation qui vous fait empiler et vous empêche de s'ouvrir à d'autres domaines». Au départ, Hubert de Givenchy a refusé toutes les tentations avant de recommencer à chiner, toujours dans ce même esprit du grand XVIIe et XVIIIe, avec une petite incartade pour l'Empire. La chambre à coucher du premier a été transformée en salon pour accueillir une paire de torchères de Sarreguemines commandée par Vivant Denon pour Napoléon. Pour avoir eu la chance de rencontrer les plus grands amateurs de son époque, de Jayne Wrightsman à Arturo Lopez-Willshaw, en passant par Hélène Rochas, il ne regrette rien.
Son aventure a commencé il y a une quarantaine d'années. Sa mère le destinait à des études de droit, terriblement ennuyeuses. Alors qu'il avait rêvé de travailler chez Balenciaga, le jeune homme débarque de Beauvais à 17 ans et arrive chez Schiaparelli. Il côtoie le Tout-Paris: Coco Chanel, Bérard, Cocteau et, surtout, le peintre décorateur espagnol José Maria Sert et son épouse Misia, qui influenceront beaucoup son goût, de même que Georges Geffroy, le décorateur le plus en vogue de l'après-guerre. «Dans la vie, rien ne vous appartient, explique ce philosophe qui a perdu son père à 2 ans. Ma vie a été peuplée de privilèges. Aujourd'hui, je me retire dans ma propriété de Romilly-sur-Aigre, dans le Perche, pour profiter de l'existence. Et j'ai repris mes ciseaux de couturier pour faire des collages à la Miro…»

Exposition du 11 septembre au 3 octobre, pendant la Biennale des antiquaires, 3, avenue Matignon (Paris VIIIe).

Les trésors des hôtels particuliers France 5 2015 06 21 18 05 www Zone T...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Durrells | | ITV

The Durrells | ITV

The Durrells is a six-part ITV drama television series based on Gerald Durrell's three autobiographical books about his family's four years on Corfu 1935-1939, which began airing on 3 April 2016. The series is written by Simon Nye, directed by Steve Barron and Roger Goldby, produced by Christopher Hall and Executive Production is by Lee Morris and Sally Woodward Gentle.

The series begins in 1935, when Louisa Durrell suddenly announces that she and her four children will move from Bournemouth to the Greek island of Corfu. Her husband has died some years earlier and the family is experiencing financial problems. A Homeric battle ensues as the family adapts to life on the island which, despite a lack of electricity, is cheap and an earthly paradise.

The Durrells proves a rollicking delight for ITV
Series based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy meets need for hit Sunday night drama to fill void left by Downton Abbey
Jane Martinson and John Plunkett
Friday 29 April 2016 17.50 BST

The old adage of never working with children and animals is being tested by ITV with its main Sunday night drama. But The Durrells, a fun mix of gorgeous locations, four badly behaved kidults and an odd menagerie of animals, is proving a success for the broadcaster which has been searching for a Sunday night hit since Downton Abbey came to an end in December.

Based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, the drama starring Keeley Hawes as the whimsical widow fleeing a prewar Britain for the sunny Mediterranean is attracting an average audience of 5.9 million viewers on a Sunday night, nearly 2 million more than the channel’s average.

The series has also been a boon for sales of the the naturalist’s books. Waterstones said sales of My Family and Other Animals, the first of the Corfu trilogy, had more than tripled, while sales of the trilogy had increased eight-fold.

Publisher Penguin Random House said it had seen an “incredible uplift” across all three editions of My Family and Other Animals.

“In our experience, successful book adaptations for TV and cinema often lead to a renewed interest in the original book,” said Richard Humphreys, Waterstones’ non-fiction buyer. “It is an amazing result and a testament to the brilliance and longevity of Durrell’s writing.”

Shown in a pre-watershed slot of 8pm, the combination of romance and rollicking children has won over entire families. The Durrells is the highest rated new drama series on ITV since Cilla in 2014 and was recommissioned after just two episodes.

Sally Woodward Gentle, the executive producer, said the idea of turning Durrell’s three books into a long-running series came about because of the commercial broadcaster’s demand for a family-friendly hit on the biggest night of the week.

“We wanted sunshine and escapism, and not anything too slight or sweet or patronising,” she said. “We don’t want to be too sickly sweet about it. Anything that feels a bit cute we will try to undercut it. At the same time, it has to be something that’s incredibly pleasurable and a joy to watch.”

The appeal was ageless, she said, because the show contained “quite naughty children who are allowed to run wild and lots of animals. For the adults, the wit and characters are amazing”.

Conceived as a long-running series, minor characters such as Sven and the part-time prisoner Costi are made much larger while the central character of Louise is given a possibly more modern spin. “She’s a single parent, feisty and bolshie, and does this extremely brave thing by taking the children off to Corfu,” said Woodward Gentle.

There have been comparisons to the the Larkin family in the early 1990s hit Darling Buds of May, which Woodward Gentle welcomes. “I loved it,” she said. “It was slightly naughty and all about how lush nature is.”

Critics, often less enamoured of ITV drama than they are of BBC adaptations, have been generally positive, although there was also criticism of a plot twist dubbed the “gay switch scandal”.

Sven, who is gay in the book, becomes Louisa’s main love interest on ITV, prompting charges of “straightwashing”.

ITV would not be drawn on how the storyline between the two plays out, with the penultimate of six episodes to be broadcast this Sunday.

Woodward Gentle said the show was very loosely based on the original books, and Durrell’s widow, Lee, had been very supportive.

Neither the original memoirs nor the writings of Durrell’s older brother about the family’s time on Corfu was entirely accurate, Woodward Gentle said.. “Gerald and Lawrence Durrell didn’t tell the truth either … They didn’t let truth stand in the way of a good story.”

Written by Simon Nye, whose credits include Men Behaving Badly, the series hopes to stay true to the humour of the books.

They covered a four-year period before the onset of the second world war made the real-life Durrells return to the UK. With filming of the next series set to start this summer for the next series, Woodward Gentle said she would “love it to go on and on”.

Ratings war

The Durrells has helped to loosen the BBC’s grip on early Sunday evening viewing, which is traditionally dominated by Countryfile at 7pm, followed an hour later by Antiques Roadshow, both on BBC1.

Last Sunday, The Durrells had 5.5 million viewers from 8pm, just ahead of Antiques Roadshow with 5.3 million.

ITV’s previous attempts to find a hit pre-watershed drama on Sunday sank without trace. Jekyll and Hyde last year and Beowulf earlier this year were both dropped after ratings fell to 2 million viewers.

Among the other big Sunday night dramas, BBC1’s Undercover, with an overnight audience of 4 million viewers at 9pm, has not managed to repeat the success of The Night Manager, which gripped more than 6 million people in the same slot. But neither were in the league of the biggest Sunday night drama hit, BBC1’s Call The Midwife, which at its peak was watched by 10 million viewers.

Channel 4’s Indian Summers has been a casualty of the fierce Sunday night ratings war, with the drama about the birth of modern India axed after two series after its audience fell as low as 1 million.

Keeley Hawes as Louisa Durrell
Milo Parker as Gerry Durrell
Josh O'Connor as Larry Durrell
Daisy Waterstone as Margo Durrell
Callum Woodhouse as Leslie Durrell
Yorgos Karamihos as Dr. Theo Stephanides
Alexis Georgoulis as Spiros Hakaiopolous
James Cosmo as Captain Creech
Maximilian Befort as Max
Manolis Emmanouel as Sotos
Andrew Bicknell as Headmaster
Anna Savva as Lugaretza
Graham Seed as Mr Trevitt
Liz Watts as Nancy
Ben Hall as Donald
Hara-Joy Ermidi as Alexia
Yorgos Tryfonas as Market Trader
Nick Orestis Chaniotakis as Monk
Arsenis Grimmas as Guest House Manager
Spiros Kasfikis as Durrell's House Owner
Ulric von der Esch as Sven

 Gerald "Gerry" Malcolm Durrell, OBE (7 January 1925 – 30 January 1995) was a British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author and television presenter. He founded what are now called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Park on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1959, but is perhaps best remembered for writing a number of books based on his life as an animal collector and enthusiast. He was the youngest brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell.
Durrell was born in Jamshedpur, India on 7 January 1925. He was the fourth surviving and final child of Louisa Florence Dixie and Lawrence Samuel Durrell, both of whom were born in India of English and Irish descent. Durrell's father was a British engineer and, as was commonplace and befitting family status, the infant Durrell spent most of his time in the company of an ayah (nursemaid). Durrell reportedly recalled his first visit to a zoo in India and attributed his lifelong love of animals to that encounter.

The family moved to Britain after the death of his father in 1928 and settled in the Upper Norwood-Crystal Palace area of South London. Durrell was enrolled in Wickwood School, but frequently stayed at home feigning illness.

Mrs Durrell moved with her four younger children (Lawrence, Leslie, Margaret, nicknamed Margo, and Gerald) to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935. It was on Corfu where Durrell began to collect and keep the local fauna as his pets.

The family lived on Corfu until 1939. This interval was later the basis of the book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, plus a few short stories like "My Donkey Sally". Durrell was home-schooled during this time by various family friends and private tutors, mostly friends of his eldest brother Lawrence (later a successful novelist).

Theodore Stephanides, Greek doctor, scientist, poet and philosopher and a friend of one of Durrell's tutors, became Durrell's greatest friend and mentor, and his ideas left a lasting impression on the young naturalist. Together, they examined Corfu fauna, which Durrell housed in everything from test tubes to bathtubs. Another major influence during these formative years, according to Durrell, was the writing of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre.