Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Hameau de la Reine, Versailles / £326million restoration project.

The Hameau de la Reine, The Queen's Hamlet) is a rustic retreat in the park of the Château de Versailles built for Marie Antoinette in 1783 near the Petit Trianon in Yvelines, France. It served as a private meeting place for the Queen and her closest friends, a place of leisure. Designed by the Queen's favoured architect, Richard Mique with the help of the painter Hubert Robert, it contained a meadowland with lakes and streams, a classical Temple of Love on an island with fragrant shrubs and flowers, an octagonal belvedere, with a neighbouring grotto and cascade. There are also various buildings in a rustic or vernacular style, inspired by Norman or Flemish design, situated around an irregular pond fed by a stream that turned a mill wheel. The building scheme included a farmhouse, (the farm was to produce milk and eggs for the queen), a dairy, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn that burned down during the French Revolution, a mill and a tower in the form of a lighthouse. Each building is decorated with a garden, an orchard or a flower garden. The largest and most famous of these houses is the "Queen's House", connected to the Billiard house by a wooden gallery, at the center of the village. A working farm was close to the idyllic, fantasy-like setting of the Queen’s Hamlet.

The hameau is the best-known of a series of rustic garden constructions built at the time, notably the Prince of Condé's Hameau de Chantilly (1774–1775) which was the inspiration for the Versailles hamlet. Such model farms, operating under principles espoused by the Physiocrats, were fashionable among the French aristocracy at the time. One primary purpose of the hameau was to add to the ambiance of the Petit Trianon, giving the illusion that it was deep in the countryside rather than within the confines of Versailles. The rooms at the hameau allowed for more intimacy than the grand salons at Versailles or at the Petit Trianon.

Inspired by a wave of naturalism in art, architecture, and garden design, the Hameau de la Reine was constructed between 1782 and 1783. The garden surroundings of the Petit Trianon, of which the hameau de la Reine is an extension, began their transformation from formal pattern gardens. Under Louis XV it had been an arboretum and the new arrangements eliminated this famous botanical garden, replacing it with a more informal "natural" garden of winding paths, curving canals and lakes under the direction of Antoine Richard, gardener to the Queen. Richard Mique modified the landscape design to provide vistas of lawn to west and north of the Petit Trianon, encircled by belts of trees. Beyond the lake to the north, the hameau was sited like a garden stage set, initially inspired in its grouping and vernacular building by Dutch and Flemish genre paintings, philosophically influenced by Rousseau's cult of "nature", and reflecting exactly contemporary picturesque garden principles set forth by Claude-Henri Watelet and by ideas of the philosophes, their "radical notions co-opted into innocent forms of pleasure and ingenious decoration" as William Adams has pointed out. Artists played a more direct role in French picturesque than they probably had done in England, as can be seen by Hubert Robert's involvement.

The stylistic design of the Hameau de la Reine was influenced by the hameau de Chantilly, a similarly rustic “village” with half-timbered façades and reed-thatched roofs. A wave of naturalism and an affinity towards the “simple” life was sweeping across France in the 18th century. French aristocrats loved to act like shepherds and shepherdesses, while still enjoying the comforts of their social position. This idealism of the natural life came from the extremely influential works of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who emphasized Nature. The hamlet seemed completely rustic and natural from the outside, while the Rococo interior provided the desired comfort and luxury of the Queen and her friends.

The Petit Trianon, originally built for Madame de Pompadour under the reign of Louis XV, was a private domain. Encircling the Petit Trianon was the Jardin Anglais (the English Garden), a wilder style of garden that arose in response to traditional French manicured gardens. The Hamlet is built in a hybrid architectural style. A combination of Norman, Flemish, and French styles came together to create the village full of sylvan charm. Typically Norman, the cottages have half-timbered façades and reed coverings. The brick, “sparrow-stepped” gables and the stained glass windows are distinctly Flemish. The roofs covered with dormer windows and the plaster-covered façades, though, were native to France. The French architect Richard Mique designed and built the Hamlet with the garden in mind, and it is almost an extension of the Jardin Anglais. His buildings lend themselves to the surrounding landscape in their arrangement around a small lake, giving the illusion of a perfect and functioning village.

The barn, occasionally used as a ballroom, was destroyed during the French Revolution, while the rest of the houses survived the tumultuous period of French history.

Courtiers at the Palace of Versailles constantly surrounded Marie Antoinette, leaving her in need of a refuge. She escaped the responsibilities and structure of court life to her private estate. The Hamlet was part of Marie Antoinette’s estate, and she enjoyed dressing as a young shepherdess or milkmaid and acting like a peasant, while surrounded by the comforts of a royal lifestyle. This unintentional mockery of the economically depressed French peasants helped build the resentment towards the monarchy among the French people, eventually leading to the French Revolution.

While still in power, Marie Antoinette enjoyed acting as a tableau vivant, as if she were part of a painting. She brought her idyllic, picturesque village to life by stocking the barn with animals, and bringing in “simple” people, such as milkmaids and herdsmen, to act like residents of the Hamlet. Marie Antoinette would stroll around her perfect world in simple peasants' garb with her children, part of an idealized Nature. Her closest friends joined her in her ornamental village, where they also enjoyed pretending to live a simple life. Their isolation at the Hameau caused suspicion among the French people. Already resentful of Marie Antoinette for her profligate spending in times of economic depression, the secrecy surrounding her life of amusement led to suspected hedonism and scandal. It was rumored that Marie Antoinette had lovers, and they met at the Hameau, a surreal place that was completely her own. The extravagance and subtle mockery of peasant life did not help Marie Antoinette’s already suffering image.

In spite of its idyllic appearance, the hamlet was a real farm, fully managed by a farmer appointed by the Queen, with its vineyards, fields, orchards and vegetable gardens producing fruit and vegetables consumed at the royal table. Animals from Switzerland, according to the instructions of the Queen, were raised on the farm. For this reason the place was often called "the Swiss hamlet".

The Queen sought refuge in peasant life, milking cows or sheep, which were carefully maintained and cleaned by the servants. She preferred to wear simple clothing uncharacteristic to the frivolous fashion of the French Court while at the hameau, and often dressed in a sun hat and informal muslin dress, a Polonaise gown, or a Chemise à la Reine. The chemise, worn without panniers and with a high waistline, was first worn by women in warmer climates in the colonies and was popularised amongst the aristocracy through Marie Antoinette. The simplicity and high waistline of the garment would lay the foundations for Regency/Empire fashion in the later decades during and after the Revolution. The Queen would often wear a straw Bergère hat and a fichu alongside a Polonaise gown; the term Polonaise referring to the dress of Polish shepherdesses who would hoist and drape their overskirts in two or three loops in order to keep their dress clean while farming. Marie Antoinette's wardrobe was generally imitative of the peasantry of the period.

Marie Antoinette used buckets of Sèvres porcelain specially decorated with her arms by the Manufacture Royale. The place was completely enclosed by fences and walls, and only intimates of the Queen were allowed to access it. During the Revolution, "a misogynistic, nationalistic and class-driven polemic swirled around the hameau, which had previously seemed a harmless agglomeration of playhouses in which to act out a Boucher pastorale." The queen was accused by many of being frivolous, and found herself a target of innuendos, jealousy and gossip throughout her reign. Although for Marie Antoinette, the hameau was an escape from the regulated life of the Court at Versailles, in the eyes of French people, the queen seemed to be merely amusing herself.

Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet consisted of a variety of different cottages and buildings, all built around a small lake. Each building had a specific function, and each played its part in the daily life of the Hamlet. The twelve cottages constructed in the hamlet can be divided into two groups: five were reserved for use by the Queen; the other seven had a functional purpose and were used effectively for agriculture. Marie Antoinette had her own house, connected to the pool. Nearby was her boudoir. The mill and the dairy received frequent visits from the Queen.

Queen’s House and Billiard Room
The Queen's house and billiard room is situated in the middle of the Hamlet, and it is the largest and most important building. Its construction is innovative: two rustic buildings are connected by a covered gallery that is curved in a half-moon shape. A spiral staircase offers access to the second floor on one end of the house. These buildings included the Queen’s private chambers, as well as her salons and her parlors. The upper level comprises the petit salon, also known as the "room of the nobles", an anteroom in the form of a "Chinese cabinet" and the large living room with wood panelling hung with tapestries of Swiss style in embroidered wool. From the room's six windows, the Queen could easily control the work fields and activity of the hamlet. Access is via the staircase of the round tower. At the center of the room is a harpsichord which Marie Antoinette loved to play. On the ground floor, paved with single slabs of stone, the building includes a backgammon room and a dining room. The lyre-backed chairs in mahogany lined with green Morocco, were created by Georges Jacob. To the left, another building housing the billiard room is connected to the Queen's house by a wooden gallery decorated with trellises and twelve hundred St. Clement faience pots, marked in the blue figures of the Queen. Upstairs, a small apartment which seems to have been inhabited by the architect Richard Mique, has five rooms including a library. Despite the rustic appearance of facades, the interior finish and furnishings are luxurious and have been created by the carpenter Georges Jacob and the ébéniste Jean-Henri Riesener.

Inside Marie Antoinette's pretend 'hamlet' in the grounds of Versailles as it opens to the public for first time as part of £326million restoration project
The Hameau de la Reine was constructed in 1783 about two kilometres away from the main chateau
Majestic building was modelled on her vision of a countryside farm and took three years to complete
Now the attraction in north central France is expected to welcome seven million visitors every year

PUBLISHED: 19:06 BST, 4 May 2018 | UPDATED: 23:51 BST, 4 May 2018

Marie Antoinette's stunning hamlet in the grounds of the Château de Versailles has opened to the public for the first time after an enormous £326million restoration project.

The Hameau de la Reine, constructed more than two centuries ago in 1783, is situated two kilometres away from the main chateau in north central France and served as a haven for the queen.

Modelled on her vision of a countryside farm, she used it to entertain guests, introduce royal children to nature and animals - and even reportedly to play 'dress up' when she got bored of palace life.
Antoinette's single bedroom, with a protective curtain which could be pulled around the wooden bed and a long mantelpiece in front of a large mirror.
Antoinette's single bedroom, with a protective curtain which could be pulled around the wooden bed and a long mantelpiece in front of a large mirror

The young queen would allegedly dress in as a shepherdess or milkmaid and take great join in 'acting like a peasant' while at her hameau.

And although she loved pretending to work the farm, the hameau and its animals were kept in pristine condition by her many servants.

As this behaviour reached the ears of the people, it was not well received, and interpreted by many as mockery of their lifestyle.

Although she had been popular during the early days of her reign, her popularity swiftly fell over her reign and she became a symbol of the excesses of the monarchy.(…)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Cazalets and the Life and Times of Elizabeth Jane Howard

All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard – review

Alex Clark enjoys the final volume of Howard's series on the upper-class Cazalet family
Alex Clark

Thu 14 Nov 2013 09.01 GMT First published on Thu 14 Nov 2013 09.01 GMT

In the early 1980s, with several novels, including After Julius and Something in Disguise to her name, Elizabeth Jane Howard was casting around for a new fictional project. Apart from artistic considerations, she was in the process of separating from Kingsley Amis, to whom she had been married since 1965, and needed both absorption and funds. In Slipstream, her 2002 memoir, Howard describes how she had "two ideas that I found paralysing": an updating of Sense and Sensibility and a trilogy about a family that would begin in 1937 and span a decade. She invited her stepson Martin to come for a drink and talk it over; when she told him about the family saga, his response was immediate: "Do that one."

The current (and recurrent) vogue for adapting Austen notwithstanding, Amis was probably right. In 1982, the same year that the highly popular TV adaptation of Something in Disguise first aired, Howard began The Light Years, the first volume of what was to become The Cazalet Chronicles. Such was the sprawling nature of the narrative – it kept to its 10-year framework, and largely to its London and Sussex settings, but featured an ever-expanding cast – that the proposed trilogy became a quartet, published between 1990 and 1995. Now, nearly 20 years later, the 90-year-old Howard has added a fifth volume, which rejoins the upper-class Cazalet family, its inlaws and exes, its staff, associates and fellow travellers, in 1956.

Howard's original inspiration to write a wartime series had a particular impetus. "When people wrote about that time," she explained in Slipstream, "it was largely in terms of the battles fought; family life was merely a background. I thought it would be interesting to do it the other way round. England had changed so much during the war, but this hadn't been much written about." In All Change, the battles are over a decade in the past, their participants returned, their dead mourned and the seismic shock of war dispersed to some extent; but its aftershocks provide the novel's lowkey and yet insistent backdrop.

At the beginning of The Light Years, the Cazalets congregate for a summer holiday at Home Place, the family pile in Sussex. The story is structured around the four adult children of "the Brig" and "the Duchy"': their three sons Hugh, Edward and Rupert, each of them with wives and children in tow, and their unmarried daughter Rachel, who is conducting a discreet relationship with "Sid", speedily revealed to be a woman. In among the personal dramas – a dangerous birth, a spoilt younger wife, unhappy step-children, covert lesbianism – the largely silent Brig busily buys a spare farmhouse and sets about converting it for his family's use, adding wings and bathrooms and whatnot, all on the rolling proceeds of the family timber firm. But 20 years later, the firm is foundering, its revenues falling and its property portfolio rapidly becoming a liability rather than an asset. All three sons – uxorious Hugh, faithless Edward, indecisive Rupert – are now in charge, but they don't have their late father's head for business; and, even more fatally, they aren't equipped for or don't want to recognise the disaster about to befall them. It is as though the possibility of failure – and of the profound effect that it will have on their material circumstances and social standing – has simply not occurred to them; they are insulated until the moment an impertinent bank manager, certainly of a class below theirs, informs them to the contrary.

Other certainties are also fracturing. Edward's divorce and remarriage to the ghastly snob Diana, whose dresses are too small and makeup too liberally applied, has had its effects on his children: Louise, having walked out on her first husband and their son, is a wealthy man's mistress, and her brother Teddy flits between debs and barmaids. Hugh's daughter Polly, now Lady Fakenham and one of the series' most reliable favourites, is trying to get a wedding reception business going in her husband's dilapidated ancestral home, and is running into problems because the clients won't put up with one loo and salad cream instead of mayonnaise. Nannies and governesses are succumbing to senility. In protest at the whole crumbling edifice, one farflung relative has gone off to become a monk. Elsewhere, bohemianism laps at the family's respectability: Clary, once an awkward child who has become a literary type married to a much older man, writes a play candidly dissecting her marital trials and tribulations; her younger brother, a raffish photographer, falls in incestuous love. It's a far cry from nursery teas.

And yet there remains something deeply and comfortingly old-fashioned about what we are told will be the last slice of Cazalet life. It has its minor subversions, not least because its female characters, often the most interesting and sympathetic, are portrayed with an increasing sense of their own agency; even Rachel, the stay-at-home daughter rooted in the family home but with no actual control over what will become of it, proves herself to be surprisingly adaptable. But in spite of these developments, and a few small anachronisms, it cleaves to the reassuring form of the family drama, in which people come and go, get born and die off, fall in and out of love, and either stay firmly on track or go spectacularly off the rails. Even in 1990, it was hardly innovative, and now, despite our Downton-friendly, pastiche-loving times, it is difficult to imagine many more novels like this appearing. No matter. What the Cazalets had on their side was the strength of Howard's characterisation and her canny blend of sympathy and curiosity. Despite her finale's title, that has not changed.

Elizabeth Jane Howard: Hilary Mantel on the novelist she tells everyone to read
Elizabeth Jane Howard’s exquisite and understated novels have been overshadowed by her turbulent private life. But is the real reason why they are underestimated because they are books ‘about women, by a woman’?

Hilary Mantel
Sat 30 Jan 2016 11.00 GMT Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 12.53 GMT

Elizabeth Jane Howard: 'I never felt that Kingsley was a better writer than me'
 Read more
In recent years Elizabeth Jane Howard, who was always known as Jane, has become famous for a quartet of novels known as the “Cazalet Chronicles”, which draw on her own family story and were adapted for radio and television. Tracing the fortunes of an upper-middle-class family, the quartet begins in 1937 and covers a decade; a fifth novel, All Change, skips ahead to 1956. The novels are panoramic, expansive, intriguing as social history and generous in their storytelling. They are the product of a lifetime’s experience, and come from a writer who knew her aim and had the stamina and technical skill to achieve it. It would be rewarding if the readers who enjoyed the series were drawn to the author’s earlier work, when her talent seemed so effervescent, so unstoppable, that there was no predicting where it might take her. From the beginning she attracted superlatives, more for the gorgeousness of her prose than for the emotional extravagance of her characters. Their laughter was outrageous, their weeping contagious, their love affairs reckless. But there was nothing uncalculated about the author’s effects. From the first, she was a craftswoman.

Howard’s first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys memorial prize. It is daunting to think that The Long View, so accomplished, so technically adroit, was only her second book. It begins in 1950, and each part draws us backwards through the life of Antonia Fleming, till we arrive in 1926, when we find her as a young girl about to be tenderly deceived, baffled and bullied into wifehood.

Despite early praise and attention, it was hard for Howard to make a living. She came from a background where the necessity was not much considered. In The Long View, Mrs Fleming’s passport states her occupation as “Married Woman”. In this world, men are not obliged to explain or account for themselves. Creatures endlessly to be placated, they look to mould a woman into a satisfactory, if not perfect, wife. Conrad Fleming seeks to mould Antonia. He is a man of unblemished conceit, immaculate selfishness. Young female readers today may view him with incredulity. They should not. He is faithfully recorded. He is the voice of the day before yesterday, and also the voice of the ages past.

Howard was born in 1923 to a family who were affluent, well connected and miserable. Her father and his brother were the directors of the family timber firm. They didn’t do much directing; “they just had a jolly nice time,” she said. They had earned it. Her father had enlisted at 17, survived the great war on the western front, brought home a Military Cross. He was a warm father, but duplicitous and unsafe. Her mingled fear and fascination fuelled the Cazalet novels, which are less cosy than they appear. Her parents’ marriage and their subsequent relationships, together with her own, provided a model of instructive dysfunction for almost every story she wrote. “There were only two kinds of people,” thinks Conrad in The Long View, “those who live different lives with the same partner, and those who live the same life with different partners … ” It is one of many such jaundiced observations – pithily expressed, painfully accurate.

Howard’s mother, Kit, was a disappointed dancer. She had given up her professional career for marriage. The dancer’s world is so brutally testing that it’s hard to say, in any particular case, whether such a choice was coloured by a suspicion of being not quite good enough. Second-rate young men went abroad, their CVs condensed into the acronym FILTH: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong. Women in retreat from their potential could choose the internal exile of marriage, and the results were often dingy. Kit does not seem to have liked her daughter. Perhaps she was jealous of her. Howard was a young woman of spectacular looks. Repeatedly in the novels, mature adults gaze in mingled envy and delight at the person least to be envied, an adolescent who is a writhing mass of uncertainties. Howard had little formal education, but she was a reader. And her piano teacher imparted something of great value: “how to learn: how to take the trouble and go on taking it.”

Briefly, she became an actor. The second world war blighted her career hopes. Like Mrs Fleming, she saw “the value of lives rocketing up and down like shares on a crazy stock market”. In such an atmosphere, decisions were taken quickly – there was no long view. She was 19 when she married the naturalist Peter Scott, then a naval officer, aged 32. The night before the wedding, her mother asked her if she knew anything about sex, describing it as “the nasty side” of marriage. Howard’s daughter Nicola was born during an air raid. It was a horrific experience. She knew to save it up and use it later. When the war was over she abandoned husband and infant daughter, something the world does not readily forgive. She moved into a dirty flat off Baker Street: “a bare bulb in the ceiling, wooden floors full of malignant nails … the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to write.”

There was another marriage, a brief one, to a fellow writer. Then she became the second wife of Kingsley Amis, an acclaimed and fashionable novelist. Jane wanted love, sexual and every kind; she said so all her life, and she was bold in saying so, because it is always taken as a confession of weakness. The early years of the Amis marriage were happy and companionable. There is a picture of the couple working at adjacent typewriters. It belies the essential nature of the trade. Howard was strung on the razor wire of a paradox. She wanted intimacy, and writing is solitary. She wanted to be valued, and writers often aren’t. The household was busy and bohemian. She kept house and cooked for guests, some of them demanding, some of them long-stayers. She was a kind, inspiring stepmother to Amis’s three children. The marriage was, as Martin Amis has said, “dynamic”, but the husband’s work was privileged, whereas Jane’s was seen as incidental, to be fitted around a wife’s natural domestic obligations.

During those years she wrote a number of witty novels, full of the pleasures of life, while enduring periods of deep misery. Her husband was making money and collecting applause, but she kept faith with her talent. Well-bred people did not make a fuss or make a noise, her mother had told her, even when having a baby. That is a prescription for emotional deadness, not creative growth. But if pain can be survived, it can perhaps be channelled and put to work. In her novels Howard described delusion and self-delusion. She totted up the price of lies and the price of truth. She saw damage inflicted, damage reflected or absorbed. She had learned more from Austen than from her mother. Comedy is not generated by a writer who sails to her desk saying, “Now I will be funny”. It comes from someone who crawls to her desk, leaking shame and despair, and begins to describe faithfully how things are. In that fidelity to the details of misery, one feels relish. The grimmer it is, the better it is: slowly, reluctantly, comedy seeps through.

The journalist Angela Lambert has asked why The Long View is not recognised as one of the great novels of the 20th century. One might ask why Howard’s whole body of work is not rated more highly. It’s true her social settings are limited; so are Jane Austen’s. As in Austen’s novels, a busy underground stream of anxiety threatens to break the surface of leisured lives. The anxiety is about resources. Have I enough? Enough money in my purse? Enough credit with the world? In various stories, Howard’s characters teeter on the verge of destitution. Elsewhere, money flows in from mysterious sources. But her characters do not command those sources, nor comprehend them. Emotionally, financially, her vulnerable heroines live from hand to mouth. Even if they have enough, they do not know enough.

Their unarmed state, their vulnerability, gives them a claim on the sternest sensibility. Why should I care, some readers ask, about the trials of the affluent? But readers who do not care about rich characters do not care about poor ones either. Howard’s novels can be resisted by those who see the surface and find it bourgeois. They can be resisted by those who do not like food, or cats, or children, or ghosts, or the pleasures of pinpoint accuracy in observation of the natural or manufactured world: by those who turn a cold shoulder to the recent past. But they are valued by those open to their charm, their intelligence and their humour, who can listen to messages from a world with different values from ours.

But the real reason the books are underestimated – let’s be blunt – is that they are by a woman. Until very recently there was a category of books “by women, for women”. This category was unofficial, because indefensible. Alongside genre products with little chance of survival, it included works written with great skill but in a minor key, novels that dealt with private, not public, life. Such novels seldom try to startle or provoke the reader; on the contrary, though the narrative may unfold ingeniously, every art is employed to make the reader at ease within it. Understated, neat, they do not employ what Walter Scott called “the Big Bow-wow strain”. Reviewing Austen, and admiring her, Scott saw the problem: how can such work be evaluated, by criteria meant for noisier productions? From the 18th century onward, these novels have been a guilty pleasure for many readers and critics – enjoyed, but disparaged. There is a hierarchy of subject matter. Warfare should get more space than childbirth, though both are bloody. Burning the bodies rates higher than burning the cakes. If a woman engages with “masculine” subjects, it has not saved her from being trivialised; if a man descends to the domestic, writes fluently of love, marriage, children, he is praised for his empathy, his restraint; he is commended as intrepid, as if he had ventured among the savages to get secret knowledge. Sometimes, perfection itself invites contempt. She gets that polish because she takes no risks. Her work shines because it’s so small. I work on two inches of ivory, Austen said, ironically: much labour, and small effect.

Time has sanctified Austen, though there are still those who don’t see what the fuss is about. It helps that she was a good girl, with the tact to die young; with nothing to say about her private life and her heart guarded from examination, critics had to look at her text. Modern women have less tidy careers. When Howard died in 2014, aged 90, the Daily Telegraph’s obituary described her as “well-known for the turbulence of her personal life”. Other “tributes” dwelled on her “failed” love affairs. In male writers, affairs testify to irrepressible virility, but in women they are taken to indicate flawed judgment. Cecil Day-Lewis, Cyril Connolly, Arthur Koestler, Laurie Lee and Ken Tynan were among her conquests; though of course, the world thought they had conquered her. Divorces and breakups may damage the male writer, but the marks are read as battle scars. His overt actions may signal stupidity and lust, but the assumption is that at some covert level he acts to serve his art. A woman, it is assumed, does rash things because she can’t help it. She takes chances because she knows no better. She is judged and pitied, or judged and condemned. Judgments on her life contaminate judgments on her work.

Though authors such as Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield opened up a new way of witnessing the world, good books by women still fell out of print and vanished into obscurity: not just because, as in the case of male writers, fashion might turn, but because they had never been properly valued in the first place. In the 1980s, feminist publishing put them back on the shelves. Elizabeth Taylor, after a period of neglect, has come back into fashion. Barbara Pym was neglected, rediscovered, consigned again to being a curiosity. Sometimes a contemporary writer has to hold up a mirror for us; we have learned to read Elizabeth Bowen through the prism of Sarah Waters’s regard for her. Anita Brookner’s critical fortunes show that it is possible to win a major prize, be widely read and still be undervalued. For all her late success, and perhaps because of it, Howard’s work is misperceived. Her virtues are immaculate construction, impeccable observation, persuasive but inexorable technique. They may not make a noise in the world, but every writer can learn from them. In teaching writing myself, there is no author I have recommended more often, or more to the bewilderment of students. Read her, is my advice, and read the books that she herself read. In particular, deconstruct those little miracles, The Long View and After Julius. Take them apart and try to see how they are done.

I can’t remember the exact date I met Jane. It was at the Royal Society of Literature, in the late 1980s, at one of their meetings at Hyde Park Gardens. The RSL is lively now and based elsewhere, but in those days the gaunt premises, their lease shortening, seemed left behind by the world. Knowing the dust and decrepitude of the upper floors, the empty chill of the basement beneath, I was not awed by the grand neglected rooms, nor the grand neglected Fellows who stood looking out on to the terrace. Sometimes when you admire a writer you are disinclined to find out much about them. I must have seen photographs of Jane, but ignored them. My mental picture was of a small sinuous creature, with a gamine haircut and wide eyes like a lynx; someone who spoke in a dry whisper, if she spoke at all. The reality was quite different. Jane was tall and stately, with a deep, old-fashioned, actressy voice. She had the feline quality I had imagined, but it was leonine, tawny, dominant, not slinking nor fugitive. If she had purred, the room might have shaken. She was an impressive and powerful woman.

But in conversation, I found, she was kind and unassuming. She never forgot, in her fiction, what it was like to be a young girl, and she carried an ingénue spirit inside a wise and experienced body. She seemed self-conscious about the impression she created, and anxious – not to efface it, but to check and modify it, so as to put others at their ease. If they were not at ease, they could not show themselves and there would be nothing for her to carry away. She was interested in people, but not simply in a beady-eyed writer’s way. When she took the trouble to make a friend of me, she also made a friend of my husband, who is neither an artist nor a writer. She dedicated her last published book to us, jointly. It seemed too much. She had given me years of delight and instruction, and I felt I had not repaid her. In those years I was short of energy for friendship, though she must have seen I was not short of capacity. Our work did not make much of a fit, and we appeared together just once, at a small bookshop event. She read beautifully. Her professional training shone through, her voice strong and every pause judged to a microsecond. But she read unaffectedly, smiling, with pleasure in the audience’s enjoyment. I was happy that the Cazalet novels brought her new fans. As much as her style, I admired her tenacity. She was still writing when she died: a book called Human Error. I wish I had asked her which of the selection available she had chosen as her focus.

No doubt the best conversations are those that never quite occur. I sensed that we both lived in hope, and had frequently lived on it. I always felt there was something I should ask her, or something she meant to ask me. The morning after she died, I was one interviewee among many, talking about her on the radio. I was working in Stratford-on-Avon, so used the RSC’s studio. It was a last-minute, short-notice arrangement and I had only just learned of her death, so I may not have been eloquent. But I saw her face very clearly as I spoke. She had acted in Stratford as a girl, and she would have liked what the day offered: the dark wintry river, the swans gliding by, and behind rain-streaked windows, new dramas in formation: human shadows, shuffling and whispering in the dimness, hoping – by varying and repeating their errors – to edge closer to getting it right. In Jane’s novels, the timid lose their scripts, the bold forget their lines, but a performance, somehow, is scrambled together; heads high, hearts sinking, her characters head out into the dazzle of circumstance. Every phrase is improvised and every breath a risk. The play concerns the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of love. Standing ovations await the brave.

 Elizabeth Jane Howard obituary
Novelist known for The Cazalet Chronicle which was adapted into a popular BBC television series
Janet Watts

Thu 2 Jan 2014 19.40 GMT First published on Thu 2 Jan 2014 19.40 GMT

For much of a career spanning more than 60 years, the writer Elizabeth Jane Howard, who has died aged 90, suffered a certain condescension from literary editors as a writer of "women's novels". But it did not deter her. She herself described her readers as "women and educated men", and expressed "puzzlement" when Margaret Drabble left her out of her 1985 edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.

Jane (as she was always called) achieved a triumph in her 70s with The Cazalet Chronicle, a highly praised tetralogy of novels set in the England of 1937-47. The first two books, The Light Years (1990) and Marking Time (1991), became an acclaimed BBC TV series, The Cazalets, in 2001; though the BBC then cancelled a planned second series of the last two books, Confusion (1993) and Casting Off (1995). Jane bore both triumph and disappointment with the dignity that had already seen her through decades of literary acclaim and disdain.

She herself thought her work had improved with age. These novels show her maturity as a compelling storyteller, shrewd and accurate in human observation, with a fine ear for dialogue and an evident pleasure in the English language and landscape. She was thoroughly at home in their setting, which was just the sort of upper-middle-class English family, London locations and country houses (the main one is called Home Place) in which her own roots lay. In a later novel, Falling (1999), she chiselled a perfect structure for a story that contains many of the torments of love, betrayal and misjudgment that bedevilled her own life.

Like the Cazalets, her background was privileged but not easy. She was born in London. Her father, David, was a timber merchant who had swept her mother, Katharine, off her feet when she was a dancer in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The family lived in a big house in Notting Hill with a tribe of servants; there were enchanting childhood summers in her grandparents' country house in Sussex. Her education was typical of her class and time: she had governesses at home while her two younger brothers went away to school.

This lack of formal education fed her self-doubt, but she showed great self-discipline and dedication in her chosen profession. Her output was prolific and her books achieved popularity and recognition. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit (1950), won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize; as well as further novels she wrote short stories, articles, television plays, film scripts and a book on food with Fay Maschler. She also edited several anthologies. Her contributions to literary life included organising the Cheltenham and Salisbury festivals. She was made a CBE in 2000.

Jane was a very handsome, impressive woman. Though she looked rather grand, she did not use hauteur; there was a disarming candour and even humility in the way she talked about herself. It took her almost a lifetime, years of which she spent in psychotherapy, to come to terms with her relationship with her mother, who – she believed – did not like her. This experience, she said with harsh honesty, had made her "a tart for affection" for most of her life. Her striking looks, intelligence and varied talents brought her many admirers.

As a young woman she acted and modelled, and later she broadcast, cooked, sewed, gardened and decorated houses with flair and skill. But looking back, she declared that she had made a complete hash of her life, admitting and regretting her mistakes.

She was a bit of a bolter, as she was the first to admit: she married three times. The first, in 1942, was to Peter Scott, later a world-renowned naturalist and at that time a naval officer and war hero. She had her only child, Nicola, at 19. When Nicola was three, Jane – unhappy in her marriage and feeling unable to give her daughter as good a life as her distinguished husband could – left them both, an abandonment that brought deep difficulties between mother and daughter for many years, although they found resolution.

The poets Laurie Lee and Cecil Day-Lewis, whose wives were her friends, were among her lovers after her first divorce. Yet if there was duplicity in her makeup there were also qualities that attracted devoted friendship. Both the Lees and both the Day-Lewises wanted her to be godmother to their daughters; she accepted both requests. Day-Lewis wrote his last poem on her table, while staying as a guest in her house in the weeks before his death.

Her second marriage, to James Douglas-Henry in 1959, was for Jane a disaster of which, even in her many frank interviews, she could barely speak. But she indicated that he was unfaithful, did not make love to her, and was only interested in her money, of which she had very little. She left him after five years.

As an innovative director of the Cheltenham literary festival of 1962, she invited her fellow novelist Kingsley Amis to discuss sex and censorship in literature with Carson McCullers and Joseph Heller. The attraction between Amis and herself was powerful enough to end both their marriages. Their 18-year relationship made a gut-wrenching but fascinating public story, which began with romantic passion, high hopes and an elopement to Spain. It looked like a perfect match. One reason why she loved him, she said, was that he made her laugh. They married in 1965.

For eight years the couple held court to their friends and colleagues in a beautiful house on Hadley Common in Barnet. Jane later revealed that under the appearance of effortless glamour, she was single-handedly trying to do everything, from repairing and decorating the house to tending the huge garden. But she was not writing very much. Kingsley did that. His two adolescent sons, her brother and mother and a painter friend lived with them, and she produced regular meals for the household and spectacular ones for weekend guests, while struggling to cope with the idiosyncrasies of her husband. Years later it pleased her greatly when her stepson Martin Amis expressed gratitude for her contribution to his life as a writer. It was Jane who spotted ability and ambition in the teenage layabout. She got him reading (Jane Austen was the first breakthrough), and thence to Oxford. In his memoirs, Martin placed her – as a novelist – in the august company of Iris Murdoch, praising her "poetic eye" and "penetrating sanity".

The collapse of her third marriage was understandable, with its many pressures, but no less painful for that. In its latter years, especially after they moved from Barnet to Hampstead because Kingsley was missing his London life and friends, it became clear to Jane that he had come to dislike her. Nonetheless it was brave of her to leave him in 1980. This was not the first time she had been hurt by a man she had loved, but starting again was now a more daunting prospect. She was 57, and – although she did not seek or receive Amis's financial help – not as well-off as she seemed.

She planned her departure with a stratagem designed to minimise the hurt to Kingsley, which nevertheless outraged him. She went to a health farm for 10 days, thinking it would help him get used to her not being around; then, on the day she was due back, she had a note delivered to the house from her solicitor to say she was not returning. She went to live in Camden Town, in a house facing the traffic of a rat-run.

Kingsley never spoke to her again. His undisguised animosity to Jane figured in his late novels, and resurfaced in letters and biographies published after his death. The cruelty, subtlety and sharpness of this drama as it played out also proved worthy of her own pen, and the relationship and its protagonists appear several times in her fiction.

In 1990 Jane moved out of London and finally settled in a lovely old house in Suffolk, with some land, a riverbank and an island. There, she wrote, read, gardened, did her beautiful patchwork and tapestry, cherished her dog and her plants, and welcomed her friends, godchildren and family at weekends.

Her frank and detailed autobiography, Slipstream (2002), revealed how closely the Cazalet family was modelled on her own and that the roots of her novel Falling were in her own encounter with a conman. In November 2013, a fifth Cazalet novel, All Change, was published, shortly after a long-running dramatisation of the original quartet on BBC Radio 4.

In her later years she seemed blessed with a peace and pleasure that had hitherto eluded her. She was alone, and made it clear that she would have preferred not to be. But reconciliation had ended the years of estrangement with Nicola, and she basked in the affection of her daughter, four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, who all survive her.

Jane once admitted that writing was the most "frightening" thing she did, and that she did not enjoy it. "I find it much too anxious a business," she said. She once tried to give it up altogether. But she couldn't. "When you write something which comes off, it's a feeling like no other," she said. "It's like being visited by something outside yourself."

• Elizabeth Jane Howard, writer, born 26 March 1923; died 2 January 2014

Monday, 9 July 2018

As "Preppy" as you can get ....vineyard vines /The Official Preppy Handbook / VIDEO:Every Day Should Feel This Good | vineyard vines


Vineyard Vines is an American clothing and accessory retailer founded in 1998 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, by brothers Shep and Ian Murray. The brand markets upper market ties, hats, belts, shirts, shorts, swimwear, bags for men, women, and children. It has grown to a collection of retail stores and outlets across the United States.The company's main logo is a pink whale. Their clothing is considered preppy and southern styled.
Shep and Ian Murray grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and spent their summers on Martha's Vineyard, where they were introduced to the coastal lifestyle of sailing, fishing, and boating. The two brothers originally held jobs in New York City, but soon grew tired of the corporate lifestyle. Ian claims the duo "traded in [their] business suits for bathing suits" and “started making neckties so [they] didn’t have to wear them.” Before quitting their jobs, the two brothers opened credit cards so they could buy silk and launch vineyard vines. The company's entire startup capital was raised from the brothers' accrued credit card debt. Shep and Ian sold their neckties on Martha's Vineyard, selling out of a backpack from their boat or Jeep rather than a storefront. Initially, they offered four different styles of ties. After they sold 800 ties on a single weekend in July, Shep and Ian quickly re-ordered more, paid off their accrued debt, and moved into a new office. The Murray brothers claim that the business was founded through a philosophy of "living the good life," which is reflected by their slogan "Every day should feel this good." Shep Murray claims his goal is to be "a cross between Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett" in building the "lifestyle brand" he founded. Vineyard Vines is still owned outright by the two Murray brothers.
Since the summer of 1998, the Vineyard Vines company has expanded nationally, particularly along the East Coast. Vineyard Vines has opened numerous company, outlet, and retail stores. In addition to these traditional channels, Vineyard Vines has expanded its sales to online shoppers. The company manufactures licensed NFL and MLB product, which it sells through its retail channels. Vineyard Vines also manufactures licensed college apparel, which is sold primarily through campus stores. Vineyard Vines was placed on Inc. magazine's list of the 5000 fastest-growing businesses in the U.S. in 2007. Between 2004 and 2007, the relatively new company's revenue tripled.[5] In 2015 the company inaugurated a new headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.In January 2018, sportscaster Jim Nantz announced a partnership with Vineyard Vines to create a golf-oriented lifestyle clothing line set to launch in spring 2019.
The first stores were opened in Northeastern locations associated with the sea such as Martha's Vineyard. The first was in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, followed by Greenwich, Connecticut. The company has expanded to more than 59 stores as well as 15 outlet locations across the U.S. states.

The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) is a tongue-in-cheek humor reference guide edited by Lisa Birnbach, written by Jonathan Roberts, Carol McD. Wallace, Mason Wiley, and Birnbach. It discusses an aspect of North American culture described as prepdom. In addition to insights on prep school and university life at socially acceptable schools, it illuminates many aspects of the conservative upper middle class, old money WASP society. Topics range from appropriate clothing for social events to choosing the correct college and major.

The book addresses "preppy" life from birth to old age, lending understanding to the cultural aspects of "preppy" life. In general, elementary and secondary school, college, and the young adult years receive the most attention. Coverage lessens during the book's latter chapters.The book was first published in 1980 by Workman Publishing.

The Official Preppy Handbook explains and satirizes what it takes to be a preppy person in the 1980s, parodying the lifestyle of the WASP elite. Birnbach reveals through an ironic tone where preps go to school, where they summer, what brands they wear, and how they decorate their homes. Birnbach divides The Official Preppy Handbook into 7 sections, each devoted to a different period of the preppy lifestyle. The Handbook begins by caricaturizing the childhood of a preppy person in 1980. Lisa Birnbach satirizes a prep’s ideal family lifestyle, and humorously advises readers how to pick, interview, and gain acceptance into a prep school.The book then wittily discusses “the best years of your life”- a prep’s college years.[7] With tongue in cheek, Birnbach elucidates which college courses to take, how to design one’s dorm room, and how to party at college. In Chapters 5 and 6, the book explains the prep adult life as first a “young executive”, and later as a retired adult in “the Country Club Years”. Birnbach jokingly educates readers on navigating a cocktail party, networking, and vacationing. The Official Preppy Handbook also teaches readers how to dress preppy. In chapter 4, Birnbach emphasizes the importance of appearing effortless, preppy and casual, writing, “socks are frequently not worn on sporting occasions or on social occasions for that matter. This provides a year round beachside look that is so desirable that comfort may be thrown aside”.By teaching readers on where to shop, what to wear, and “the merits of pink and green”, Birnbach makes preppy culture attainable to anyone – contrary to the popular belief that one needs to be born into a preppy lifestyle, she makes prepdom something anyone can cultivate.

The book's reflections on young urban professional culture inspired Arthur Cinader, the founder of the J. Crew clothing line. Cinader hoped to capitalize on the book's success.

The book also represented a resurgence of interest in preppy culture that aided the growth of retailer L.L. Bean, which the book describes as "nothing less than Prep mecca." The book's exposé of university life and the drug and sex culture at various schools had a significant impact on public thought about those schools. The book spawned many other "official" handbooks for other American subcultures.

The Handbook exposed preppy culture to the masses, and helped to democratize the preppy subculture. Prior to the book, primarily only wealthy WASP elites adopted the preppy subculture. From the 1920s, WASPs dominated American universities, and preppy fashion was traditionally worn on university campuses. However, as universities became less exclusive as a result of economic and cultural shifts, preppiness as a subculture became less exclusive. Preppy fashion adopted new nuances, and preppy culture has become more inclusive. By writing The Official Preppy Handbook, Lisa Birnbach helps to further democratize preppy fashion and culture. Birnbach explains in her introduction that the handbook is not intended as an exclusive text describing preppiness as subculture reserved for “an elite minority lucky enough to attend prestigious private schools”. Rather, the Handbook was written as a guidepost for the revival of the preppy style. It shared the secrets of the preppy code, making preppy seem “neat, attractive, and suddenly attainable”.

As "Preppy" as you can get ... / The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants | vineyard vines

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Adolf Loos: Why A Man Should Be Well-dressed / VÍDEO: Adolf Loos Architecture

Throughout his life Adolf Loos raised his eloquent voice against the squandering of fine materials, frivolous ornamentation and unnecessary embellishments. His admirers consider him to be the inspiration for all modern architecture. Yet, few are acquainted with his amusing, incisive, critical and philosophical literary work reflecting on applied design and the essence of clothing in fin de siècle Vienna. Adolf Loos often had a radical, yet innovative outlook on life that made him such a nuisance for many of his contemporaries. His provocative musings on many subjects portray him as a man of varied interests and intellectual refinement as well as possessing a keen sense of style, which still has value today. For the first time the Loos Dress Code is available in English. Included is a short social/historical look as the birth of Modernism in Adolf Loos Vienna.”

Learning to Dwell: Adolf Loos in the Czech Lands – review
Riba, London

Rowan Moore
Sunday 20 February 2011 00.03 GMT

"The naked woman," said the architect Adolf Loos, "is unattractive to man." It is one of the more striking statements in the history of architectural writing, and one that may not seem to have much to do with architecture, but it is part of a theory that has done much to shape the buildings of the past 100 years. If you have eaten in a restaurant or visited a hotel describing itself as "minimalist", or ever been struck by the lack of ornament on any modernist building, you will have witnessed the after-effects of this strange thought. According to a 1930s critic: "There lives not one single architect who does not carry within himself a bit of Loos."

Women, argued Loos, have to dress and ornament themselves to appeal to "man's sickly sensuality". They have to wear impractical things such as long skirts that stress their decorative role. It would be much better if both men and women wore plain, well-made clothes like the English suits that he especially liked. Ornament, he famously said, is linked to degeneracy and crime and should be removed from objects of daily use: not just clothes, but furniture and buildings.

Loos is usually described as Austrian, but he grew up in the town of Brno, then part of the Hapsburg empire, now in the Czech Republic. Some of his best works are in that country, in Brno, Prague and Plzen. This week, an exhibition opens at the Royal Institute of British Architects that, originating in Prague, seeks to reclaim Loos for his homeland. It should also, distributed across several floors of Riba's headquarters, be a good introduction to the work of this astonishing man.

It will show the houses and apartments that Loos designed in the 1920s for prosperous bourgeoisie of a country, Czechoslovakia, minted after the Great War by the Treaty of Versailles. He built for a paediatrician, a manufacturer of screws and another of wire, a chemist serving the brewing industry and the hugely successful building contractor František Müller. These were people keen to distance themselves from the past, but also to embrace high culture, and their homes tended to be furnished with pianos and art.

The exteriors of the houses are as plain as Loos said they should be. The house he built for Müller, on a steep slope facing towards Prague Castle, is startlingly white and cubic. Villa Müller's interiors, however, are far from being puritanical boxes. They are lush with oak, flaming mahogany, poplar and elm, and marbles with evocative names: cipollino, with layered patterns like the inside of an onion, and fantastico, with dazzling patterns of black on white. He would use yellow-gold silk for curtains and lampshades and, when it suited, the newest materials of his time, with their own exotic brand names: Xylonite, linoleum, Salubra wallpaper and Duco automative paint that gave the finish of a new car.

He loved mirrors, using them to multiply rooms and dissolve their boundaries, and played games with the veining of marbles. In one convulsive music room, as in a gestalt test, you can read monsters and pudenda into the symmetrical patterns of matched fantastico panels. His shapes are severe, almost all straight-lined and right-angled, but they are full of constrained sensuality. Economy was not the purpose – one of his assistants said that you could build "a very nice detached house" for the cost of one of his rooms. These rich rooms are in fact consistent with Loos's theories of ornament, as they use the inherent patterns of natural materials rather than decoration contrived by man.

He believed that the materials of a room should match its use and mood, with marble in more public places and wood in more intimate rooms, or pale maple in a woman's dressing room and oak in a man's. The dimensions, including height, should also be varied to suit each room, with the result that his houses became three-dimensional jigsaws of interlocking spaces, with many floor and ceiling levels, connected by short flights of steps and crisscrossed by views from one to the other.

Loos was born in 1870 and died in 1933, lived in Vienna at the time of Freud, and makes an easy subject for amateur analysis. His father was a stonemason and his happy early memories of playing in his workshop were cut short at the age of nine when his father died. His mother was strict and he escaped her to join the army as early as possible, only to contract syphilis. She then cut him off, in return for paying for his fare for his three-year trip to the United States.

He married three times, had a long-term mistress, and towards the end of his life he was accused of paedophilia. He had a particular penchant for actresses and dancers. As described in a new book by Anne Anlin Cheng, Second Skin (Oxford University Press), he was fascinated by Josephine Baker. On the basis of a slight acquaintance, he volunteered to design her a house, never built, whose main features were a glass-walled swimming pool surrounded by corridors for viewing her body at exercise, and an exterior in vibrant black-and-white stripes which may have represented his wish to mingle his European restraint with her African-American energy.

He was, in other words, a sensualist, of a possibly twisted kind. His houses, with their blank, mask-like outsides and their intricate, lush-but-disciplined interiors, make perfect emblems of his well-dressed outer self and his complex inner self. Both buildings and writings express a singular, tortured personality, with strange views on desire, yet had a general influence. Architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier learned plainness and controlled luxury from him ("Whatever is good in Le Corbusier's work, he learned from Loos," said Loos, half-ironically.) Mies and Corb were then the dominant influences on architecture for two generations.

His interiors are inward-looking, mesmerising, sometimes a little creepy. There is an air of fragility or tragedy about them, reinforced by later events. His many Jewish clients were forced out of their marbled nests into exile or camps. In 1945, the commanding officer of the local Wehrmacht shot himself in the flat with the convulsive music room, which had been appropriated as headquarters. Old Müller was dispossessed of his fortune by the postwar Communist regime, but allowed to stay on in the house, in whose boiler room he would eventually be found dead; he had operated the equipment wrongly, whether accidentally or on purpose, and poisoned himself with fumes.

Müller's wife, Milada Müllerová, stayed on, lodged in the recesses of the house, and fought with the authorities to stop them wrecking it. Thanks to her, it survived and is now restored, opened to the public, and one of the more compelling of the many compelling sights of Prague.

Adolf Loos
Key buildings
Café Museum (1899)
Kärntner Bar (1908)
Goldman & Salatsch (1910)
Villa Müller (1928)
Key texts
Potemkin City (1898)
Architecture (1910)
Ornament and Crime (1913)

‘The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornamentation from objects of everyday use’

Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

Controversial in both private and professional circles, the life and work of Loos are reviewed by Paul Davies

Adolf Loos was Moravian. His father, a stonemason, died when he was nine. His mother was domineering. He caught syphilis while in a brothel with his godfather at 21. His mother cut him off in return for passage to the USA, where he spent three years, among other things, happily washing dishes.

Originally from Brno, he returned to the intellectual café society of Vienna in 1894, a clan righteously circumspect in believing in almost anything. He especially fell in with Karl Kraus and poetic muse Peter Altenberg and out with Viennese architects; publishing witty, sarcastic pieces satirising the Secession, Germany’s bad plumbing, propensity for dressing up and other bad habits. Fashion, including underwear, is a prominent subject, but it was not an unusual one for the time, as the strictures and hypocrisy of the Habsburg Monarchy and its corsetry were progressively undone. Collected as ‘Spoken Into The Void’, Loos’s essays culminated in Ornament and Crime (1908) that precipitously stated: ‘the lower the culture, the more apparent the ornament’.

He began architecture with his own apartment in 1903, then with a succession of rooms, shopfronts, bars and eventually whole houses (Steiner House, 1910) for clients mirroring his interest in Gemütlichkeit or cosiness. The later houses have a strikingly modern pose (but plenty earlier do not) and even though he was only seven years older than Gropius and Mies, it made a big difference to die in 1933 rather than 1969. Loos was eclipsed as a more energetic Modernism progressed. It didn’t help that Loos had little interest in saving the world; that his orientation was inverted, practically and psychologically, to the interior; and that he was ideologically inappropriate.

For instance Loos had no interest in the ‘honest’ expression of structure; only the appropriate use of material. For him architecture was like dressing, and one should be well dressed. For other members of the Modern Movement such an analogy would assume an enthusiasm for striptease. And his horizons were modest. He did grapple with larger projects (various hotels in particular, some housing) but they remain unappreciated. He had a tendency to ziggurat, or to plainly terrace, or to do both at the same time. He took, then left, his position as chief architect of the housing department of Vienna the same year (1922). Neither was he interested in teams or groups, and there are no disciples to speak of, just those he influenced. He hence becomes interesting as much for what he wasn’t as what he was, unconnected while thoroughly linked-in, with a process rather his own.

For Loos architecture was like dressing, and one should be well dressed. For other members of the Modern Movement such an analogy would assume an enthusiasm for striptease

This internalisation has made him most attractive to the more literary minded Postmodernists. Aldo Rossi saw him as a template for Musil’s The Man without Qualities and in the backlash against technocratic utopia, rediscovered his respect for craftsmanship and his wit; especially admiring his giant Doric chess piece for the Chicago Tribune (1923) notable for its singular and conspicuous label on the plan: ‘Pipes’. Loos’s lack of interest in redemptive urban planning served him well with those who now reviled it. Frampton embedded him in the problematics of Wittgenstein, emphasising his laconic analysis of what architecture was and what it could do; which was not much.

However, his Raumplan, the imagining of rooms as wholes, contained within rigid, blank forms − of which the Müller House (Prague 1930) is exemplary − still breeds speculation. The austerity is understandable (the daring Goldman & Salatsch store of 1910 so infuriated Emperor Franz Josef that he demanded his curtains be permanently drawn against it) but it is Loos’s interior comforts that are more troubling.

He married three times, all younger women, the last dramatically so, and was involved in two trials regarding child pornography and molestation (1905 and 1928). One person’s comfort might be another’s claustrophobia. The interiors are now considered voyeuristic (Colomina), a sexualised reading circumstantially reinforced when we compare the Raumplan with the free plan.

This reading is helped by scrutiny of his unbuilt project for Josephine Baker’s Parisian residence (1927) where he put the exotic dancer in a fish tank, and by his bedroom for his first wife Lina, also a dancer, which seems to have been lined in fur. Meanwhile Loos enjoyed an emphatic but voyeuristic interest in Josephine Baker while Le Corbusier enjoyed an equally emphatic but intimate one. Further his (so-called) elephant trunk side table legs look more like eight female dancers’ legs balanced on tiptoe and his lounge chair demonstrates that perhaps the only way he found peace was to stare at the ceiling.

His necessary restraint showed itself in fastidiousness. He was exacting of craftsmen on the building site, and enjoyed the fact that his interiors rarely photographed well, but that they had to be experienced with ownership.

His method was intimate rather than professional. He considered practising architecture no better than washing the dishes, he thought the best definition of an architect a bricklayer who spoke Latin, believed so-called ‘Architecture’ generally despoiled the landscape, considered the only venue for art in architecture to be the tomb and the monument, and the best place for the architect invisible. He didn’t even have a bank account. Dressing so well, he chalked up debts with his outfitters, Goldman & Salatsch, and repaid them with schemes culminating in the famous store.

Central to the appreciation of Loos is, problematically, good taste. Not many people go out of their way to buy a couple of Josef Hoffmann’s black wine glasses and submit them by post to Gustav Pazaurek’s official ‘Cabinet of Bad Taste’, but Loos did. However, black wine glasses are distasteful and life with Loos was not unpalatable. His last wife, Claire Beck Loos, revered him, indeed, in one of the strangest examples of potential grooming; she was raised in one of Loos’s early rooms. However, she left him, and wrote the touching A Private Portrait (just republished in English), a memoir of their itinerant later years in various straits in hotels along the Côte d’Azur, with Loos now deaf, and with luggage and dogs, like something out of EM Forster or Somerset Maugham.

His proclivities may not have been considered so offensive by his set. Peter Altenberg also had a thing for young girls. Meanwhile all bourgeois mores were repugnant to polemicist Karl Kraus and Dadaist Tristan Tzara, who remained a client, and for whom Loos built an extraordinary and uniquely uncomfortable house in Paris in 1926.

There are obviously many sides to Loos, many paradoxes; in photographs he rarely looks the same way twice. He appeals to the detective, that most postmodern of professions. The theorists ponder the psychology, but commercial architects have found much inspiration in his luxurious use of materials, and non-commercial ones wonder at his ingenious use of space, and in both cases Loos can become far more practically useful than Le Corbusier or Mies. Every architect can have the dream to do an American Bar as good as The Kärntner, even if it’s for Starbucks. As my wife said perusing Roberto Schezen’s photographs: ‘It looks so much better than modern architecture!