Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stettheimer Doll House, A Great Look At New York's Cosmpolitan Upper Class

The Museum Of the City Of New York is an under visited gem on upper Fifth Ave, which in spite of undergoing renovations offered lots of surprises--and seemingly no opposition to picture taking. I didn't go expecting to run into an artifact attached to one of my new favorite artists-Florine Stettheimer.

"When it became clear that World War I was approaching, the Stettheimers returned to the United States and moved to a house on New York’s Upper West Side. Shortly, their home became the premier New York salon, a center of the city’s artistic and intellectual life. Regular guests of the Stettheimer sisters included artists such as Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and writers and critics, including Henry McBride and Carl Van Vechten. The sisters also regularly threw parties at rented mansions on the New Jersey shore or in the country, taking their friends away from the city for long weekends."

The sisters were wealthy but put their time to good use--the doll house itself being mostly built and furnished by Florine's siter Carrie over 19 years. The second sister, Ettie was the grand conversationalist and a committed writer. Florine herself created paintings filled with imaginative, light, colorful fantasies loosely based on her life. She considered the works to be personal and had wished them destroyed. Not fitting into any obvious style, from the period, they have only in recent years been taken more seriously. A great post about Florine's work.

"In addition to the considerable artistry with which Carrie Stettheimer managed the Stettheimer household, planning imaginative meals including such unlikely dishes as feather soup, she created a replica of the sisters’ home in miniature—a remarkable two story, sixteen-room dollhouse that recreated the Stettheimer’s own imaginatively decorated rooms. Carrie Stettheimer worked on this project for more than twenty-five years, filling the dollhouse with detailed miniature reproductions of period furniture and replica light fixtures and lampshades. She recreated her sisters’ rooms—Ettie’s was painted in bright red and blue and outfitted with Chinese furniture; Florine’s was draped in cellophane and lace. Artist friends made small copies of their paintings and sculptures for the dollhouse including the miniature copy Marcel Duchamp made of his Nude Descending a Staircase. Carrie Stettheimer’s dollhouse is on permanent display at the Museum of the City of New York."

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