Saturday, November 13, 2010
Hicks, Hermes and a book review
More than thirty years after this photograph taken in Wright Ludington's salon, David Hicks was interviewed (a post for another day) by Charles Gandee for House and Garden - a source for some of the content of my recent posts - probably the best interior design magazine that ever was, its demise after the glory years under the editorship of Louis Oliver Gropp, much regretted. In the 1980s the magazine was renamed and reformatted as HG, the first of its, in my experience, two changes in pursuit of the chimera of hip. The last and most frenetic of the three formats was followed after the final closure by the limp and, by me, unlamented Domino.
Today's post did not begin as a review of the state of interior design publishing, but whilst I'm on the subject I might as well say how disappointed I am by the quality of the design of the long-awaited biography of Billy Baldwin. I'm not going to complain about the fact that I learned little that is new for that perhaps says as much about me as the author, or about the fact that I've seen a great deal of the photographs in other books about and by Billy Baldwin. I do not question the author's scholarship or his writing style, for it is a learned, well-written and easily-read book, but what I will say that is that when it was announced it was to be published I asked myself what else there was to say about Mr Baldwin and now I have the answer.
My concern is this: at this point in twenty-first century book production it should not so be so that photographs, however old the original, can look so sad on the printed page. The major problem, I think, is with the old print films - four-color halftones that were made before the refinements of the 1980s, and which, when enlarged beyond their capacity, begin to look fuzzy and dull on the page. Not all the images suffer in this way, but there is many a photograph that is fuzzy and dull. None of this can be laid at the door of the author - he after all is at the mercy, if mercy is the right word, of his designer and publisher. In this case, the publisher should have exercised more editorial control over the graphic designers. Did anyone think of doing a print check?
When buying a book online, and I increasingly do because they are cheaper, I cannot leaf through as I could in a bookstore. There's a lesson here, of course, for had I been patient and waited until this book appeared on the shelves I would very likely not have bought it. Of all the books that were slated for publication last month, two were of interest to me - Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator being one of them. I'm so disappointed I think I'm going to return it. The other I've yet to check out - in the bookstore!
Photograph of David Hicks from David Hicks, A Life of Design, by Ashley Hicks, Rizzoli, 2009. The second photograph of Wright Ludington's salon by John F Waggaman from The Collector in America, compiled by Jean Lipman and the Editors of Art in America, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971.