Monday, January 5, 2009

Design Legend—Tony Duquette

Mr. Peacock salutes the internationally acclaimed artist and design legend, Tony Duquette. He created amazing décor, costumes, jewelry, stage sets and interiors. Whether he was using priceless precious stones or tchotchkes from the 99-cent store, this gentleman peacock was committed to creating unique and dazzling beauty using whatever materials that inspired his artistic vision. Mr. Duquette was born in 1914, in Los Angeles. His creativity was nurtured by his parents—especially by his free-spirited and artistic mother. He turned down a scholarship to Yale and instead accepted a scholarship to attend the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, where he met his soulmate, Elizabeth "Beegle" Johnstone. They both were Geminis too—like Mr. Peacock.

Tony Duquette and Elizabeth "Beegle" Johnstone dressed in costumes of their own invention, circa 1935.

Mr. Duquette nicknamed her Beegle because she had the soaring poetry of an eagle and the industry of a bee. They married on Valentines Day in 1949 and created their own fabulous world together.
Tony Duquette and his beloved Beegle were married for over fifty years and lived and worked together until her death in 1994. Mr. Duquette died from a heart attack in 1999. Over the years their friends included: Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Agnes Moorehead, Mary Pickford and Herb Alpert—just to name a few. He was the godfather of Liza Minelli.

Cobina Wright, Elsie de Wolfe and Tony Duquette at the opening of his first one-man exhibition, circa 1947.

The interior decorator pioneer and international arbiter of taste, Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl), befriended Mr. Duquette and became his mentor and archangel. She really launched and promoted his creative genius.

Mr. Duquette’s work has become highly collectable, and of course very expensive. Baker Furniture recently unveiled The Selected Works of Tony Duquette. Hutton Wilkinson (see video above), president of the Duquette Foundation, and lifelong friend and associate of Mr. Duquette, worked closely with Baker in its choices, producing an exceptional best-of-class archival anthology. Here’s some of Mr. Peacock’s favorite pieces:

The Abalone Chandelier (circa 1952) was originally unveiled as part of Duquette's one-man exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The chandelier was then part of the Charles and Palmer Ducommun Bel Air residence.

Years later, Duquette acquired the piece from the estate and hung it prominently in his own home, Dawnridge, where it remains today.

The Ghost Snail lamp (circa 1970) has been recreated from cast resin poured into an intricately hand-carved mold. The interior is fitted with twin frosted 40-watt bulbs, illuminating through the natural pin shell veneer in a soft, hypnotic glow. This lamp reminds Mr. Peacock of the giant snail in the original Doctor Dolittle film from 1967.

I think it inspired the snail used in one of Bergdorf’s amazing 2008 holiday window displays.

The Biomorphic Console (circa 1965) was originally designed for the Charles and Palmer Ducommun Bel Air residence and is impeccably recreated by Baker in cast resin.

Mr. Peacock loves the undulating form of this unique piece.

The Terrapin Lamp (circa 1960) features a large cast bronze shell that is backlit with a 40-watt bulb. This lamp takes many of its cues from lamps originally designed by Mr. Duquette for a private penthouse in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mr. Duquette designed his first piece of jewelry for the Duchess of Windsor. Mr. Peacock is swooning over this brooch made of black moonstone, pearls and diamonds. You can buy it here.

The tourmaline heart and citrine brooch is also fantastic and would look quite smart on Mr. Peacock's lapel. Buy it here for your Valentine.

If you don't already own a copy of the amazing book, Tony Duquette, purchase a copy here. ''Decorating is not a surface performance,'' Mr. Duquette once said, ''It's a spiritual impulse, inborn and primordial.'' Bravo Mr. Duquette!


Reavis Eitel said...

Been reading your blog and love it! Put it in my blog under my list of fave blogs! Happy New Year! -Reavis

love tony duquette - saw a docu on a tour of his home a while ago

Paul Pincus said...

this was brilliant! i've had dreams about the abalone chandelier. seriously : )

happy new year!

cheers, -p.p.

noinim said...

Creations like these can only be discovered in another mystical dimension! I especially like the lamps. Good stuffs.

Bart Boehlert said...

Love Tony Duquette! Didn't know that about Liza Minnelli. Her god mother was Kay Thompson. What a lucky little girl. I like how Tony Duquette made things out of garbage -- hub cabs and old rakes -- for his house. Truly inspirational. They sell his jewelry at Bergdorf's - fun to look at!

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