Selecting the right paintings for an interior decorating project in South Carolina.
Travelling through the southern part of the United States one can’t help but be seduced by the charm of South Carolina’s colonial towns; they recall the legendary scenes in Gone with the Wind. As luck would have it, I was able to go there recently to visit one of my American clients who wanted advice on purchasing and hanging some nineteenth-century French paintings. This trip enabled me not only to appreciate the unspoiled beauty of Charleston but also to assist with the decorating of one of those fine homes located in the town’s historic center.
Organizing a harmonious hanging
Before leaving France, I gathered all the necessary information to organize the hanging: photographs and wall measurements of the various rooms, as well as a pre-selection of paintings located in Paris. Once there, I needed to get a feel for the place and find the right balance between the light-colored walls and the nineteenth-century paintings that my client, himself a connoisseur and collector, wished to acquire. My first challenge was the imposing size of the entry wall (almost 23 ft long by 10 ft high); it was important to set the overall tone and ensure a link between the entry space and the paintings in the adjoining rooms. Instead of selecting a group of nineteenth-century paintings – which were difficult to coordinate because of the different formats, frames, subject matter and limited set-back for viewing – we decided on a harmonious grouping of original lithographs by Henri Rivière (1864–1951) featuring The Aspects of Nature and The Magic Hours.
Beyond their decorative value, these eight lithographs provide a poetic retreat into the transformation of the wilderness, the effects of the sun and bad weather around the world. They can be contemplated at leisure when crossing the hallway or when coming down the staircase; the subject matter’s variety offers a multitude of views and integrates perfectly with the home’s luminous setting near the seaside.
Advice on purchasing the art
Other walls were lying in store for me, like those in the living room, which already featured some delightful nineteenth-century paintings by lesser-known masters. Taking these into account, it was nevertheless necessary to leave key spots for the important pieces my client wished to purchase. For one of them, I suggested an exceptional oil on canvas by Charles-Victor Guilloux (1866-1946), dated 1896, and comparable in every way to Crépuscule (Twilight) (52 x46 cm), a work by the same artist acquired in 2007 by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. There again, the picture’s subject, a landscape at twilight illuminated solely by the moon, was chosen to complement the blue-toned pastel on the neighboring wall, a scene representing a View of the Charleston swamps. Besides having a work by a rare and sough-after artist, my client had the joy of discovering that the date of the piece coincided with the year his home was built! Surely a great find, but also a successful mission completed by the Paris-based L’Art et ses Services.
Now we will hear from the happy owner himself, who has accepted to share his views on this particular project conducted between Paris and his beautiful town of Charlestown: “We first met Chantal in November of 2007. My new wife and I had purchased a home and had many “holes” as Chantal called them where we wanted to place original turn of the century impressionist art. After several phone calls and sending her dozens of pictures we spent a delightful day with her in Paris going from gallery to gallery. She had “pre selected” 15 – 20 pieces for us to look at. Ultimately we purchased 5 beautiful paintings that we still admire today. When we bought a new home in Charleston we contacted her again and decided it might be better to have our friend and art expert visit our home here. Once again we sent her dozens of pictures of the house and “holes”. In one amazing day here Chantal helped us select two wonderful oils and arranged a gallery wall on Henri Rivere Lithograps which are breathtaking. When matted and hung they look like one enormous mural of the French landscape. While she was here she rearranged painting in every room – her taste are impeccable. We had a dinner party in Charleston that evening for Chantal, complete with a cheese board! It was fun and memorable for everyone. Chantal negotiated prices and arranged shipping and clearly saved us money in the process. All of our purchases arrived in Charleston in perfect condition within 3 1/2 weeks after our visit. I may buy another larger house sometime simply to have the chance to work with this extraordinary professional.”