When I come back to the house I usually end up pulling out one of the books or magazines I have on the homes and collections of Andrew McIntosh Patrick. It is my way of taking stock. It allows me to figure out whether I remain on track when it comes to the decorating project that is this house.
I find myself doing it now to prepare for my next task.
Andrew McIntosh Patrick and I were first introduced in mid 2007 when I opened World of Interiors magazine and saw his London apartment. I have every World of Interiors except the first issue. I now buy the new issues out of habit rather than any great burning desire. Every now and then a room hits the right spot and I remember why I first started buying the magazine.
The initial appeal of Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s apartment was that I was then going through one of my characteristic moments of believing all colour had been drained out of the world. This is not just a response to dull contemporary interior schemes but to the fact that even the deepest darkest colours on the paint chart seem somehow thin – less rich than I’d like them to be.
Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s Charing Cross living room, Georgian in period, Victorian in style was painted in the most gloriously unexpected yellow-green. It was not only brave and individual but it had the aura of authenticity. I had never seen a modern interpretation of a period room that was so dynamic and exciting. It was at the same time equally tasteful and innovative. The room seemed, then as now, as close to perfect as any I’d ever seen.
World of Interiors builds in references to homes and owners they have featured previously. This leads you back to those articles. I realized that we had met before. I had reacted strongly to Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s first appearance in October 1998 when the Victorian style was a long way from being a pre-occupation. Perhaps because of his use of early modernist pieces that could be spotted in the detail in the photographs if you looked closely enough.
I’m guessing there are a few decades between Andrew McIntosh Patrick and myself. However we are both collector scholars in the fine and decorative arts. His interests peak around the 1930s. For most of my professional life that is where mine have started. I refuse to think that one generation is luckier than another in the world of secondhand and auction finds. However Patrick’s period of activity and scholarly knowledge meant that he assembled the most wonderful (arguably the best) collection of Christopher Dresser, Charles Eastlake, William Morris and Edward Goodwin etc. You name it he appears to have it. He also has a great collection of largely late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century Scottish paintings many with intoxicatingly Japanese overtones.
Andrew McIntosh Patrick was for many years the managing director of the Fine Arts Society, one of London’s oldest and smartest galleries. This was James McNeil Whistler’s gallery and Godwin redesigned the façade in 1881. So when we say smart we mean smart.
There are similar items in both of our collections, pieces of Christopher Dresser, items of Dunmore pottery, paintings by Sir Alfred East and Mortimer Menpes. All of mine bought in New Zealand a long way from Bond Street and so let’s just say his examples are rather more splendid than mine will ever be. I was interested when rereading the 1998 article that he said his collecting ‘has gone in waves.’ This I like. In this we are the same.
Although I admire and covet Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s collection, it is not the wave my collecting has ridden (in part because I’m just too late). I have instead largely but not entirely leapfrogged over Patrick’s period and been acquiring items in the early part of the 19th century.
Why then am I back staring reverently at Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s living room?
We are getting near to completing the hallway. The painters come next week. New light fittings have been sourced from deepest Fielding. A new carpet runner has been found. We’ve settled on the colours. Everything should proceed without a hitch. This means my next task will be to hang paintings.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of them (58 of varying size and shape and 4 mirrors). As readers of this blog will know I have been buying early nineteenth century watercolours mostly of the small variety. This is not the most obvious way to decorate a large and grandly scaled hallway. Except that the hallway, south-facing, the darkest part of the house, is ideal for watercolours.
There are many books about picture framing and hanging. I’ve not looked at most of them for years. I recall one that said you had to have an extremely good reason to use anything other than a white or cream matt which is something I’ve come to believe. Ancient rules of taste state that oils and watercolours should not hang together in the same room. I tend to agree (as do conservators) but don’t always comply. Where I come unstuck is in creating groupings in a large expanse of wall. So I’ve turned yet again to Andrew McIntosh Patrick.
Andrew McIntosh Patrick hangs a marvelous group. This ability comes both from having a great eye and from having worked in a gallery all his life. It also comes from the nature of his collection. He likes minor works. There are a lot of small preliminary sketches and etchings. He doesn’t seem to concern himself overly with condition. He mixes styles, periods and scale and does colour splendidly.
Sadly Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s apartment has no hallway for me to crib.
So I need to determine the underlying principles of his hang. I am looking for a structural model. What is his approach?
Somewhat notoriously in his earlier flat in Bond Street Andrew McIntosh Patrick had hung pictures on the ceiling. Every journalist since seems to have found the reference and they mention it in interviews. In a 2005 interview with The Scotsman Andrew McIntosh Patrick admitted ‘Actually, I rather went off the idea,’ … ‘I don’t think it’s very respectful of the artist.’
The ceiling is not an option, even in my more overcrowded moments, but the article went on to provide a few other clues to Andrew McIntosh Patrick’s approach. In the same article he said of his own method of hanging ‘Of course, I’ve had lots of practice at hanging pictures over the last half century, but there are no rules. It’s a matter of visual balance. Symmetry matters.’ (http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/the-collector-1-674140 )
So I’ve settled on a strong and non-wavering vertical arrangement. Every work will be hung on a strict centre line. Placement will be determined by the architecture of the space and works fitted around door architraves. Each picture will be chosen for its ability to react to or complement those around it. This might not appear a particularly major breakthrough but to me it is a reassuring to now have this as a starting point.
I realize too why it is that the October 1998 and June 2007 issues of World of Interiors are never far from hand. Andrew McIntosh Patrick provides an ideal long distant mentorship. He is a reference point that usually allows me to find the way forward if I look long enough. Andrew McIntosh Patrick, whom I’ve never met, (and whose name I just can’t bring myself to shorten), is a collector and decorator of consummately infallible taste, whom I admire immensely and one who provides me welcome silent instruction.