Thursday, 13 December 2012

Fortuny Exhibition * Spanish Institute - New York * Until 30 March 2013

I suppose it was through my sister, Carolyn, who was some 6 years older than me, that I must have fallen madly in love with Fortuny at a very early age. Oh, who was I to marry - Uncle Eddie or Fortuny or The Lone Ranger - what a headache this falling in love caused! Carolyn had won a scholarship to art college when she was 11 and so she studied art with the likes of David Hockney and other luminaries who popped by the house from time to time - my father suspicious of them and their flaky hairstyles. But that was not all.

Poor as she was, if there was to be a dance or a special occasion, I saw her slice up old copies of the Bradford Telegraph and Argus saved to light the living room fire - and quick as wink she had created a dress pattern. Then the real foraging began in earnest. A lace table-cloth, too stained for use, would be dip dyed with beetroots, cut up against the paper pattern, hand stencilled with those metallic paints we had for making up plastic kits of Henry VIII in armour and then stitched. But that was not all. At this point the dress - for such was it becoming - would be taken up to her room for intensive beading and sequining and we would see neither her nor it for a week at least (meal-times excepting). Once I ventured in her room and found this picture of Lilian Gish pinned up on her wall.

Needless to say, when the event arrived, my sister would descend, transformed, in a scintillating nimbus which had so much depth of texture and colour it was impossible she had not been carved from living coral with all manner of iridescent tropical fish clinging to her. It's my Fortuny, she announced, and we wondered if we should go down on bended knees.... such was Carolyn in her prime!

So, if you love beautifully made, gorgeous robes that are to be worshipped, do visit the exhibition at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York between now and 30 March next year. Here are the details: 684 Park Avenue, New York. Telephone 212-628-0420. Gallery hours: Monday–Thursday 10am–6pm Friday 10am–8pm Saturday 10am–5pm Click here for more details.

Here you can ee a Fortuny lampshade which I love - I visit them every time I am in Venice.


  1. I was first bewitched by the glories of Fortuny on a visit to Italy. I chanced upon his former home that had been transformed into a museum. Well...that was it.

    I'll definitely be visiting the exhibit at the Spanish Institute. Thank you for this reminder!