House Painters

Whether it%26rsquo;s the house where you spent your childhood or where one day your progeny will spend theirs, a rendering of your home%26rsquo;s interiors marks a moment in time that can be both sentimental and historically important. From a stately two-dimensional replica of the exterior to an intimate corner of a favorite room re-created in opaque gouache, a house painting takes on a significance often more compelling than a photograph. Here are some of our favorite artists whose marvelous m%26eacute;tiers are set in the place we call home.

Jeremiah Goodman

With access to the most stunning inner sanctums of the late 20th century (including those of decorators Tony Duquette, Billy Baldwin and Rose Cumming, as well as members of the fashion set), gentleman painter Jeremiah Goodman documented the gilded lives seldom seen outside the rarified social strata of the well-to-do. Commissioned by high-profile house residents such as the Duchess of Windsor, Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, Cecil Beaton and Betsy Bloomingdale, not to mention style cognoscenti including the famed Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper%26rsquo;s Bazaar, Goodman, now 88, still creates rich, painterly watercolor and gouache depictions with a depth of color that saturates the paper and boards like pigment-rich oils. His painted rooms appear both vivid and multidimensional; peer into them, and it feels as if you could walk in and take a seat upon the silk-velvet sofa, as every soft fabric fold and enveloping nuance is subtly revealed. Upon studying his work, it%26rsquo;s no surprise that Goodman initially toyed
with the idea of becoming an interior designer himself.

Christina Girard

Living amidst the jet set, Christina Girard of Houston has rubbed elbows with everyone from Spanish royalty to Mexican industrialists. She uncovered a talent for drawing at an early age, first collaborating with her father, ophthalmologist Louis Girard, to create medical illustrations. Honing her skill with a paintbrush, she became quite adept at detail work %26mdash; so much so that for a period of time, she accepted commissions from Porthault and Herm%26egrave;s to paint their precious porcelain. Along the way, the elegant Girard discovered a passion for painting larger-scaled pieces, too, initially oils and then watercolors. She was a chum of the late great decorator Mark Hampton (in fact, he was the godfather of her daughter, Wilhelmina), who was famed for the portraits he created of every room his firm designed %26mdash; see page 45. This was the very man who inspired and schooled Girard on the art of interior renderings. Working from photographs, her style feels as feminine yet exotic as she is, embodying a technique of deftly applying layer upon layer of translucent, watered-down pigments atop cold-press papers to achieve a depth of color and unique perspective on the gorgeous rooms that others inhabit.

Jimmie Henslee

Born in Dallas and raised in a small town just outside the city, Jimmie Henslee grew up touring historic houses all across America. His mother%26rsquo;s fascination with interior design sparked the flame, and Henslee became enchanted by old houses and learned to paint by his grandmother%26rsquo;s side. Inspired by the work of early-20th-century illustrators Cecil Beaton and Christian Berard, Henslee%26rsquo;s lighthearted, whimsical studies are quick, spontaneous pieces created with a combination of watercolor paint, pen and ink, and, in some cases, colored pencils. Although Henslee can capture a room from photographs, he prefers to actually walk through a house to get a sense of the space, to see how the light changes and determine what details to play up and what to perhaps eliminate completely. Many times Henslee puts the focus on personal mementos, even beloved four-legged friends who inhabit the home, all to assemble a collage of sorts that brings together disparate elements of one%26rsquo;s environs. When he%26rsquo;s not painting and drawing for his own enjoyment and that of his friends (a few of whom are fortunate enough to receive a card or small painting he%26rsquo;s done to celebrate a special occasion), Henslee%26rsquo;s full-time craft is commissions from magazines and retailers to style a space or completely create a set for a photography shoot.

Sally Chandler

Although Houston artist Sally Chandler has dealt with subjects as disparate as butterflies, beetles and circus performers, her otherworldly interiors are what capture our imaginations and take us into domains conjured in the recesses of her brilliant mind. Executed with a frenzied brushwork in an array of bright, clear, jewel-tone hues, her whimsical work feels like a fairy tale: Like the stories you were read as a child, they contain a depth not apparent at first glance. This marvelous world of her own invention, rendered with a childlike sense of perspective, is created from water-soluble oils and pastels that, coupled with a loose hand, lend a sense of fragility to her pieces; it%26rsquo;s as if they could crumble under your touch. While Chandler%26rsquo;s art possesses an aura of naivet%26eacute;, one can%26rsquo;t ignore the weighty historical allusions she makes pictorially through the furnishings and architecture woven throughout her work.

In Perpetuity: Mark Hampton

Fashioning the rooms he articulated in breathtakingly detailed watercolor paintings, the late designer Mark Hampton was famous for designing some of the most memorable interiors of the 20th century. A skilled artist, he was known first as an interior designer %26mdash; his honed eye is credited with creating the traditional, classic environs of houses as varied as President George Bush%26rsquo;s White House to the homes of Henry Kissinger, Est%26eacute;e Lauder and Saul Steinberg. As a special bonus for his clients, Hampton often captured their domain in all its glory in a stunning, two-dimensional house rendering. Drawing and painting came naturally to this Indiana-born Quaker, who frequently multitasked his skills, sketching elaborate rooms while he was on a business conference call, taking care of his young daughters after school or traveling to see his clients. He happily idled away hours engrossed in his hobby, all while managing to decorate house upon house. When he passed away, his wife Duane Hampton was left with a trove of his interior mise en sc%26egrave;nes, birthday cards, notes and sketches %26mdash; enough to compile several posthumous gallery shows and create a volume of previously unpublished artwork. His first, Mark Hampton on Decorating, was written like a wonderful personal journal where he muses on everything from the delights of chinoiserie to his adoration for passementerie, all punctuated by his perfect perspectives rendered in washes of watercolors.

Yearning for a house rendering of your own? These profiled artists accept commissions:

Sally Chandler,
Jimmie Henslee,
Christina Girard,
Jeremiah Goodman,; Jeremiah: A Romantic Vision by Jeremiah Goodman, Edward Albee; PowerHouse Books, reprinted 2011, $85
Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century, illustrated and written by Mark Hampton, Doubleday, 1992

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