Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cecil Beaton (1904–1980) was one of 20th-century Britain’s Renaissance men. Establishing himself as a self-trained photographer in his youth, he soon proved his creative mettle as a costume designer, set designer, playwright, creator of fashion fabrics, and writer on raffiné interiors and the personalities who inhabited them. Some of his books and articles, however, were ghostwritten—one can’t be good at everything. He also happened to be a fine interior decorator. “Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe and Reddish,” an exhibition that opened May 23 and runs through September 19 at Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum [] in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, casts an adoring gaze on two homes dear to Beaton’s heart: Ashcombe House, near the Wiltshire village of Tollard Royal, and Reddish House, located in Broad Chalke, another village in the same county. One high camp, the other high drama, “[t]hey vividly reflect his approach to life and decor at two different stages in his life,” says Andrew Ginger, a longtime collector of Beatoniana who curated the show. “Ashcombe,” he continues, was “all about being 26 years old, independent, joyous, and plunging naively into the pleasure of entertaining. Reddish was a more mature statement, a fairly polished theatrical backdrop that was deeply influenced by his work for the stage, especially the high-Edwardian sets for Lady Windermere’s Fan and movies like Anna Karenina.”