Monday, October 27, 2014

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder, Helena Rubinstein (c) By Polly Guerin

Helena Rubinstein may not be a household name, but the legendary magnate built a cosmetic empire and crowned herself Queen of her domain, reigning over the beauty routines of women worldwide for decades. Her story is one of inspiration for all women who aspire to ascend the ladder to success. What it took was a passion for living, a drive extraordinary and perseverance to succeed. And, it is about time that recognition to be given to this pioneering woman who made her beauty business one of the hallmarks of the cosmetic industry.
   The Jewish Museum exhibit, Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power, through March 22, 2015 is the first museum exhibition to focus on the innovative cosmetics entrepreneur and art collector.. By the time of her death, Rubinstein had risen from her humble origins in a small town Jewish Poland to become a global icon of female entrepreneurship and a leader in art, fashion, design and philanthropy.  As head of a cosmetic empire that extended across four continents, she was, arguably, the first modern self-made woman magnate.
   Rubinstein was born in a small town in Poland in 1872. In 1888, when she was sixteen Rubinstein fled the prospect of an arranged marriage and found her way from Krakow to Vienna to Australia, where she established her first business, Helena Rubinstein & Co., producing skin creams; and at the same time she married her first husband, Edward Titus.
   Her talent for business and its inherent feminism reflects her modern thinking. One of the first slogans Rubinstein used to promote her cosmetics, "Beauty is Power," is an advertisement that first appeared in an Australian newspaper in 1904. This was revolutionary at the turn of the century when the use of cosmetics, associated with the painted faces of actresses and prostitutes, was widely frowned upon by the middle class, but Rubinstein found the means for ordinary women to transform themselves.  Her business challenged the myth of beauty and taste as inborn, or something to which on the wealthy were entitled. By encouraging women to define themselves as sell-expressive individuals, Rubinstein contributed to their empowerment.
She eventually returned to Europe where she established salons in the grandest districts of London and Paris, and also began collecting African and Oceanic art in 1909.
The Salon Format Inspired by the tradition of European literary salons, Rubinstein conceived of her beauty salons as intimate environments where progressive ideas were exchanged under the guidance of a sophisticated patroness. At the outbreak of World War I she moved to the United States, where she founded her first salon in 1915.  Today the term 'beauty salon" means a hairdresser or a day spa. But Rubinstein salon was a place designed entirely by women, where a client could learn not only how to improve her looks, but also how to re-conceive her standards of taste, to understand design, color, and art in order to express her own personality. What Rubinstein advocated was new and profound in the early 20th century. She offered women the ideal of self-invention, a fundamental principle of modernity.
The Art Collection Madame (as she was universally known) ruled with a firm hand and empowered
women. Case in point, at a huge rally in 1911 some women suffragists wore lip rouge as a badge of emancipation.
   Selections from Rubinstein's famous art collection include works by Pablo Picasso, Elie Nadelman, Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Joan Miro and Henri Matisse, among others, as well as thirty works from
her collection of African and Oceanic art. When people found it strange that a woman who had dedicated her life to beauty would purchase such "ugly things," Rubinstein said, "I had always favored the unusual and when I followed sound advice, as well as my own 'inner eye;'  my purchases were invariably good.":
   Other highlights include Rubinstein's beloved miniature period rooms, jewelry, and clothing designed by Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli and Paul Poiret. Her savvy for self-promotion is evident in portraits of her made by the leading artists of her day, from Marie Laurencin to Any Warhol.  Most interesting are the vintage advetisements, cosmetics products and professional films related to her beauty business.
At The Jewish Museum, located on Museum Mile at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street,
Ta Ta Darlings!!! Madame is my inspiration, she really set the independent mark for women. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on and in the left hand column click on the Blog of your interest be it amazing women, visionary men, treasures in New York or poetry.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Illustration by Charles Dana Gibson 
Grieving in Style was de rigueur in the Victorian era! Toute le Monde, just about everyone in socially elite circles, wanted to get fitted in mourning black to suit the occasion in respect for a departed dear one. Even the populace, who could not afford the opulent fashions, nonetheless wanted to be part of the ritual and sent their ordinary clothes to the dyers so they could wear fashionable black.
   Now, my dears, don't fret, grieving in style, "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, Anna Wintour Costume Center's first fall exhibition in seven years reveals the high-fashion standard on sartorial dictate of bereavement rituals as they evolved over the century. One look on display was actually a wedding dress, designed to reflect half-mourning in honor of those lost in the Civil War. Of course, the queen of mourning Queen Victoria, the perpetual widow is represented, but her career as a widow is  taking the whole black concept way beyond realistic reasons to carry on.  However, there were specific periods designated for mourning. A widow might have to wear her weeds for two years, one year for a parent and six months for a brother or sister.  With the death rate of infant children and relatives in general a wee gal could be drench in Black almost all of her adult life.
   As Harold Koda, Curator in charge in The Costume Institute remarked, " A veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances." Relief came to vogue with half-mourning ensembles that were appropriate at toward the end of the grieving period, and introduced shades of gray and mauve into the palette.
   The show is arranged chronologically from 1815 through 1915, with about 30 ensembles. Far from being morbid the show is actually a study of past rituals which was mainly expressed by dull, matte fabrics and this gave forth an entire business of dyers.
   An ensemble was not complete without specially designed mourning jewelry, fans and parasols. One very touching locket is an enamel image of the deceased, often a child. Charles Dana Gibson's illustrations from Life Magazine add a whimsical touch to the serious matter of mourning. Through February 1, 2015.
THE POWER OF STYLE; VERDURA AT 75 On the brighter side of fashion is alive and vibrantly on display in a retrospective exhibition, open to the public, at 745 Fifth Avenue in the Verdura Gallery, showcasing the work of jeweler Duke Fulco di Verdura, creator of breathtaking statement pieces of jewelry from iconic cuffs to elegant pendants.
 Verdura's "Wrapped Heart Brooch
   Curated by Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera and their daughter, Patricia Lansing, more than 300 pieces are on display, including original jewels from private collections as well as objets d'art, gouache jewelry designs, archival materials, Verdura's personal miniature paintings and rare period photographs.
   Whether you are discovering Verdura for the first time or have been a devotee of his genre there is a sense of whimsy, magical enchantment at every step into the history of Verdura's images. Breathtaking to behold are Coco Chanel's original "Maltese Cross" cuffs, circa 1930, the original wrapped "Sash" Heart brooch that Tyrone Power commissioned for his wife Annabella for Christmas 1942, never before seen on public display. Then there's the master of surrealism, Salvador Dali's surrealistic pieces and Joan Fontaine's own "Winged" brooch worn in Hitchcock's Suspicion.
   Be sure to sit in the tiny back room to view a film of Verdura himself, from the "Nan Garcia Show," the only known recording of Fulco di Verdura speaking about his life as a design innovator. Film Clips in another room reveal the numerous films in which the stars of yesteryear wore Verdura jewelry with their fashionable wardrobes. On view now through December 23, 2014, Monday-Friday 11 am-5 pm and Saturdays starting November 29 from 11 am - 5 pm.
Ta Ta Darlings!!! Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on fashion visonary men, amazing women and poetry on and click in the left-hand column to the links to the Blog of your choice..

Monday, October 13, 2014


New York is rich with history and filled with tradition and this week you can time travel to the International Fine Art & Antiques show and  rediscover Matisse's cut outs in two major events happening this week. Here's the scoop!!!
Exquisite Art Deco Chinioserie clock,:Hancock's, London
THE 26th INTERNATIONAL FINE ART & ANTIQUES SHOW forges into its Next Quarter Century in High Style October 17 to 23rd featuring 65 if the world's top dealers, many of them founding members that converge on the Park Avenue Armory for the breathtaking event that collectors, connoisseurs, interior designers and art lovers anticipate all year long. I'll be there and I hope that you will, too.
   Why? Because the show, founded in 1989, is New York's first vetted fair and remains one of the world's most prestigious and influential art and antique events. This glamorous world-class showcase introduces an outstanding selection of art, featuring everything from antiquities to contemporary art.
PollyTalk's Choice is this stunning Art Deco Chinoiserie clock with a rectangular dial of mother-of-pearl with floral and bird decoration enhanced with a rectangular rose-cut diamond Arabic chapters and pave-set diamond hands. Black lacquer case with rose quartz surmount, a carved agate crown and blue enamel. floral panels, all on carved rose quartz dogs and blue enamel floral pillars. The black lacquer base has six rose quartz feet and the case contains a mechanical movement. By Lacloche Freres, Paris 1925 with dial decoration by Vladimir Makovsky. The exhibitor is Hancocks, London.
   Among some of the highlights is a Sporting Crossbow (circa 1590-1600) made for a member of the Hapsburg Bohemian nobility, Exhibitor Peter Finer and the elegant carved gilt wood, Dundas Console Table, an exceptionally rare and highly important mid 18th century Chippendale period piece, commissioned in 1765 by Sir Lawrence Dundas. Exhibitor Ronald Phillips Ltd.
   The variety of distinguished exhibitors is a remarkable feat in itself with Dillon Gallery, NY devoted to the representation of international contemporary artists in a variety of mediums with an exhibit of established, mid -career, and young emerging artists.
   Sylvia Powell Decorative Arts, UK is known worldwide for rare Art Pottery, specializing in works by Picasso, Jean Couteau, Willam de Morgan and many others. For complete fair and exhibitor information visit: Adm. $25. Fair Hours: 11 am to 7:30 pm except Sun and Thursday when the fair closes at 6 pm.
   The preview party takes  place on  Thursday, October 16: contact 212.639 7929
HENRI MATISSE: THE CUT-OUTS is a brilliant final chapter in Matisse's long career and while gallery viewers peruse the playful, colorful cut-outs they are all smiles, as these thought-provoking images are truly gay and enchanting forms imbued with child-like wonder. On view October 12 to Feb. 8, 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art.
  The Cut-Outs is a groundbreaking reassessment of this important body of work, the larges and most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted, and includes approximately 100 cut-outs, borrowed from public and private collections around the globe, along with a selection of related drawings, illustrated books, stained glass, and textiles. Matisse's cut-outs reflect both a renewed commitment to form and color and an inventiveness directed to the status of the work of art.
Two Masks: Deux masques La Tomate
   The last time New York audiences were treated to an in-depth look at the cut outs was in 1961, and later at an antiques show I purchased a silk scarf printed with an iconic Matisse cut-outs design. I wore the scarf on the day of the press opening and several foreign television producers stopped me to be interviewed and women kept asking, "Where can I purchase that scarf?"  Alas, Moma's gift purveyors did not make a scarf  but one particularly  notable item is boxed holiday cards with a see-through panel, representing the master's stained-glass window Christmas Eve, (Nuit de Noel) realized in 1952 and fabricated by Paul Bony, Paris.  Timed tickets are required for Matisse, now available through at MoMAorg/matissetix. Newly conserved, The Swimming Pool, off view at MoMA for more than 20 years, returns to MoMa's galleries as a centerpiece of the exhibition.  
TA TA Darlings!!! PollyTalk's off to the Park Avenue Armory for the International Fine Art & Antiques Show. Fan mail welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left-hand column click on the Blog of interest: fashion, amazingwomen, visionarymen, poetry. etc. Enjoy!!!                                          

Monday, October 6, 2014


Aileeen Osborn Webb Courtesy of MAD Museum 
What Would Mrs. Webb Do? A Founder's Vision examines Aileen Osborn Webb's pioneering support of contemporary crafts as a driver of innovation and her pivotal role advancing the field. The exhibition featuring a range of objects created over the past 60 years, celebrates Aileen Osborn Webb, who established the Museum of Arts and Design, then the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, in 1956. This exhibition explores how Webb, through her advocacy work at MAD and other leading institutions across the country and internationally championed the skilled maker as integral to America's future. With over 100 works encompassing glass, clay, wood, metal, and fiber the exhibition  illustrates the ongoing impact of her visionary efforts to represent makers including Sam Maloff and Joris Laarman (furniture); Jack Lenor Larson and Lia Cook (textiles); Peter Voulkos and Jun Kaneko (ceramics); Harvey Littleton and Judith Schaechter (glass) to name a few whose works are featured. "We are sharing some of the best pieces made during her tenure along with examples of artists today who continue to benefit from her progressive ideas," said exhibition curator Jeannine Falino. Through February 8, 2015 at MAD, 2 Columbus Circle. 212.299.7701.
ALBERTINE Reflecting France's belief in the power of books as a common good  for a better world, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy Beaux Arts mansion on Fifth Avenue has opened a reading room and bookstore devoted to French works in French and English in a comfy elegant setting that begs for your visiting there soon. Fashioned like an old-world library, with green velvet sofa, bronze-trimmed bookcases, and a Renaissance-style ceiling mural of constellations, the shop temps one to want to while away the hours on a languid lunch break. Antonin Baudry hand picked more than 14,000 books including rare first editions by les grands philosophers--Voltaire, de Beauvoir--and works by contemporary best sellers. Location 972 fifth Avenue. (212) 650 0070 Monday-Thursday, Saturday 11AM-7PM, Friday 11 AM -10 PM and Sunday 11 AM-6PM.
SNAG A MODERN MR DARCY Just read  The Jane Austen's Rules: A classic Guide to Modern Love, a new book by Sinead Murphy who takes a 19th-century approach with her new advice book in which she shares her favorite tips for anyone looking for her own Mr. Darcy. Some titles include share Your opinions, like Anne Elliot from "Persuasion;" Flirt like Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice;" and Be Willing to Apologize, Like Emma. Out October 14 at most bookstores.
FIT TO BE TIED The Fashion Committee at the National Arts Club invites you to an evening of four-in-hands, bow ties and ascots with celebrated authorities David Hart, Sean Crowley and CFDA-winner Gene Meyer. Just for the fun of it learn to tie the perfect double Windsor while enjoying the stylish sound of Big Band era of Jazz-inspired Dandy Wellington and his band. 7 PM at the NAC, 15 Gramercy Park South. Info:
Ta Ta darlings!!! Polly off to Albertine to sink into a comfy velvet couch and read some sizzling French novel. Fan mail welcome at Visit to click into Polly's Blogs on poetry, fashion, amazing women and visionary men.