Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Man Was a Genius




This man, Van Day Truex, was responsible for all of this and more:


The late, great Tiffany Bamboo flatware that has been discontinued.



The Tiffany classic All-Purpose Wine Glass . I've used this wine glass for years, and except for the most formal occasions I really haven't needed other crystal.




Tiffany rock cut crystal pattern. Truth be told, this is not my favorite pattern, but the candlesticks that Truex designed are fantastic. I'm pretty sure the candlesticks have been discontinued, but Tiffany really should consider bringing these back.



The "Dionysos" decanter Truex designed for Baccarat. If any of you ever have the opportunity to purchase this decanter, jump at the chance! This is hands down one of the best looking, and dare I say sexiest, decanters ever.



Truex looked to Mother Nature for inspiration, and these sterling seed pod tureens and boxes are the result. This is the type of inventive design that seems rare today.



Truex was famous for the Drabware china that he introduced to Tiffany, but he also commissioned "Black Shoulder" hand-painted china. Still available today, this pattern is truly exquisite.



Truex's talent was not limited to the table. He also designed this handy little chair for Hinson & Co.




Did I mention that Truex was also a painter? This watercolor is available on 1st dibs. And Albert Hadley, a great friend of Truex, has some magnificent Truex paintings in his collection.

And this is why I consider Van Day Truex to be one of the true design geniuses of the 20th century. (To learn more about the man, I suggest reading
Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style)

32 comments:

  1. Jennifer - I completely agree and would, indeed, jump at the chance to own that decanter. Maybe you'll have some influence with Tiffany regarding the bamboo pattern!

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  2. I bought that book on your recommendation and it's sooo intersesting!

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  3. Don't forget his lovely woven silver baskets ... they were based on simple market baskets that you see at the grocer, the wood ones that hold strawberries ... that is the most divine design, second only to the Dionysos decanter (which was mysteriously discontinued and then reissued by Baccarat some years ago) ... that chair for Hinson is still made and available through Hinson, yes?

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  4. I am curious if any of your readers are aware of any one in the education world today that is setting such a stellar beacon for design students? To think how influential and amazing this late man and his work are, is really inspiring in the current world of celebrity designers and commercial licensing. What a profound legacy of work, deeds, and teachings. Amazing when one reads about VDT, the people he influenced, and interacted with on a regular basis. A true American original. Let's hope that the current universities, schools, and colleges promoting design are teaching the works and aesthetics of Van Day Truex.

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  5. Bunny Williams tells the story (in her decor book "An Affair with A House") that Truex spent the weekend at her home in Connecticut -- while she was re-doing her kitchen. When she asked him about a color for the new space Truex said, "Kitchens should always be white" -- and she kept the color in homage to him!

    Lovely things!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

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  6. And the Tiffany buff cream ware service, now discontinued, was just gorgeous.

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  7. I've got the book (your recommendation, too) and now my interest is peaked! Just got to finish "America, America" first....

    What a decanter! And the bamboo silverware. What were they thinking?

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  8. Jennifer -- I was thinking the same thing about your influence and the bamboo flatware. It's really iconic. What a body of work.

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  9. Thanks for reminding us of all those great designs (and I did not know about the delightful Hinson chair). But jh makes the most important point: who is teaching and influencing young designers today?!

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  10. Ramsay, Edinburgh5:20 PM

    Another delicious posting. I adore the bamboo flatware. So Chinoiserie, yet contemporary at the same time.

    More and more there seems to be a trend for abandoning tasteful and subtle product lines that reference the past, for the coarse and shallow vulgarity of that dreaded word - bling - or designs so banal they are indistinguishable from any other product line.

    Am I ranting, or does anyone else agree?!

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  11. Jennifer, The sleak, dark, very New York table setting you use to illustrate the Van Truex / Tiffany candlesticks was designed for Tiffany's by Rubén de Saavedra.

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  12. i agree whole heartedly with Style Court! excellent post, as usual.

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  13. traci9:16 PM

    Tell me about it!! The Bamboo is my silver pattern, and I love it. I am absolutely dumbfounded that Tiffany would discontinue it. I actually still can't believe they would do something like that. Thank goodness I already have 12 place settings and a handful of serving pieces, but I was really looking forward to collecting more over time. I guess I'll be doing on eBay and replacements.com!

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  14. The Tiffany Bamboo flatware was one of their best collections, I agree- bad decision! I haven't seen anything close to this out there. Maybe they will reintroduce it...

    this is on 1st dibs too

    http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=196271

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  15. Jennifer, an excellent post. I don't think Van Day Truex ever got even close to his due until Adam Lewis published his book about Truex.

    You are so correct in saying that the Bamboo flatware not still being available. That's madness. Everywhere you look bamboo motifs are very popular.

    I have a very nice set, but still it pales in contrast to Tiffany's version.

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  16. I forgot to say that twice within this last year, two of Truex's Grisaille sketches have come up on eBay and went for under $300, which I think is a bargain.

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  17. That decanter is gorgeous! But is it lead? Baccarat is all lead crystal, I understand. I hate that so much of the crystal that I love contains lead, esp. William Yeoward. I read that the lead gets into the drinks. Health hazard.

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  18. I really have to agree with JH and the thoughts.
    Design students don't know at all about the past and they really don't care too much at all.
    I taught an interior design class at the SF campus at FIDM a few years back and they don't know who any of the classic designers are. It is truly sad. I wish schools would educate more to young students. I think blogs like this and others help and I personally learn from my travels and reading. Thanks so much Jennifer for helping educate interior designers and people who love all of the same things that we all do! This is so important to keep the history alive!

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  19. The Baccarat decanter is elegance personified, and has to be my fave in this great company of beauty.

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  20. Genius indeed!!I am really surprised they have not reissued the Bamboo flatware.

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  21. I've been trying to piece together a full service of the Tiffany Bamboo silverware for years on e-bay and at flea markets. It's challenging because there's very little of it for sale (no one will part with it) and it's snapped up by collectors in-the-know instantly once spotted.

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  22. My favourite story about Truex was so much inspiration he got out of going to museums. In his case, the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His genius was in seeing one thing YET imagining it another another, simpler context, in a different material. Such as the grocer's raspberry basket of cheap woven wood transmuted, for Tiffany & Co, into silver. Or the Dionysos decanter, whose shape is taken from a cheap wine bottle (hence the nickname "Van ordinaire"). It is that kind of inspiration that should be taught to students, the training of their eye to imagine, to take flight. I spent lots of time in museums doing this, when I should be appreciating the art, but instead thinking how to turn a Baroque salt cellar into a larger dish, et cetera.

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  23. Yeah, really there it´s now a great gap about twentieth designers. A lot of design students believe they are the first ones who have designed some issue. But actually they are just repeating what they have seen in movies or old books. I'll try to get this book for christmas.

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  24. Yes. Yes, he was.

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  25. Anonymous2:17 AM

    The head of Tiffany's, Michael Kowalski, is very savvy and would want to know how much your readers care about Van Day Truex's Bamboo silver flatware. Please tell him you care:

    Michael J. Kowalski
    Chairman of the Board and CEO
    Tiffany & Co.
    727 Fifth Avenue
    New York, NY 10022

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  26. Anonymous2:32 AM

    Please also wite to Tiffany's board and urge them to resuscitate Bamboo and other Truex classics in their archive. They welcome private, confidential and/or anonymous correspondence.

    Board of Directors
    c/o Corporate Secretary
    Tiffany & Co.
    600 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
    New York, NY 10022

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  27. oh that flatware..............sob:-(

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  28. The late, great Tiffany Bamboo flatware that has been discontinued- one of the dumbest decisions I've ever heard of.

    brilliant post, jennifer. i love how candid you were re: the bamboo flatware : ) i bet within a year tiffany's will bring this classic back...thanks to the peak of chic!

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  29. Second cousin to Van. My mother, Dorothy Day, benefited greatly from the same Aunt Kee written extensively about in the book. Van said he would be take care of by the childless Aunt Kee. Unfortunately, He died before her. She was a grand lady, living as the old rich in the Shawnee Missions of Kansas City.

    I have some bamboo pieces, box of plates, and cherished wine glasses.

    The most important piece I have is Van's most personal painting. It is in color gouache. It is a powerful painting grasping in just a few elements all the fury and sorrow he felt for his parents.

    A fence post standing on a table leans against a wall. A telegram, reading, "Seasons Greetings," is pinned between post and wall. a child's hand drawn Christmas card stands folded, back to the viewer, on the table. Behind the post, on the table is a green apple, and behind that is a funnel twisted piece of kleenex. The rest of the kleenex lies aside the post.

    You only need to reconstruct the painting in your mind, or on a paper, to grasp Van's intent. Van's painting was a cathartic violent outburst.

    It was handed down to me. I cherish this gift. It is hung from the picture rail, some of his plates and candle sticks forming an arrangement suggestive of an altar.

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  30. I have a Baccarat Dyonisos decanter that I'd sell for less than half the retail price. $275.00 US It is truly a fabulous design. I used to use it with an ordinary wine cork instead of the crystal one. lmiller3@maine.rr.com

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  31. It was only this spring that I found out that Bamboo was discontinued. Long story short, Tiffany very graciously piggybacked my request to complete my settings with another large custom order for Bamboo. Maybe there's a possibility others could pool together to finish their settings?

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  32. Anonymous8:23 PM

    I have a mystery that has been very difficult to solve about Truex about his design of "Rock Cut"

    When did the "rock cut" candlesticks (or other pieces in the pattern) first appear? Was he influenced by mid-century designs at Peill and Putzler - or did he influence THEM?

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