Tuesday, July 29, 2014
More Thoughts on Richard Neas
Most of my blog posts about designer and muralist Richard Lowell Neas have focused on Neas's penchant for and proficiency at trompe l'oeil decorative painting rather than his decorating. That's not to say that Neas was not a talented designer, because he was. Neas's interior design work, which was frequently imbued with an unassuming elegance, reflected his innate flair and taste. And it's that flair, I think, that comes through brilliantly in his trompe l'oeil work.
Trompe l'oeil painting tends to be of two varieties. One type is an attempt at mimicry so realistic that one has to touch and inspect the work to determine if it's real or not. Neas was a master at this type of painting, able to make wooden floors look like they were made of centuries-old stone and wainscoting appear to be carved of real marble. And yet, Neas could just as easily execute the other kind of trompe l'oeil painting, which is realistic-looking up to a point and meant to fool somebody in a "wink, wink" fashion. This is the kind of painting at which Neas really excelled.
Take, for example, his work in the yellow dining room below. At first glance, one might think the walls are embellished with elaborate treillage and wainscoting. But blink once and look again and one realizes fairly quickly that the trellis, delftware and brackets are really decorative illusions. The same goes for another Neas project, which featured cabinet doors painted with faux paintings of the china stored within the cabinet. The value of this kind of decorative painting lies more in its ability to charm rather than to fool. And charm is something that Neas's work had in spades.
Image at top: Neas's Manhattan apartment, c. 1983, featured a mirrored panel on which Neas painted trompe l'oeil curtains.
In his own house in France, Neas painted the wood floors to simulate stone. He also painted the chandelier in a delft finish.