Thursday, August 14, 2014
I Want to be Alone
A few months ago, I finally got around to reading Cecil Beaton's autobiographical Memoirs of the 40s. At the risk of offending any Beaton devotees, I confess that the book got on my nerves. Specifically, it was Beaton's chronicle of his obsessive love affair with Greta Garbo that I found to be most tiresome, if for no other reason than Beaton kept up the Garbo mania for more or less the entire book.
In Beaton's diaries, Garbo is portrayed as an enigmatic figure, a quality for which she was and still is well known. And, if Beaton's reminiscences of Garbo are to be believed, she could also be quite manipulative too. Not knowing very much about Garbo other than her famous movie line, "I want to be alone", and her penchant for privacy, I can't say if Beaton's portrait of Garbo is faithful to the woman or not. More research on my part is needed.
However, long before I read Beaton's book, I was familiar with Garbo's reputation for having very good taste. I had heard that her Manhattan apartment was beautifully decorated, which was confirmed over the weekend when I found photos of her apartment in the April 1992 issue of Architectural Digest. The glitz and glamour of Hollywood seemed left far behind, and in its place was an elegance and refinement that was thoroughly Continental. Garbo surrounded herself with French and Swedish furniture, Chinese porcelain, and, most notably, a fabulous collection of paintings, which included works by Renoir, Bonnard, Delaunay, and Jawlensky.
For all of the home's elegance, though, warmth and comfort did not appear to be lacking. It seems that Garbo had innate talent when it came to decorating, furnishing her home with her blue-chip pieces in a way that was neither showy nor pretentious. The result was an apartment that looked both very personal and incredibly inviting.
All photos from Architectural Digest, April 1992, photos of apartment by Fritz von der Schulenburg; photo at top part of the MGM Collection.