Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Albert Hadley on Illustrations
About eight or nine years ago, I had the opportunity, thanks to a friend, to meet privately with Albert Hadley. Because our meeting was one of those "pinch-me" moments (at least, it was for me,) much of what we discussed is a blur. But Mr. Hadley made one comment that I will never forget. He said that today's magazines feature too few illustrations. His comment struck a chord with me, because I'm an avid fan of illustrations, especially those of interiors. When executed by a deft hand, interior illustrations can convey a room's personality in a way that photography simply can't.
Take these illustrations, for example, which appeared in a 1934 issue of House & Garden. Depicting an "all-metal house in a traditional style" (the house's architect, Robert B. Carr, specified that the make-believe structure be constructed of "enameled metal shingles over steel braced structural walls",) the illustrations show an inventive marriage of Regency-style flourishes and then-cutting-edge finishes. What I find so beguiling and, yes, inspiring is the style of the illustrations. They are colorful and concise in a way that really captures- and even amplifies- the decorative essence of each room. And because the rooms are anonymous, I find it easier to imagine myself inhabiting these spaces. Finally, although there are dated elements to these rendered rooms (that fish-tank table in the living room illustration should be left to the 1930s,) many of the colors and decorations still look fresh today. Can't you just see the bathroom's bright blue door with gold star (see below) in a stylish home of today?
Would magazine pages full of interior illustrations fly in today's world? Probably not. But I agree with Albert Hadley that interior illustrations still have relevance. The benefit to such illustrations is that they stimulate the reader's imagination, requiring the reader to flesh out details and adapt the illustrated ideas for use in his or her home. And it's imagination that gives design its flavor and its personality.