Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gorgeous Green Room in Silk

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower (blue dress) with guests in the Truman version of the Green Room.
Moiré patterned silk covers the walls of the salon, Green Room. Formerly a daintier yellow, Thomas Jefferson had a green camouflage dropcloth functioning as a rug to catch the crumbs that missed his mouth in what was slated to become a dining room. It is sandwiched between the East Room and officially Michelle Obama's favorite, the Blue Room. Of course, it got a redo into the French Empire style after the Jeffersonian era because the British BBQ'd the entire White House in the War of 1812. Later, Victorian style gave way to Colonial Revival championed by McKim, Mead & White in Teddy Roosevelt's day throughout the room. Laura Bush redid the room in the summer of 2007 and added African American artist, Jacob Lawrence's (1917-2000) The Builders to the collection of art adorning the silk walls. At the time, the White House Acquisition Trust purchased the sixty year old painting, it sold for $2.5 million dollars and is one of only five pieces of art by an African American artist in the formal White House collection. The rule to command a spot as an artist on many of the state room walls (absent presidents) the painter gets the honor after dying and the work has to be more than twenty-five yeas old. Laura Bush with The Builders over her shoulder. She took some flack because the picture is of black men doing hard labor. Photo Courtesy the Washington Post.
Lighter Relieving (1847) Farmyard in Winter (1858) Bear Lake, New Mexico Georgia O'Keefe (1930) from the White House Art Collection located on the walls of the Green Room
Art in the Green Room covers many styles. Holding pride of place is an iconic painting of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin sitting right above the oldest mantel in the White House - circa 1819. Abigail Van Buren's portrait also graces the room. Louisa Adams portrait in oils is a period piece painted by Gilbert Stuart. Scenes form the Mississippi River in Lighter Relieving a Steamboat Aground by George Caleb Bingham in 1847 is above the north door.

The urn and candlesticks on the coffee table in front of the Duncan Phyfe striped sofa are part of the silver pieces from John & Abigail Adams.
In 1961, during Jacqueline Kennedy's interior revamp, she employed a French designer that focused on a Federal style for the Green Room. Fireplace mantels endured switch-outs from a modern for nineteenth century standards circa 1852 to something decades earlier bought by James Monroe. The room suffered though the 1904 white cane furniture and then, seized upon the idea of the fluffiest Turkish chairs to decorate the almost 627 square feet of space. That is more complicated than one might suspect for any designer because there are separate 6 doors to the Green Room as well. Jackie Kennedy believed heartily in themes and located things from important Americans, including Daniel Webster's Duncan Phyfe sofa and an urn Abigail Adams purchased. She hung the watered silk on the walls and varying degrees of that have been there ever since. (Green Room at conclusion of Jackie Kennedy's historic redo)

Pat Nixon's curator tut-tutted the wrong era moldings for the room and had them replaced along with appropriate ceiling medallions. One thing about the White House, do not forget to look up as the ceilings are works of art as well. Even the Oval Office has a ceiling medallion. Draperies in the rooms also have exquisite attention to detail along with carpets be they an Axminster in Jackie's heyday or after the Pat Nixon overhaul. Laura Bush's rendition thirty-six years later is closer to that with a brighter hued color palette.

President Obama waits to be announce into the East Room by aides.

The picture contains the rosier color of the Martha Washington club chairs in front of the WH's oldest mantel with the author of Poor Richard's almanac staring down on President Obama with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Liberal Lion of the Senate. Photos courtesy of the White House by Peter Souza.
Duncan Phyfe has several pieces to enchant in the room. Scalamandr did the original wreath and butterfly motif that Texas designer Ken Blasingame, the White House preservation authorities and Laura Bush chose. The room has had many incarnations with the Monroes settling on making it the Card Room for their fierce games of whist.
Barbara Bush gives an interview to CBS with her dog, Millie utterly unimpressed.

Before the makeover, the same Eisenhower set up, Jackie Kennedy greets the wives of astronauts in the Green Room

Marta Sahaun de Fox of Mexico with Lara Bush in 2001 before her makeover of the room. Notice the more plain fabric on the chairs. Just over Mrs. Fox's shoulder is a magnificent piece of furniture with all kinds of hidden compartments. Atop it resides the Argand Lamp from the late 18th century.
Each first family finds different functions to hold in the Green Room. The first declaration of war was signed in the green room by President Madison. On February 24, 1862 Willie Lincoln who died upstairs was put in his coffin in this room to keep Mary Lincoln. had The appropriation of Green did not come until the time of John Quincy Adams and his wife (1825-1829) made it the Green Drawing Room while Grace Coolidge thought it the perfect backdrop for some semi-nude art after decreeing the room needed genuine Federal period (tons of eagles) placed in the room that started as a Lodging Room. It's also a room for interesting receptions and entertaining. Eleanor Roosevelt spent time with Amelia Earhart in the Green Room.

The Green Room at the time of Andrew Johnson.

Green Room in time of the 1904 Roosevelt administration. Just outside the doors is the Grand Staircase as it used to open right to the Cross Hall before the Truman renovations. Ghastly choice in furniture & art during the Roosevelt era in my opinion.


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