Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, Ardèche, France, discovered 18 December 1994
Elsie De Wolfe, American actress & interior decorator, birthday 20 December 1865
Joseph Olbrich, Austrian architect and co-founder of the Vienna Secession, birthday 22 December 1867
With as small as the world seems today, it may be unbelievable that in the modern era there are still prehistoric discoveries which amaze and challenge the collective knowledge. As recently as 1994, the immense cave of Chauvet with its perfectly preserved paintings dating over 30,000 years was discovered, isolated by an ancient landslide.
Most people will tell you that Elsie De Wolfe is “The First Lady of Interior Decoration”. However, that moniker barely begins to describe what a force she was. De Wolfe almost single-handedly created the separate and distinct profession of the interior decorator. After a career on the stage, at the age of 40, she was commissioned to complete the interiors of the Colony Club, one of the first women’s clubs in New York. De Wolfe figuratively “threw open” the dark velvet drapery of the Victorian era and using inspiration from 18th century France created light, bright and airy feminine spaces. It could be said that her design sensibilities manifested themselves as a child when she threw a kicking and screaming temper tantrum in response to her parents redecorating the drawing room.
Even in her acting career she was more known for her creative costuming (which she designed) than her thespian abilities. De Wolfe’s design successes should be credited to her knack for self-promotion and connections as a socialite in both the American and European circles. Her business was bolstered by such clientele as Morgan, Astor & Whitney in addition to inviting Vogue to cover her parties. The descriptions of her hostess abilities in the magazine brought her name and style to housewives around the country and perhaps even influenced the likes of Martha Stewart. De Wolfe’s book “The House in Good Taste” became equally an influential beginning the trend of faux finishes and animal print upholstery; only in Elsie’s case, the animal print was more likely to be real.
The Chauvet Cave, Ardèche, France
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams", flim by Werner Herzog
The Bradshaw Foundation for ancient rock art
article on Elsie De Wolfe, Architectural Digest
"The House in Good Taste", by Elsie De Wolfe, University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Secession Hall, Vienna, Austria
archINFORM for the Secession Hall
archINFORM for Hochzeitsturm, Darmstadt, Germany