Event Inspiration: Van Gogh & The Empress of Japan


I adore designing weddings, dinners, parties, fundraisers, celebrations of all kinds. They are exciting; they are ephemeral, they are meant to evoke a strong emotional response. They start quickly and end quickly, and usually without a plumber or electrician anywhere in sight! Done, next!


at a regal 18" tall, this Empress doll is made from fine Japanese papers
with gold trim and carved lacquered wood head and hands;
her headdress is shaped metal wire hung with glass beads; ca. 1885


For an event yesterday working with the fabulous Lisa Tomasi of Pear & Pepper Fine Catering and Events at a hip, cavernous photography studio out on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, I decided to feature one of my favorite vintage finds: the Empress of Japan, Meiji Era (about 1885). She is lovely, made in the countryside in Japan (when Emperor and Empress dolls were all the rage at the end of the Shogun era), of humbler materials than the exquisite dolls made in the cities from fine silks and ivory. (If she had been a city Empress I was told by an appraiser, she would be worth $15,000! she's not)


I tried to evoke a sense of warmth and glamour
in this corner of the photographer's studio to
draw people together


we chose a showstopper large succulent in pretty aqua planter
for texture and "greenth" factor


hot soup shooters and chicken salad endive were
perfect for the chilly day..note the vintage
Blenko bowls we used


the Empress drew quite a crowd to the table and lots
of admiring questions; Japanese papers were used
along with lanterns, succulents and fresh flowers; Asian
prints were fixed to the stainless steel wall

we used gorgeous Japanese paper to wrap around these
boxes and used ranunculus, tulips & greenery


She found herself, not standing out, nor next to her equally impressive husband the Emperor (he stayed behind in my attic), but blending into the scene, comfortably presiding over a table where hot soup shooters were being served to guests as an unusual and delicious appetizer. She looks quite content, doesn't she?



Almond Blossoms, Vincent Van Gogh 1990
painted when he was at the asylum outside Arles, France


Which started me thinking about Vincent Van Gogh's Japoniasme. As a painter in France in the 1880's (overlapping the Meiji Era in Japan), he loved the Japanese woodcuts with their odd perspectives, flatness and simple lines. His paintings of that time reflect his love of Japanese simplicity and purity of design and intention.

"I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one's waist-coat." Van Gogh


Bridge in the Rain, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887
Van Gogh copied Japanese woodblock prints
(ukiyo-e which means"pictures of a floating world")
which he found in the gallery next door to where he
lived in Paris



Portrait of Pere Tanguy, 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh in Paris
depicts the seller of his art supplies in front
of Van Gogh's collection of Japanese prints


Which started me thinking about what I would do if I owned a Van Gogh painting: where would I put it? what furnishings would enhance it best. I decided a smaller version of this reclaimed wood sideboard from Restoration Hardware would be in perfect juxtapositon to the delicate and colorful Van Gogh. It's simple and straightforward lines remind me of the very modest life he lived in France, surrounded by rough and handhewn pieces just like this one.


rough-hewn, solid planks sideboard from reclaimed wood


although, I do like this one too, an antique Mongolian
cabinet, 1890, with delicate painting would also
be a lovely complement to a Van Gogh painting
from Horchow


Which started me thinking about Van Gogh himself. If he had lived long enough to see how fantastically popular and valuable his paintings were to become, he might have used one of these vintage 1900 French aluminum suitcases to take his brother and benefactor Theo to St. Petersburg, Russia to see the beautiful city and its art. Can't you just see the two of them, happily boarding the train for the long trip, jauntily dressed with aluminum suitcases in hand?


fabulous French designed and made aluminum suitcases from
1900 with fantasic details, quality and undeniable cache
you can see them here

Gare du Nord, Paris, ca. 1900








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in 2010, it's:


Kit Golson Design

for elegant, sustainable and pragmatic

Chic Provence Interior Design




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