May 22, 2010

Billy Baldwin: Decorates and Remembers

There is a quote in the newly opened Billy Baldwin exhibit at Evergreen which resonates with everyone living in Baltimore:

If one is born a Baltimorean, one remains such for life, no matter where it takes you…

I can attest that this is a truism, especially being a 12th generation Baltimorean. But what the exhibit is really about is the way that Baltimore’s conservative decorating sense on the Protestant side of the city, and the more avant garde sense on the Jewish side of the city, both influenced Baldwin’s decorating for his entire life.BB@Baby

While BB was from a wealthy WASPY Baltimore family, he was also exposed to the Jewish side of the city in an era where the two groups didn’t intermingle. BB@Evergreen 009His family’s cook’s sister worked for the Cone sisters whose collection of modern art and literature was unparalleled. BB often visited their apartment with the cook and had the chance to see original Matisse and Picasso paintings hanging on their walls. This influence can be seen on his fabric “Arbre de Matisse” which was used on the cover of Billy Baldwin Decorates.bbaldwinOne of the most fascinating pieces of this small exhibit is a detail of a wall and window covering from Atlanta Hall Farm, just north of Baltimore. This room, designed by BB in 1938, still exists in its complete and original form today. Atlanta Hall Farm It was during this time that he was working for Ruby Ross Wood. He may have met this family through either Wood’s husband, who was active in the Maryland fox hunting scene, which was based out of the area where Atlanta Hall Farm is located, or through his work with the Symington family, where Mrs. Wood first discovered him. One thing you learn if you live in Baltimore, is that everything and everyone is interconnected.

John Waters baldwin

There is a fabulous little catalogue which goes along with the exhibit and has loads of detail about BB, the show and some of his work in Baltimore. I have not finished reading through it, but already I’ve learned a lot.BB@Evergreen 028The exhibit is open through the summer and it’s well worth the trip to see Evergreen House and this show. The final lecture in the House Beautiful series is this week, so that’s a great opportunity!


  1. Meg so fascinating, I must get to Baltimore one day.... so much history and great design!

    Art by Karena

  2. Meg,

    Love Billy Baldwin. What an inspiration! Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  3. I love reading more about him Meg. What great posts!

  4. Drat & double drat. Not a chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that I can head to Baltimore this time of year. The exhibits sounds marvelous indeed.

  5. I love BB...his upholstered pieces are ageless as is most of his design work. Now might just be the perfect time for me to visit my friend, Missy who lives in Annapolis. This is a great heads-up.

  6. Hello Meg~
    Thanks for this fascinating post - several years ago my grandpa told me about the Cone Sisters and how he had met them when he lived in Baltimore and their relationship with Matisse, etc. I wish he was still around so that I could find out more.


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