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The history of documenting interiors goes back farther than one would think; before blogs, before glossy shelter magazines, even before the printed photograph, it became fashionable for the nineteenth century European aristocracy and well-to-do to commission professional interior portraits. Eugene and Clare Thaw have donated eighty-five of these watercolor drawings, the largest collection of it's kind in America, to Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and they are presently on view...
Beyond initial surface beauty and a certain historical voyeurism, there is amazing detail and subtext to be found here as well — not only cycles of taste, but of class and political climate as well. Everything from palatial royal villas to simple artist's studios and drawing rooms are displayed here, with a love and attention perhaps lost with the advent of readily available photography.
House Proud: 19th Century Watercolor Interiors is on view now through January 25, 2009 at Cooper-Hewitt, New York.