Thursday, January 26, 2012

The art of David Mode Payne

AD 1987 Mrs. Reginald B. Lanier's music room
Last weekend in a fit of late night boredom, I traipsed down to my basement in search of a particular magazine and, as usual, got side tracked.
My collection of 1980's Architectural Digests certainly bore fruit.
The author of the article Portraits in Style, Michael M. Thomas introduced me to the interiors painted by David Mode Payne (1907-1985).
Mrs. Lanier's Library
The homes are those of wealthy Newport, Rhode Island residents and New York society mostly.
Thomas insists that this sort was comfortable with their wealth, "This was, by and large, not a flamboyant society craving to be portrayed by a Sargent or a Boldini. Its life was essentially closed off from general attention, fortified by walls of privilege and discretion." 
Lanier Morning room
Mr. and Mrs. William Wood Prince's drawing room
Payne recorded a veritable "Who's who" of elites of the 20th century's homes. The article in AD compares him to Edith Wharton's  Walter Gay.
The entrance hall at Beaulieu, the home of the late Wiley T. Buchanan
I found it terribly amusing and ironic that the author's assertion that this high style of the wealthy was never meant to be ostentatious but the text of his article is a bit overdone. He uses words like refulgent and parvenus.
It illustrates a point beyond interiors and shows that social class held more weight and writing was far less casual even as recently as the 1980s.
Home of Mrs. Lila Tyng
The interiors, on the contrary, give us proof that classics are classics.
I would love to have any one of the items in the above room. Note the chinoiserie wallcovering.

All images (except the final image) are scanned from Architectural Digest April 1987


Simply Grand said...

That AD article was the last time David Payne had a real mention in any of the shelter magazines, but between the wars, his work made regular appearances in House & Garden & Vogue, and it generally depicted smaller, more casual rooms, some of which I'd be happy to live in today.

Of these pieces, the oil of Philip Johnson's glass house went to auction only a year or so ago and as I recall, it didn't even make its minumum estimate, but then, it was a late work--maybe early 1950s. None of these later paintings show Payne at his best, either, so the comparison with Walter Gay seems a stretch, but within his narrow field (and at his peak) Payne was a major talent.

Karena said...

Very interesting Kerry. I agree with you on the Tyng home, it is really timeless and classic.

Art by Karena

Kris said...


I found your article very interesting and I'm in love with Mr. and Mrs. William Wood Prince's drawing room is absolutely stunning. I don't know what I like most about it, the lovely blue settee or the lovely paneled walls. Very nice.

Thanks so much for sharing.

P.S. I really enjoy your blog and find you to be so down to earth and your articles inspiring.


Karen - Northville, MI said...

I visited some of the Preservation Society of Newport County properties in April and David Mode Payne's works were on display in the rooms they depicted and I found them captivating. I wish it were possible to purchase prints of them. Thank you for posting this article so I could see more of his work.

Northville, MI