26 February, 2009

Glebe Place

Glebe Place, off the King's Road, Chelsea: home of artists since the 1880s. Fine old houses, in a variety of styles, although not quite as beautiful as those on Old Church Road and its neighbours north of the high street. Next to the Open Air Nursery School, at the street's elbow, where it curves towards Bramerton Street, and then down to Cheyne Row and Cheyne Walk—number 50, a folly, done up in a patinate Mediterranean baroque:


This picture taken not by me, but by Jamie Barras. Built, as Barras tells us, for Sir Frank Lowe, advertising magus, and completed in 1987. The sheer ridiculousness of the facade! With its plaques, statues, ivies, metalwork, pink and green. And with a date on the gutter hopper, as became popular in the twentieth century, reading. . . 1723! It would not be out of place at Portmeirion.


Nobody is about, except two georgeously posh old mums twittering a few doors up. The light is not much good, even at midday or so. In the entrance-way, just next to the large filigree-worked double doors, on the left hand side, this, most preposterously of all:


Which either is, or very much resembles, a painting of Sir Frank himself, done in a pastiche Flemish-Renaissance style. I mean, isn't it? Heavy lids, generous nose, broad brow, the rest one can put down to a couple of decades and artistic licence. Only the painter has made him crueller and more calculative.


The possibility remains that Lowe simply found an old burgher who resembled him, but I doubt it. There is a delight, after endless walking in the grit and grime of the suburbs northeast of the City, where there are yet pleasures in the efflorescences of penniless artistic statement, and in the fragments of the old ekeing amid the new and broken, in all the undone, there is a delight here, in Chelsea, in the decadent prettiness of it all, the comfort and the devil-may-care, in good money spent idiosyncratically if not well.

9 comments:

chris miller said...

A nice painting - to give one a greater appreciation for that simple style when it's done well

Conrad H. Roth said...

Yes, it is actually quite well executed, isn't it? I think that makes it tolerable.

A.J.P. Crown said...

I'm sure that's him in the relief in the wall. The hipped roof and its weather vane are very Portmeirionish. Isn't anyone owning up as the architect? Frank Lowe is a pioneer of the advertising agency, according to Wiki. He must be awfully old.

A.J.P. Crown said...

You can't tell from a photograph whether the building looks old, but I'm assuming you would have said if it were really cheesy and cheap-looking.

Conrad H. Roth said...

No, it's pretty decent, I think; though I do not have the engineer's eye. The materials are obviously quite new, which inevitably makes the facade a little plasticky, but that's about it.

A.J.P. Crown said...

From the photograph, the giveaway that it's a new building is the po-mo inverted-arch window at the top of the tower.

Andrew Findlay said...

The House was designed by David Bristow of Sedley Place ltd,and is in my opinion a masterpiece. It has had several refurbishments over the years. If you think the outside is opulent,the inside beggars belief.

Conrad H. Roth said...

And ironwork on the front door by one Andrew Findlay! Thanks for the info.

D.R.Miles said...

This is very interesting.This property was once a top photographic Studio.It was called "Studio Vannessa" and I worked there betweeen 1957-59.We had the top models at the time i.e. Suzy Kendal from the states and top photographers like Norman Parkinson etc. Its really weird to see it has it is now to how i new it. I don't know when the studio closed down but it must have been some time in the 60's.
Dave Miles.