Thursday, October 17, 2013

Collection Spotlight: Stuart Travis, Design for Yacht Interior, c. 1914

In celebration of National Design Week, the Addison presents three objects from its collection, each highlighting different time periods, mediums, and aspects of American design. The second installment is an early 20th century drawing, Design for a Yacht Interior by Stuart Travis.

Stuart Travis, Design for a Yacht Interior, c. 1914, ink, watercolor, gouache, pencil on wove paper, gift of Stuart Travis, 1959.8

This elegant mixed-media drawing, Design for Yacht Interior, features Stuart Travis’s proposed design for the breakfast room of a yacht, and reflects interior decorating practices of the Gilded Age, a period in which luxury yachting was a status symbol of paramount importance. The Arts and Crafts silver breakfast service shown on the table to the left, including what appears to be a pair of cafe-au-lait pots, and the Sheraton-style settee with rattan seat and back—as indicated by the designer’s note at the bottom of the drawing—suggest an environment of relaxed opulence, with a white cloth napkin nonchalantly placed on the edge of the tray and the yellow drapery flapping in the ocean breeze. For the floor of the breakfast room, Travis proposed a rather unassuming “hand-woven rag-rug in oval shape,” presumably to add an air of informality to the space; unlike the main saloon of a yacht, which would have featured the most extravagant furnishings and textiles, the breakfast room was, by nature, a more private space, and therefore its decoration could be based more so on the owner’s personal taste rather than the etiquette of elite society.

Though the patron of this sketch is not identified and therefore his tastes cannot be known, comparison with other high society interiors from this period, both afloat and ashore, indicates that the American aristocracy took its cultural cues from several European sources, primarily French chateaux, Italian villas, and English manors, eclectically combining Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, Rococo, Renaissance Revival, Neoclassical, and various English styles across the different rooms. While in the early twentieth century the profession of decorator was gradually becoming established, it was yet not uncommon for patrons to hire artists for part or all of their interior decoration needs.

A prolific American artist, illustrator, and designer, Stuart Travis (1868-1942) studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and subsequently established a New York studio. Numerous of his drawings and watercolors appeared in contemporary magazines, books, and advertisements; specifically, between 1907 and 1910, seven of his illustrations graced the pages and cover of Vogue magazine. Travis also created two murals on the Phillips Academy campus: History and Traditions of the School and Vicinity (1928) at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Culture Areas of North America (1938-42) at The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. For more information on Travis and his Andover murals, visit and

-- Kelley Tialiou, Curatorial Assistant

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