Tuesday, May 29, 2018

By The Way

The Philadelphians Henry McIlhenny and Walter Staat with the New Yorkers Truman Capote and Babe Paley, photographed by Gloria Etting in Philadelphia. McIlhenny, a very wealthy connoisseur of fine art and furniture, was internationally famous in society for his philanthropy, his art and furniture collection, and his wide array of friends whom he entertained royally at his house on Rittenhouse Square, his Glenveigh Castle in County Donegal and his yachts. Gloria Etting was, by the time this photograph was taken, an old and loyal friend. This was in the heyday of Capote's relationship with his "Swans" of whom Mrs. Paley was held highest until he published his piece "Cote Basque 1965" in Esquire, which destroyed his relationship with Mrs. Paley as well as all of his "swans" with the exception of CZ Guest and Gloria Vanderbilt, and was said to have provoked the suicide of Ann Woodward, marking his fatal decline. Photograph from Gloria Etting's “By The Way," published in 1993.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018. A lovely Memorial Day Weekend weatherwise, in New York. Some rains, some warm sunshine, a cooler Sunday and Sunday evening and sunny and fairly cool Monday in New York. The city was very  quiet – as it gets in the Summertime – with sometimes no cars waiting for the lights to change.

Last week’s Diary about David Nelson Wrenn’s lecture about Ardrosson, the great estate on Philadelphia’s Main Line revived gentle and interesting memories of my brief exposure to that area and world that I was introduced to through Gloria Etting — who introduced me to, among others, Hope Scott.

Gloria, in her 84th year, at home. Photo by Martha Madigan.
Gloria was born in Florence, Italy, the youngest of eight children of an American mother and an Italian father who was an Italian tenor. Her mother died when Gloria was only 12 and the father moved his family to Boston to be near her mother’s relatives. She was a creative child and pursued modern dance under Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Her social connections reached back to those childhood years, and included the Cushing sisters, daughters of Dr. Harvey Cushing, America’s premier neurosurgeon, all of whom became famous socially for their marriages to rich men: Mary  (Minnie) Cushing Astor Fosburgh, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney and Barbara (Babe) Cushing Mortimer Paley.

During the Franklin Roosevelt Presidency in the 1930s, when Betsey was married to James Roosevelt, the President’s eldest son, Gloria was often a guest at the President’s estate in Hyde Park, photographing her friends and their families.

She moved to New York when she was 22 and pursued an acting and dancing career briefly. Her brother Mario was a concert pianist, famous in Europe and a friend of George Gershwin. It was the height of the Jazz Age and Café Society. Mario and Gloria moved into it quickly and comfortably. Her own life blossomed out of it, and she became a writer/society reporter/photographer. Along the way she met Lucius Beebe, who was a prominent society columnist, and he introduced her to the world of glamour and celebrity. When she was 29 she married a young Philadelphian named Emlen Etting, and they moved to Philadelphia where his mother and aunt were very social figures.

Gloria’s life was multi-faceted, enterprising, social, and artistic. She was naturally ambitious to make something of her life. After giving up on modern dance, and loving the social life she was introduced to in New York, she took up the camera.  By her early 30s, it was her natural accessory when socializing or traveling or entertaining. With almost 50 years of reporting, writing and photography behind her, in 1993 she published a beautiful little book of some of her archives called “By The Way.” The archives are vast and when she died in her 94th year (in 2003), the archives were left to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Her approach both socially and professionally was modest in manner but curious, gentle and friendly.  She wasn’t shy. There was a warm and ready smile on meeting. Her eyes were bright and kind with both a smile and a touch of sadness in them. Laughter came easily, and obviously she loved people in general.

In Philadelphia she was a great friend of Henry McIlhenny whom Andy Warhol described as “the only person in Philadelphia with glamour.”  Well-bred, well-educated, a philanthropist, curator,  and head of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his world was also something of a mecca for society figures as well as celebrated members of the performing arts. The world came to his door (or doors) and gladly. A native of the city he lived in a sumptuous townhouse on Rittenhouse Square which was a tribute to his connoisseurship in antique and fine art collecting.  He was also the last owner of Glenveagh Castle in County Donegal, Ireland where he hosted royalty, society and entertained royally. It was the last of an era when Society had already changed, if not transformed, and its allure was eclectic.

“By The Way” is a modest presentation of Gloria’s photographing the passing parade of the six decades between 1925 to 1985. She was in her mid-eighties when it first came out. The selection includes some of her travels to Italy as well as New York and California (where she was a friend and guest of the Walter Annenbergs at their Palm Springs estate Sunnylands). Some, maybe only a handful of the players, performers, tycoons and great artists were the object of her cameras’ lens.

The following is a taste of the contents.
Gloria with her brother Rama Braggiotti in Capri.
Kenneth Jay Lane Sir John Gielgud
Pablo Picasso and Douglas Cooper
Douglas Cooper was from a wealthy Australian family, brought up in London and an early collector of Cubist art, he struck up a close relationship with Picasso. Cooper had purchased the Chateau de Castille in Uzes in the South of France. Picasso loved the property and wanted to buy it from Cooper — who wouldn't sell. Picasso did paint some "new" murals on the exterior walls of the building. There were five drawings inspired by David's "The Rape of the Sabine Women" and the "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe" by Manet.

The "new" style did not impress Cooper who made that clear. Douglas Cooper back around that time had also begun a relationship with a young American named Billy McCarty. They were introduced by Gloria Etting who had met Billy, then in college in Philadelphia, at the home of Henry McIlhenny.
Diego Esposito and Billy McCarty at Douglas Cooper's Chateau de Castille with Picasso's murals in the background. Cooper did not like this"new" Picasso and said as much. Picasso by then, however, was Picasso the legend, and who was Douglas Cooper but a mere collector; and a most fortunate one.
The McCarty Cooper relationship grew to the point where Cooper "adopted" Billy as his son and heir. When Douglas Cooper died in in 1984, he left the bulk of his collection to Billy McCarty-Cooper. A substantial part of it was sold to Leonard Lauder for $26 million, and much of it now resides at the Metropolitan Museum. When Billy McCarty-Cooper died from an AIDS related illness in 1991, he left Gloria and also John Galliher each lifetime annuities of $50,000 a year in thanks for their introducing him to and advising him on Douglas.'
Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi Hope and Edgar Scott
Franklin Watkins
Jonas Salk
Isak Dinesen and Samuel Barber Leopold Stokowski and Beatrice Oyazabal
Maxime de la Falaise Andy Warhol
Leo Lerman
Dorothy and Lillian Gish Claudette Colbert
James Biddle
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Perry Rathbone John Knowles
Salvador and Gala Dalí
Lee Annenberg and Ricardo Muti
George Balanchine Maria Callas with Cummins and Elgie Catherwood
Barbara and Frank Sinatra
AlexanderCalder Elizabeth Taylor
Henry McIlhenny, Anne d'Harnoncourt, and Emlen Etting
Tennessee Williams Buckminister Fuller
Francoise Gilot
Beatrice Lillie
Jacques Tati Walter Annenberg
Martha Graham
Julia (Mrs. Charlton) Henry Tony Richardson's daughters Joely, Katharine Grimond, and Natasha
Isamu Noguchi
Tierra del Fuego After World War II in Italy
Nicoletta Pucci

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