D.V.’s Hellish Garden and other Art Historical Thoughts

Diana Vreeland had quite the personality. Not that I knew her personally but everything I’ve read about her suggests so. In fact I hesitate to transcribe her full name rather than Mrs. Vreeland so I will identify her as such from here on out. Mrs. Vreeland’s claim to fame was as a fashion editor at Vogue magazine where her larger than life concepts of luxury and travel catapulted her to the highest tier fashion royalty.[1] After being slighted from the position of editor-in-chief for Bazaar, she filled the position as editor-in-chief for Vogue.

Needless to say, Mrs. Vreeland had taste and sometimes a wild sense of taste. I thought I would explore Mrs. Vreeland’s home for everyone but since there seem to be slim pickins on photography of her house I decided I would emphasize a single room. Her living room. Mrs. Vreeland’s request for her living space was that it “look like a garden, a garden from hell.” Once I saw the photo of this garish red room, [2] the art historian in me just couldn’t help but find visual comparisons and I think I get what she was going for.

Now this magical interior is amazing. It’s over the top: monochromatic, prints, pillows it’s everything but the kitchen sink and it’s a lot, but I love it. Here’s my theory: I think what Mrs. Vreeland meant when she said “a garden from” was Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Now, this painting is from c. 1500 but it’s one of the most outrageous, complex and talked about pieces in the history of art.[3] I think what she wanted was that plus Matisse’s Red Room from 1908. This combo not only exemplifies what her room looks like (a hellish garden in red) but it also elevates her[4] taste to that of intellect. Not that she wasn’t already[5] but the combo is contemporary, classic, crazy and cool.[6]

Anyway, you be the judge. Am I completely wrong?

standing dv

red room



matisse red roomThe Red Room Matisse 1908

goedThe Garden of Earthly Delights Hieronymous Bosch c.1500

dv dianaMrs. Vreeland’s autobiography.

[1] The woman was born into society, so she was born and bred in the upper crust,.

[2] Mrs. Vreeland loved red because of how exciting it was.

[3] Because you’re literally like “what was he thinking?!”

[4] In my humble opinion.

[5] Please fashion people do NOT chop my head off.

[6] How’s that for alliteration?


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