Fleur Cowles (1908 – 2009)
"Few women have lived more multiple lives than I have: as editor: as that anomaly, an American president’s personal representative, decorated by six governments; as a writer of thirteen books and contributor to six others; as a painter, with fifty-one one-man exhibitions throughout the world; patron of the arts and sciences, irrepressible traveller and, more importantly, friend-gatherer …"
A rose is a powerhouse of beauty and spicy scented goodness. The blooms are perfectly formed and come in clusters. A confectionary concoction of apricot, ginger, parchment, cream and never disappoints. What a fitting tribute to a woman, born in 1908 who became a renowned artist, author, journalist, patron and fashionista.
In 1950 she launched an innovative magazine “Flair”, which featured stories by notables such as Tennessee Williams and Jean Cocteau illustrated by the likes of Picasso, Dalí and Lucian Freud. An admirable woman, way ahead of her time she was once quoted saying, “I have an idea a minute. I’m a born idea myself”.
Cowles had first become famous in the USA while married to her third husband Mike Cowles, the owner of Look magazine. In 1950, she launched Flair, an extravagant and innovative magazine for the elite. Flair combined cut-out covers and varied paper stocks with stories by the likes of W. H. Auden, Jean Cocteau and Tennessee Williams, and illustrations by Picasso, Dalí, Lucian Freud and even Winston Churchill. Its 12 loss-making issues have inspired generations of magazine editors and are now collectors’ items.
Cowles was President Eisenhower’s special envoy at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and moved to London when she married Meyer in 1955. Her friend Cary Grant was best man. From first one set, then two overlooking the Albany’s central courtyard, she cultivated her friendships with royals, the rich and the famous — including American presidents, foreign heads of state, HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (described as her best friend) and film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor — and was renowned for hosting fabulous dinner parties.
Cowles’ favourite flower was the rose and she painted it many times. Her paintings also featured creatures of the jungle, birds and huge sprawling blooms, often placed in dreamlike settings.
Her artwork first received international attention at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1965, and ultimately her work was publicly displayed over fifty times in galleries and museums throughout the world, including a 1993 exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., at which time Richard Martin, then the Curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had this to say of her: “She imbues each mushroom and flower of fictive jungle with the properties of enchantment.”
Her paintings were favoured by many celebrities. She explained her artistic process, saying that she would simply sit down in front of a blank canvas and start painting; she didn’t make sketches prior to starting or look at anything for inspiration. She was adamant that her paintings do not hold hidden meanings. She executed them with only her “longing and desire to give pleasure to other people,” adding that her aim was to “create, create, create.”
We are proud to offer a unique collection of artworks by societal legend, Mrs. Fleur Cowles