Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style

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9780670030248: Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style

Accompanied by lavish photographs, an intimate portrait of the master of twentieth-century American design, the leader of Parsons School of Design, and the design director at Tiffany & Co. chronicles his life and pays tribute to one of the greatest designers in America.

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Review:

Van Day Truex was born in Kansas, the artistically inclined son of a stern and intolerant shop manager. After the seemingly obligatory stint living with a sympathetic and worldly aunt in Wisconsin, he escaped to New York City and design school (quite against his parents' wishes), turning in a stellar performance at the institution that would become Parsons School of Design and immediately earning the notoriously hard-won approval of none other than Frank Alvah Parsons. Several hundred society introductions, garden parties, and black-and-white balls later, Truex found himself at the center of the international elite, one of the social register's most sought-after interior designers--not to mention one of the most prized dinner guests in New York and on the Riviera.

As an enormously popular instructor at Parsons, and the school's president from 1942 to 1952, Truex influenced American interior design far beyond the rarefied circles of his friends and clients--Brooke Astor, Lady Mendl, Grace Bingham, and the like. And as director of design at Tiffany & Co. from 1955 to 1962, arguably the store's heyday, Truex indeed had a hand in defining upper-class taste--he called it "design judgment"--or at least what went into the place settings on the dining tables of the very wealthy. Many of the designs Truex commissioned and developed for Tiffany's are still sold today as classics of the brand: the all-over wild strawberry china pattern, for example.

Adam Lewis's illustrated biography is not particularly vivid, and details of Truex's work and design philosophy are scant compared to the exhaustive (and exhausting) descriptions of the charming, urbane decorator's endless social engagements. One must remember, though, that Lewis is writing about the man whose preferred color came to be known as "Truex beige." Perhaps the designer himself would have approved of the stilted style of Lewis's prose, but for those not instantly enchanted by minor high-society and interior-design intrigue, the book's studied humorlessness will make for dull reading. --Liana Fredley

About the Author:

Adam Lewis is a graduate of the Yale School of Art and Architecture and currently teaches and practices interior design.

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