During their decade-long tenure in the hearts and minds of British society, the Bright Young Things were a sensation, in every sense of the word. A collective of bohemian socialites and aristocrats, they dominated 1920s London (by way of the tabloid newspapers) with their wild parties, elaborate fashions, their taste for decadence and their charismatic self-expression.
Among them was Stephen Tennant, an aesthetic hero of modern-day artist and illustrator Luke Edward Hall, who has made a name for himself with finely drawn Greco-Roman likenesses, verdant foliage and picturesque scenes, all of which which have graced ceramics and textiles, as well as walls, in frames. “He was beautiful, tall and quite rich, and wore amazing clothes,” Hall explains. “But most of all he was a kind of mythical character that people flocked to.” While on holiday in Portugal, Hall found himself suspended in a hammock overlooking the Douro River, reading about this luminary in Philip Hoare’s account of his life, Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant.
“It’s really romantic,” Hall continues. “There’s a passage I read about his relationship with Siegfried Sassoon, a poet. They went to Italy and it’s just a beautiful description of the trip they took together.” This short section is the inspiration behind Hotel Majestic, a series of works – mostly portraits – imagining that trip in all of its glory, and now on display at Alex Eagle’s London store. The show is accompanied by a corresponding catalogue of the same name, and a series of hand-painted ceramic ashtrays – souvenirs from their imagined lodgings.
“I’m quite a fan of a nice old hotel,” explains Hall, who came to art by way of interiors, and continues to work on such projects. “Going into a good hotel is like entering into a universe, and the people that I look up to – Cecil Beaton, Tim Walker – these people create universes too.” He drew inspiration for these objets d’art from his own trips, he says: “I went to the La Colombe d’Or in France – you know, that one where Picasso and Matisse stayed, and paid by giving the owners their art? There’s a Calder next to the pool. All the rooms are really rustic, and the food is heavy French food, but it has this amazing atmosphere because of all the art. It’s like stepping back in time.”
Hall’s own artworks, framed in ornate bamboo and gilded wood, carry an air of this other-worldly luxury too – and hung in Alex Eagle’s easy, opulent Soho studio, they seem to slow down time, a low-hanging Italian sun lighting them up from within. No doubt Tennant himself would have been a firm fan.
Hotel Majestic by Luke Edward Hall runs until June 6, 2018 at Alex Eagle Studio, London.