Diana and Harry: A Chic Friendship

This is the second of two posts related to Winterthur’s Chic It Up design conference and the styles of the 1960s by Maggie Lidz, Winterthur’s estate historian and curator of garden objects.

H. F. du Pont in the Winterthur Conservatory, 1964

A more unlikely pair than the very private Winterthur Museum founder Henry Francis du Pont and the larger-than-life fashion editor Diana Vreeland is hard to imagine. But think of their common ground: they were both perfectionists, workaholics, and creators of famous rooms. Her red-on-red, “Garden in Hell” living room might be the antithesis of du Pont’s restrained taste, but the two shared an interest in style, fashion, and design.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Diana Vreeland and her husband had an apartment at 550 Park Avenue, a few blocks from the 635 Park Avenue pied-à-terre of du Pont and his wife Ruth. Millicent Hearst, Jackie Kennedy, and Billy Baldwin were among the many friends they had in common. They would have been dinner guests at many of the same parties, and Diana’s husband Reed was in business partnership with du Pont’s cousin and great friend Nicholas.

Diana Vreeland's book of the "beautiful people" of the 1960s, featuring Mrs. Desmond Guinness on the cover and a chapter on du Pont

The colliding world image evaporates as the connections become apparent between the flamboyant Diana and the quiet friend she knew as Harry. The improbable friendship is documented in the 1968 book Diana edited: Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People. The dazzlingly fashionable and international world captured in the book includes a chapter on du Pont and the Winterthur garden.

This and other unexpected juxtapositions of the 1960s will be explored in Winterthur’s upcoming Chic It Up design conference. As Vreeland wrote in the introduction to Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People: “Few things are more fascinating than the opportunity to see how other people live during their private hours—in the rooms they love, in the gardens they have planted, among their personal possessions…” Chic It Up offers the chance to do just that with some of the most stylish personalities of a revolutionary decade.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Design, Life at Winterthur and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *