An Aesthete’s Pursuit

The life of an aesthete is a life lived in pursuit.  Something is always slightly out of reach, something can always be a little better.  At least this is the case in my life.
On my desk I keep a picture of John Muir, a man who by any measure could be considered a journeyman simply passing through the world.  His poetic writings are filled with imagery of the vastness and beauty of nature and our connection to it.  He was however also an aesthete seeking beauty in nature.  I of course purchased the picture while antiquing.  The irony of this was not lost on me.
Above (Top)St. Laurent (photgraphed by: Jean-Loup Sieff)
(Bottom) John Muir photographed in the Yosemite Valley, CA.
(photographer: unknown)


I’ve recently been enjoying pouring over the pages of The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge written by Robert Murphy and Ivan Terestchenko. As an ardent Saint Laurent fan I have always found him extraordinary in a glamorously talented yet haunted way.  It is no news to those familiar with his biography his struggles with depression throughout his life.  I have often wondered if he struggled with the excess of his life and perhaps held dear the memories of being a young carefree boy in the streets of his native Algeria.  
The home Yves shared with Pierre at 55 Rue de Babylone in Paris is exactly as one might expect, resplendant, decadent, over the top perfection suitable for a prince.  Yet, he also maintained a bachelor studio on the Avenue de Breteuil to where he could escape that was very simply appointed, a seemingly very introspective space on which he collaborated with .  One can imagine him retreating to this space during the intense weeks leading to the premiere of a collection so as to avoid distraction.
The many other homes of St. Laurentand Berge you can discover for yourself in the beautiful pages of the book which in addition to being well photographed have interesting insight from the interior designers involved.  Needless to say the collection of homes speaks to the many facets of his and Pierre’s life and collective passions.  What strikes me are the extremes in the interiors, some are very ornate others very spare.  Interiors are spaces that when done well reveal who we are.  St. Laurent  was once quoted as saying: “I’m an aesthete; I’m constantly looking for perfection.”  A futile effort some might argue.


A Constantin Brancussi sculpture from the Collection of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge.
(Photo: Christie’s Auction)
Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley
(Photo: uncredited)


In my estimation there really is no difference in creating a beautiful space or inhabiting one, like the Yosemite Valley.  According to Muir: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken , over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
For Muir the stage was set.  Mother Nature had done the bulk of the work.  For St. Laurent, the set was created.  Decisions made, nature explored through the creations of man; art, sculpture and furniture.
We all make decisions in our daily lives about the objects in our life.  From pencils to automobiles decisions are demanded of us daily.  For an aesthete those decisions are shaped and informed by seeking the balance of those new objects in the greater context of everything else in his/her life. 
It would be presumptuous to know what meaning if any lay in the private world of M. Saint Laurent et M. Berge but they certainly created remarkable spaces that so obviously spoke to them much the same way the natural landscape spoke to Muir.  As for myself, I continue to seek meaning, perfect or otherwise in my own work as a designer, hoping that in some small measure it enhances my client’s lives. 
I am leaving you  with a little eye candy tour of St. Laurent’s home in all it’s excessive glory courtesy of
Bye for now.