Design | The Fine Art of Sun Worship

AGAY, c 1930. Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

The Art of Travel
London, UK
18th June 2014

Villa America. It sounds like the title of a film. Was it one of those shown in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival that ended last week? No. But if the villa and its inhabitants had never existed, then the festival might never have been established at all in this area of the South of France, and to have a tan may never have become fashionable.

By the late 19th century rail networks were so widespread that the French Riviera / Côte d’Azur had become an accessible and attractive destination for wealthy northern Europeans – Russians, the English – seeking a winter escape. To accommodate them, all along the coast luxury hotels were established. Casinos flourished. From spring to autumn, everything closed. But then Gerald and Sara Murphy, a well-to-do American couple, who had escaped their families’ mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage and become the toast of avant garde Paris, holidayed on the Riviera in the summer of 1921. Promising to return the following year, they convinced the grand Hotel du Cap in Antibes to remain open so that their friends could come to see them and have somewhere to stay.

MONACO, 1932. Robert Falcucci (1900-1989)
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000

ANTIBES, c 1928. Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate £6,000 >8,000

COTE d’AZUR,1931. A M Cassandre (1901-1968)
Estimate £10,000 > 15,000

Roger Broders (1883-1953)
Estimate: £4,000 > 6,000

Far from ordinary friends, the Murphy’s friends were extraordinary writers and artists, among them Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter and Dorothy Parker. Significantly, two others were F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Although the Murphys themselves and some of their friends recognised much more of F Scott and Zelda in the characters, it is widely accepted that the Murphys were later to become the models for Nicole and Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s book Tender is the Night (1934).

In the meantime, the Murphys, who with their glamorous, arty friends would appear to have popularised the fine art of sunbathing, which quickly became fashionable and every summer in succeeding years would draw ever-increasing numbers of sun-seeking visitors to the Côte d’Azur, decided to stay, buying the house at Cap d’Antibes they called Villa America.

The colourful and graphic posters of the era in Christie’s forthcoming sale The Art of Travel, in London, were exhibited throughout the Cannes Film Festival at the JW Marriot Cannes.

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