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Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

We are closed on Bank Holiday Mondays

Please note the house will be temporarily closed for 4 weeks from 14 March 2024

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Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

We are closed on Bank Holiday Mondays

Please note the house will be temporarily closed for 4 weeks from 14 March 2024

View of Kettle's Yard showing a long table with paintings on the wall above it.

Jim Ede’s Influences: Eugenia Errázuriz

This Women’s History Month we’re sharing stories of women who influenced the making of Kettle’s Yard. In this blog post, Senior Curator, House & Collection Inga Fraser tells us more about Eugenia Errázuriz.

Jim Ede signed the lease for Kettle’s Yard in May 1957, when he was sixty two years old. The arrangements of artworks and objects in the house reflect four decades of collecting, as well as previous experiences furnishing the houses that he and his wife Helen had lived in at Hampstead, Tangier and in the Loire region in France. Along the way, Jim encountered several influential women who also collected and lived with modern art. As Jim was to do at Kettle’s Yard, these women displayed their collections within uniquely furnished interiors, and opened their homes to artists, writers and the other notable figures of their day. This blog post is the first in a series of stories exploring these women. It focuses on the Chilean-born, Paris-based Eugenia Errázuriz (1860–1951), who Jim Ede met in Paris in 1927.

Before settling in Paris, Errázuriz had lived in Chelsea, London at the home of her nephew José Antonio Gandarillas and his wife Juanita on Tite Street. Nearby was the studio of the artist John Singer Sargent who painted Errázuriz many times in the 1880s. When furnishing her own apartment in Paris at the turn of the century, Errázuriz decided upon white walls, bare wooden floors, and carefully selected items of 18th century furniture. In the 1910s, Errázuriz became friends with Picasso, commissioning him to paint Cubist black-out boards for the windows during the First World War. She lent Picasso her house at Biarritz ‘La Mimoseraie’ following his marriage to the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova.

John Singer Sargent, Madame Errazuriz, c. 1880–02
Photo: Ed Park / APFEL

The photographer Cecil Beaton recalls the whitewashed walls and red-tiled floors of Errázuriz’s house at Biarritz, and the interior designer Jean-Michel Frank credits Errázuriz in popularising the use of simple long wooden shelves, wall-mounted or self-supporting, for the display of objects and functional items in place of heavy sideboards.

Such design choices will be familiar to those who know the Kettle’s Yard house. Seeing her Paris apartment in 1935 (a wing of a house belonging to Comte Etienne de Beaumont) Beaton later wrote, ‘Panelled walls have been painted a French grey. A bunch of tightly packed peonies, in a glass goblet on a brass table […] The curtains were made of sprigged white muslin. Huge abstract paintings by Picasso hung on the walls […] Mme Errázuriz’s lodge-house is small, simple and in no way spectacular. But for those who can recognise such things, the taste is the height of luxury.’

Jim Ede was among those who recognised such things. In his appointment diary for Sunday 6 November 1927 is written ‘Madame Erassuriz’ [sic]. They were introduced by Picasso, whose studio Ede had visited earlier in the day, and who invited Ede to dinner at her apartment at 5, Avenue Montaigne. In an article from 1970, Ede remembers the ‘thrilling evening’ with Picasso’s ‘Chilean friend’ who, he noted, was ‘so vital and sympathetic’. Of her accommodation Ede wrote: ‘It was a house after my own heart, all white and grey, with a casual air of surprised expectancy, and there not hanging on the walls, but living on the walls, Picasso’s paintings.’

Like Ede, Errázurriz combined inexpensive well-designed everyday objects with artworks. As Beaton remembers, ‘a simple wicker basket could often be found on a valuable table.’ He continues, ‘she created the strangeness of magic […] using household implements that, though usually stowed away in back-hall closets, struck her as beautiful. A ladder and a coat hanger […] Or she might set a watering can in the hall […]’

Errázurriz and Ede also shared a taste for simple foods: Beaton recalls her serving the ‘best blends of tea’, with ‘the crispest breads served with the purest farmhouse butter.’ Perhaps this was also an influence on the tea and toast served by Jim and Helen Ede to students visiting Kettle’s Yard.

In common with the continual rearrangements of furniture and artworks prompted by Jim and Helen’s moves from London to Morocco to France and to Cambridge, and within Kettle’s Yard as new objects were acquired and the cottages extended, Errázuriz recommended that furniture be changed or rearranged continually. Like Jim, she enjoyed exchanging objects with friends, and one prized acquisition was a set of iron park chairs of the sort that were for hire in the Bois de Boulogne, purportedly stolen from the park by Jean Cocteau and accomplices before being sold to her.

One of these chairs features in a photograph accompanying an article about Eugenia that was published in the February 1938 US edition of Harper’s Bazaar, and this image suggests in tangible terms the influence of Errázuriz’s taste upon that of Jim Ede. It depicts her front hall: a gently spiralling staircase — at the bottom of which is one of the iron park chairs. Upon seeing this image for the first time, I instantly thought of the entrance hallway at Kettle’s Yard with its wooden spiral stairs, at the bottom of which is an iron chair of a similar design, purchased by Jim in Morocco.

Photo by Paul Allitt

In tracing the resonances linking the ways that Eugenia Errázuriz and Jim Ede arranged their domestic spaces, we discover the significance of sociability for both. Artworks and furniture were acquired through friendships and were appreciated by others thanks to the hospitality Errázuriz and Ede offered to their guests. The project of Kettle’s Yard resulted from decades of hosting others — particularly at Elm Row in Hampstead and at Whitestone in Tangier. Looking at the example of Errázuriz we see how Kettle’s Yard was also shaped by Jim and Helen’s experience of being hosted, providing models of living for them to emulate in their own way.