16 May 2010

Syrie, Somerset, and Liza Maugham: Of Human Bondage

British interior design legend Syrie Maugham (1879 –1955) created the first “white room” using varying pale shades, painted French antiques, plaster tables, reflective mirror screens. milk glass and white peacock feathers. Later glamorous rooms also featured pops of bold color and attracted the patronage of London’s elite including The Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson. Syrie who was photographed by Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) was not as successful in love as business. Her first marriage to Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome was unhappy and she separated from him after eight years having several affairs including one with brilliant Paris born English author William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965). Maugham who was gay fathered a daughter with Syrie who would be called Liza after his first successful novel Liza of Lambeth. Beaton captured the successful writer as Graham Vivian Sutherland sketched him. Maugham married Syrie after her divorce but he proved to be a poor husband and father. The union ended and while he walked his daughter down the aisle for her first wedding, he would wrongly question her paternity at the end of his life. Syrie and Somerset Maugham’s genius lives on in their great grandson Derek Paravicini who although a blind autistic savant is also a gifted musical prodigy.



7 comments:

  1. I am so glad I found you. I have this thing for peacocks... Have I found my long lost twin here?

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  2. Thank you~ Catherine. I love peacocks too, the irony of their beautiful plumage with their ugly voice! Best, Kendra

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  3. You also may know that Peacocks throughout history have also served as excellent watchdogs on country estates while their owners are away.

    Peacocks are excellent defenders.

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  4. Fascinating story and wonderful photographs, xv.

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  5. Hi Kendra,

    My name is Timothy and I'm verifying some facts for San Francisco Magazine. Is there a better way to get in touch? You can email me at timhkim@gmail.com

    Thank you!

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  6. Author~ I was not aware of the peacock as a watchdog. Maybe that is why people have them on their vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.
    Vicki~ Thank you for your comment!
    Timothy~ I look forward to speaking with you.

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  7. Yes, many estates have them where I live as well. When I was younger a friends family had them and you literally had to walk carefully around them, lest they pursue you.

    Zoo peacocks are different since they are so highly domesticated it seems. Estate ones - yes - they do make great watchdogs as they are tough birds. Another irony associated with the peacock.

    You may also know that they also love to sit in trees oddly enough.

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