Ronald Reagan’s living room. Greta Garbo’s sitting room. Bill Blass’ bedroom. Each has been elevated to a state of permanence made possible through the stroke of Jeremiah Goodman’s brush.
For over five decades, the New York City-based artist has told stories of decadent rooms in watercolor, all offering rare glimpses into the interior lives of the rich and famous. His paintings have graced the pages of House and Garden, The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Interior Design, a publication for which he illustrated each month’s cover for 15 years. As writer Julie V. Iovine of Interior Design so beautifully observed, Goodman’s illustrations may not “register the details of the curios on Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s mantelpiece in Los Angeles, or the names of the books on Elsa Peretti’s cocktail table in Spain, or the condition of a Louis XV commode in a baron’s foyer in Mexico,” but they do manage to “capture the spirit of a room as distilled by its inhabitants.”
With awards season in bloom and our eyes tuned to the stars, Previews® Inside Out was honored to speak with Goodman about capturing the beauty of rooms belonging to some of the most legendary celebrities.
Previews Inside Out What was the most memorable celebrity room you have ever painted?
Jeremiah Goodman It would have to be Dawnridge, the home of Tony Duquette [acclaimed film and theatrical set designer]. It was decorated in the most outrageous manner, a cacophony of objects from throughout the world, all gloriously assembled together.
Previews Inside Out Who was the most interesting celebrity client you have worked for?
Jeremiah Goodman Mary Martin made an impression on me. She had exquisite style and was a master at needlework. A far cry from what one would expect from a little girl from Texas.
Previews Inside Out You painted the covers of Interior Design every month for 15 years. Is there one cover that stands out in your memory?
Jeremiah Goodman It would have to be the David Hicks cover. I painted David’s London drawing room without actually seeing it. When I did have the occasion to visit, I was amazed how much I had managed to capture its elegance.
Previews Inside Out Your work has been used as a vision of the future, but also a lasting homage to the past. Did you ever think it would transcend time in that way?
Jeremiah Goodman Yes, because I truly believe that you cannot diminish quality. My work has become a date on the calendar of the world.
Previews Inside Out In your opinion, what has been your greatest life accomplishment?
Jeremiah Goodman Being acknowledged by my peers has always been important to me, but I think being inducted to the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 1987 was certainly a milestone.
Previews Inside Out What does a Jeremiah painting deliver that a digital photograph cannot?
Jeremiah Goodman My work is an emotional response to the room. My desire is to capture the interior’s most dramatic moment, be it in candlelight, brilliant sun or a winter day. I like to remind my audience what the hand has been able to achieve before it was sidelined by the eye of photography.
Previews Inside Out You have said that you “envision the client’s dream.” How do you accomplish that?
Jeremiah Goodman I take clues by their dress, conversation and interest in the arts. These ingredients give me the ability to create an interior that speaks directly to them.
Previews Inside Out When you walk into a room you are going to paint, where does your eye go first?
Jeremiah Goodman The collective spirit of the room’s furnishings or perhaps the refrigerator!
Previews Inside Out Is there a celebrity room you’re dying to paint today?
Jeremiah Goodman I’m curious to see one of Brad Pitt’s homes. I know that he takes a great interest in architecture.
Previews Inside Out And finally, where do you draw the line between “embellishment” and “informing”?
Jeremiah Goodman Once you get the message, you hang up the phone …
Jeremiah Goodman’s work has been collected by such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the New Britain Museum of American Art. His monograph “Jeremiah: A Romantic Vision” was published in 2007 and can be purchased here. For more information, visit www.jeremiahgoodman.com.