Highlights of Flair, the collection of Fleur Cowles
On the evening of 23 November Christie’s presented for auction the collection of Fleur Cowles, the creative force behind Flair magazine. Fleur Cowles was a renowned publisher, journalist, author, artist, patron and fashionista who also maintained a position as a doyenne of both New York and London society for the better part of a century. She counted amongst her circle General Eisenhower, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cary Grant, HSH Princess Grace of Monaco and the Reagans to name but a few. The collection at Christie’s South Kensington offered a rare glimpse into the private world she created. Fleur Cowles and her last husband, Thomas Montague-Meyer, together occupied two adjoining ‘sets’ at one of London’s most renowned addresses – Albany, Piccadilly – for more than 50 years. Her striking interiors remained unchanged during these decades and the auction captured the magic of a time-capsule broken open for the first time. The auction included everything from her 1950’s Dior hats and designs for famed Flair magazine, to her prized collection of naïf art, furniture, sculpture and works of art, as well as some of her own paintings and photographs dedicated from many of her famous friends, such as Vivien Leigh, Lady Bird Johnson and the Duchess of Windsor. The collection illustrates not only the amazing interiors Cowles created in her secluded London home, but also the colour of the amazing life she lived.
Estimates ranged from just £500 up to £30,000, and a star lot of the auction was a pen-and-ink drawing, Taureau, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Further highlights included a portrait of Fleur Cowles by Réné Gruau (1909-2004) who produced much of the original artwork for Flair; and paintings and wall panels by Frederico Pallavicini, who worked alongside her at Flair. The magazine was renowned for its striking design and lavish production as for its editorial content, and it is for the former which it is best known today. Despite strong circulation, the colossal costs for special features, such as embossed cover cut-outs and unfolding pages that revealed hidden pictures, caused the magazine to run for only a year. Flair remains a much respected publication and copies are still highly sought after almost 70 years after the last issue went to press.
A few items of clothing from her wardrobe
Fleur Cowles’ office
A portrait of Fleur Cowles by Réné Gruau