Meander the Halls of Europe’s Grandest Homes in Gretchen Scherer’s Paradisiacal Paintings
February 23, 2023
In the maximalist paintings of Gretchen Scherer, you can wander the elaborate halls of the Galleria Borghese outside Rome, or step into a dressing room at Burghley House in Stamford, England—one of the grandest surviving Elizabethan “prodigy” houses—and you’ll have the place all to yourself. The Brooklyn-based artist meticulously renders historic interiors in oil and acrylic, emphasizing frescoed ceilings, baroque niches, and salon-style art collections. Focusing on real places primarily around Europe, Scherer is fascinated by the architectural details and the stories objects reveal about who lived there. “I still invent a lot, and they don’t look exactly like the places they come from. It’s more like the way you might remember a space in your mind or imagine it before you go there,” she says.
Scherer began incorporating architecture into her work around ten years ago when a friend gifted her a book about the genre’s history. She was increasingly drawn to more ornamental styles that preceded the clean lines of 20th-century modernism. “I like the references to nature and all the adornments,” she says. “Those [older] places feel so alien to the spaces we inhabit now—it’s truly like another world.” The spaces are always empty of human visitors, but their presence is felt as if they could walk back into the room at any moment.
“Every piece of artwork, furniture, or even a tiny drawing on a desk that I reference in a painting is from the collection of the place I am painting,” she says. Hanging paintings “salon” style or floor-to-ceiling was a decorating trend that can be traced to the École des Beaux-Arts Salon exhibitions in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries that packed gallery spaces with as many works as could fit. The decoration of Europe’s grand houses soon followed suit. “The salon-style artwork installations are inspired by the way we are overwhelmed with imagery today through social media, but I find it so interesting that in the past, artwork was displayed that way, so we’ve kind of gone back to viewing things that way again,” the artist says.
If you’re in London, Scherer’s solo exhibition Of a Place opens at Taymour Grahne’s Notting Hill space on February 25 and runs through April 5. Find more of her work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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