Nancy Lancaster: Her Life, Her World, Her Art

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Product: Nancy Lancaster: Her Life, Her World, Her Art
Retailer: Amazon
Designer: Robert Becker

Nancy Lancaster: Her Life, Her World, Her Art Hardcover
Robert Becker (Author)

Considered one of the grande dames of interior design, Lancaster created, through her firm Colefax and Fowler, the “English country look” of faded elegance accented with flowers and chintz. Born a Langhorne of Virginia (her aunts included Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament, and Irene Gibson, whose illustrator husband immortalized her as the Gibson Girl), Nancy married Ronald Tree and lived her adult life in English society, where she earned her reputation from the decoration of her own homes. Journalist Becker allows Lancaster to tell her own story, focusing on her homes and gardens while giving an entertaining description of wealthy Anglo-American life during the 20th century.

Lancaster, who died in 1994 at the age of 93, was a decorator and designer who specialized in stately homes and their gardens. Her elegant biography?which has all the earmarks of an officially sanctioned work?is, like its subject, something of an elaborately maintained anachronism, in which meticulously described rooms are far more important than the people who inhabit them. Lancaster was born in Virginia. One of her aunts became Lady Astor, another the wife of artist Charles Dana Gibson (and a prototype of the Gibson Girl). After a brief marriage to a Marshall Field heir, she married Ronald Tree, a future Conservative member of Parliament, settled in England and turned her hand to interior decoration. After two sons and Nancy’s nervous breakdown, the Tree marriage ended in divorce and she married a Colonel Lancaster, who is described as “a cad.” Becker, a contributor to Interview and House Beautiful, built his uncritical bio around his subject’s own chatty mini-autobiography, which runs in boldface through the book in much the same way that the words of Jesus appear in red type in some editions of the New Testament.