20th-Century America’s Greatest Landscape Architect

Penelope Rowlands at The American Scholar:

After Bunny’s arrangement with Paul was established, she went on to flower artistically. Partly schooled by John Fowler, of the London interior design firm of Colefax & Fowler, she cast a spell on all seven of her residences—including ones in Nantucket, Washington, D.C., and New York City. In this phase, too, she championed and collaborated with a long line of gay visual artists. These relationships took the form of “violent crushes”; each of them, for her, was a kind of romance. And one, the gifted French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger—”the black cat,” she called him—is rumored to have been her lover in the early 1950s. He escorted her to Paris, where she attended the haute couture collections for the first time. Once “perilously close to dowdy,” Griswold writes, Bunny was transformed. She became a style icon, seemingly overnight, thanks to her new, romance-tinged friendships with two famed fashion designers, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy. The latter brought Bunny into Paris’s haut monde. She purchased an apartment on the Avenue Foch and basked in the attention of a chic new crowd she called her “French family.” The courtly Givenchy steered Bunny toward one of her most celebrated projects—her impeccable restoration of the 1678 Potager de Roi, Louis XIV’s kitchen garden at Versailles, which had long fallen into desuetude.

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