Queer Places:
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, Stati Uniti
The Art Students League of New York, 215 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019, Stati Uniti
Villa Vizcaya, 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, Stati Uniti
Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables, 180 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134, Stati Uniti
Mount Hebron Cemetery, 851 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ 07042, Stati Uniti

Image result for Paul Chalfin'''Paul Chalfin'''[1] was an artist and interior designer with an interest in architecture, most known for his work on Villa Vizcaya. Chalfin lived openly with his male lover in Miami, where he expressed himself as a gender-transgressive pansy. Like James Deering, Chalfin was a “well known bachelor.” One of Deering’s employees referred to Chalfin as a “funny fellow,” while Vizcaya’s Colombian-born landscape architect Diego Suarez remembered him as “a man with very peculiar tastes.” He was “absolutely the worst pansy I have ever known,” Suarez claimed. Chalfin was “remembered as having been unusually effeminate.” He always kept his male partner and “secretary,” Louis Koons, close. “He used to kiss him goodbye—he was always kissing his hand,” Suarez recalled. To his mind, Koons “simply hung around Chalfin,” with no purpose other than to keep his lover company.

Paul Chalfin was born on November 2, 1874 in New York to Colonel Samuel Fletcher Chalfin and Jane Voorhees (Connolly) Chalfin.

In 1894 Chalfin began studying at Harvard University and left after two years to become an artist, enrolling at the Art Students League of New York to study painting. After graduation in 1898 he was accepted at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France where he studied painting with Jean-Léon Gérôme, a historic genre painter who had previously taught Thomas Eakins. Although Chalfin possessed excellent taste in building design, utilized his extensive observation of European buildings and monuments, and liked being mistaken for an architect, he never studied or obtained a degree in architecture, nor was he an architect.

While studying in Paris, Chalfin also traveled to Italy in 1899. After two years of studies in Paris and travels in Italy, twenty six year old Chalfin returned to the United States. While he attended the annual dinner for the Art Student’s League in May 1901, accompanied by his previous instructor Kenyon Cox, he waited almost a year, February 1902, to officially return to the league. However, his return was short-lived, including 3 months of schooling and one additional month following enrollment again in October. In 1902 he received honorable mention for the Lazarus Scholarship for his mural painting on the subject of spring. Despite this failure, Chalfin chose to compete for the scholarship on more than one occasion in the years that followed. Administered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and associated with the American Academy in Rome since 1887, the scholarship was a prestigious award given biennially. Also during this time, Chalfin notified the Harvard alumni office, claiming his position as an instructor in the Architecture Department of Columbia University. Chalfin returned to Massachusetts in 1903 to succeed Walter T. Cabot as Curator of Chinese and Japanese art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While Curator he published a 27-paged catalogue entitled 'Japanese wood carvings, architectural and decorative fragments from temples and palaces.'

external image I_Villa%20Vizcaya,%20Miami,%20FL,%20USA%20(2).JPG
Villa Vizcaya, 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, Stati Uniti

external image I_Villa%20Vizcaya,%20Miami,%20FL,%20USA_2%20(2).JPG
Villa Vizcaya, 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, Stati Uniti


The Colonnade Hotel, Coral Gables

In 1905, the Lazarus Scholarship committee granted him a three-year scholarship to study mural painting in Italy, and in 1906 Chalfin moved to Rome where he lived at the American Academy. Over the next three years, Chalfin split his time between Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris, studying and copying the works of Piranesi, Fra Angelico and Tiepolo, as well as copying a lunette by Jacopo Pontormo at a villa in Florence, most likely ''Vertumnus and Pomona''. His final month abroad was in Paris, completing his scholarship by painting a large decorative panel entitle ''The Poet'' in 1908. In 1909, in honor of his work, the American Academy in Rome named Chalfin a fellow. Upon his return, Chalfin once again notified the Harvard alumni office, this time referencing a career as both an art critic, for which he failed to mention the name of the magazine or newspaper, and an instructor at Columbia in design. According to the 1910 United States Federal Census report, Chalfin moved to New Bedford Ward 5 in Bristol, Massachusetts to live with his mother, his sister Isabella, and Mary Marshall.

In 1910 Chalfin began his most notable and successful project collaborating with F. Burrall Hoffman on the landmark '''Villa Vizcaya''' for the industrial magnate James Deering. Deering was an heir of the International Harvester fortune and had acquired substantial land on Biscayne Bay in present-day Miami, Florida. Chalfin was responsible for the choice of the general overall design of the main house and garden, and for decorating and furnishing the interior of the main house himself, while F. Burrall Hoffman was responsible for implementing Chalfin's stylistic choices by integrating them into and adapting them to his own designs of the house itself.[2] Chalfin would later claim mean-spiritedly and falsely in an article in the New York Times,[3] that he designed everything at Vizcaya, saying that "Hoffman did the plumbing, I did the house." Under threat of a lawsuit by Hoffman, the New York Times later published a retraction of that article, acknowledging that Hoffman was the architect who designed the house so as to realize Chalfin's overall stylistic choices and adding that it was actually Diego Suarez who designed the Gardens along Chalfin's ideas for it. In fact Chalfin, who had been chosen by Deering as a consultant on external style and interior decoration, was the one who had hired Hoffman in the first place, precisely because Chalfin knew that he himself was not an architect, and one would be required this new building project.

Deering chose white artist, interior decorator, architect, and New York native Paul Chalfin “to plan, buy and arrange his superb home at Miami.” Chalfin’s work on the estate, one contemporary observed, was a “monument to the perfection of American taste and the period of American Renaissance.” Chalfin and Deering traveled the world together “buying all of the things that went into the house.” Deering never bought “anything until he had Paul’s advice.” Chalfin even designed a secret passage from Deering’s bedroom to an adjoining bedroom to ensure his privacy, a known feature Deering was often teased about.

The villa was completed for residency in 1916, and the formal gardens and acres of landscaped grounds completed in 1923. The renowned interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, whom Chalfin was an associate with, introduced Chalfin to Deering. From 1910 to 1923, Deering and Chalfin travelled around Europe; collecting ideas, art, and antiquities for Vizcaya; and seeing to its creation. In Florida they were a passionate team for the best design and construction solutions for the villa, village, and gardens. It was designed in a synthesis of Venetian Gothic and Italian Renaissance influences in a Mediterranean Revival Style architecture mode.

In Miami Chalfin and Koons partook in and mimicked the gay and gaudy lifestyle popularized in cities like New York and Chicago, flaunting their open secret to those in the city. While Talbot S. Hanan of the shoe manufacturing fortune was probably best known for hosting extravagant balls in Narragansett Pier, his family also built a winter home in Miami known as the “Hanania.” Much like the “Hawaiian Ball” he threw in Rhode Island, Hanan presented the “A Night in Japan” ball in Miami on March 8, 1917. This event was representative of the remnants of wealth and excess of the Gilded Age and reveals the upper-class fetishization of the exoticized “Other.” For his Miami ball, Hanan promised “beautiful silver cups” awarded for the “best costumes.” Many of the area’s social elite attended and contributed to the event. Deering, for example, donated $250. Feminist and Miami Herald columnist Marjory Stoneman Douglas described the ball’s lavish nature and its attendees’ costumes. Not all the costumes recalled Japan; several attendees—including Chalfin and Koons—dressed in Chinese-inspired clothes. “Among the Chinese costumes, those of Mr. Paul Chalfin and Mr. Louis Koons attracted much attention,” reported Douglas. In addition to suggesting they attended the ball as a couple, Douglas meticulously detailed their extravagant and ornate outfits: “The former wore an embroidered coat in soft blue and rose, with rose pongee trousers, carefully folded in at the ankle, while the latter was resplendent in a coat of dull blue and gold embroidery, cream trousers and gold embroidered scarf.” Her description stands out, as it more closely resembled costumes worn by women at the dance, even as the white elite’s obsession with the “exotic” may have diminished, or made more permissible, any feminine associations. The area’s elite tacitly tolerated and accepted the male lovers and their open secret. This also reflects Deering’s attitude toward Chalfin. His relationship with his employee and confidant seems to have never been compromised by Chalfin’s homosexuality or effeminate behavior. Similarly, the crowd welcomed the coupled Chalfin and Koons to the ball and celebrated their dress. The ball judges even awarded Koons “the gentleman’s cup.”

When Paul Chalfin and Louis Koons went on their “pleasure trip to Cuba,” they “bought . . . rare articles of furnishing for the Deering mansion.” When Chalfin or James Deering required relics from the old world to embellish Vizcaya, “roof tiles of mellow Venetian red” were “imported from old Cuba.”

Despite high praise for his work on Villa Vizcaya, Chalfin never worked on another mansion. Soon after the death of James Deering, he collaborated with Phineas Paist and Walter De Garmo on the Colonnade Building (1926).[4] Little is documented of Chalfin's later career; he produced several drawings for unrealized houses on Miami Beach[5] and decorated the apartment of actress Lillian Gish, friend of James Deering. Chalfin returned to Vizcaya in 1934 to consult on rehabilitation of the property after a major hurricane. In 1940 Chalfin retired due to failing eyesight. Paul Chalfin died on February 15, 1959 at the age of 84 in a nursing home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. In 1956, Chalfin was made an honorary member of the American Institute of Decorators and was cited by the American Institute of Architects for his work on the interior of Villa Vizcaya[6]


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