Visitors can step into the past and see images of Winterthur when it was the private home of Henry Francis du Pont and his family in “Double Vision: 1930s Design at Winterthur,” on view March 8⁍ay 18. This exhibition of stereographs, or three-dimensional images, taken in 1935 and 1938, reveals du Pont’s love of color and design.
Du Pont used his collection of American architectural elements and antiques to create interiors meant to evoke the past, but characteristically 1930s in style. Considered to be among the most beautiful in America, these interiors inspired influential designers, collectors and other tastemakers.
Stereographs were popular from the early days of photography until the mid-1940s. The photos are taken with a special double-lensed camera. When seen through a stereo viewer, the two views merge and appear three-dimensional. The stereo photographs of Winterthur were shot in black and white, and then each card was hand painted in color by an artist. Du Pont’s commission of more than 300 stereo cards is one of the largest known of a private home.
“Winterthur is not only a museum of American decorative arts, it is a museum of du Pont’s design,” said Maggie Lidz, Winterthur’s estate historian. “These stereo views were taken during du Pont’s most active period of collecting. This was the first version of the rooms visitors now tour.”
In the 1930s Winterthur functioned on many levels: as a family home, as a place to entertain guests and as a showcase for du Pont’s extensive collection of American decorative art and architecture. Some rooms were used exclusively as display spaces, while others functioned as both display and used space, such as guest bedrooms or sitting rooms.
Each room featured carefully planned placement of furniture and other objects as well as harmonious colors of the architectural paneling and antique fabrics. Du Pont changed the rugs, curtains and upholstery covers seasonally to reflect the changing colors of the garden.
The second annual Chic It Up! Winterthur Design Conference on May 16‱7 will focus on American design in the 1930s. Visitors can also take a special tour in the house to see what survives from the 1930s at Winterthur today.
Winterthur is on Route 52. For information, 800-448-3883, 302-888-4600, or www.winterthur.org .