Eugenia Errazuriz (1860 to 1951 )a woman of taste and social prestige

Madame Errazuriz or The Lady in Black, John Singer Sargent, c. 1882–188
Madame Errazuriz or The Lady in Black, John Singer Sargent, c. 1882–188

Eugenia Errazuriz was a Chilean society hostess. She was born in Huici Chile and was active in Paris and London.

In 1880, she married the wealthy landscape painter José Thomas Errazuriz and settled in Paris.  

Minimalist

She furnished her homes sparsely, shunning suites of furniture, potted palms, and other clutter, commanding: ‘Throw out and keep throwing out. Elegance means elimination.’ She spent freely but lived simply, blending patrician and peasant tastes. She preferred attractive chairs, flowers, a desk, plain inexpensive fabrics simply hung, and a bare scrubbed floor in her main room. Her affection for what she called ‘Inca pink’ was adopted by Elsa Schiaparelli as ‘shocking pink.’ Her friends included Madrazos, Bibescos, and Helleus.  

Around 1900 the Errazurizes moved to Cheyne Walk, London, where Eugenia’s associates included the unconventional photographer Baron de Meyer, her nephew Tony de Gandarillas and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Friendship with Picasso

After her husband died in 1913, she returned to Paris. She was a friend of Igor Stravinsky. Through Jean Cocteau, she met Pablo Picasso, who drew her often. Between 1915 and 1925 she maintained a close loving friendship with Picasso. Besides a passion for the artist she also had a passion for his recent work. Picasso enjoyed her company, enjoyed talking Spanish with her, but given the age gap, her piety and his other involvements, there was no question of an affair. 

When Picasso married Olga Koklova in 1918, they honeymooned at Errazuriz’s Biarritz villa, ‘La Mimoseraie.’ Before 1914 the estate had white walls and terracotta tiles, although she used 18th-century French silver flatware.

Eugenia transformed Picasso from a scruffy Montparnasse bohemian into the elegant lion of what Max Jacob called his ‘duchess period.’

Picasso biographer, John Richardson

A woman of taste and social prestige

She was fond of jasmine, lavender, rose geranium, lemon verbena and other aromatic plants in bare flower pots. Her Paris home was in the 18th-century townhouse of Étienne de Beaumont; using primarily white and indigo. She was fastidious about her slipcovers made by Leitz. She would wear a simple black shift designed by Coco Chanel. She would entertain guests including Jean Hugo, Emilio Terry, Raymond Radiguet, and Georges Braque.

Eugenia Errazuriz apartment, Paris, 1920s
Eugenia Errazuriz, Étienne de Beaumont apartment, Paris, 1920s

She was very influential on the tastes of Cocteau and Jean-Michael Frank. Le Corbusier designed the 1930 Errazuriz House (unrealised) for Vino del Mar (Chile) with a pitched roof and in timber and stone. It was his first essay incorporating primitive technical elements. In 1950 she sold up and returned to Chile. The influence of her aesthetic, with its carefully contrived Mediterranean simplicity as a setting for a few well-chosen pieces, was profound.

Sources

Angels in the wings. (1996, October 23). The Guardian. https://www.newspapers.com/image/260405896/?terms=Eugenia%20Errazuriz&match=1.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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