HTSI editor Jo Ellison
HTSI editor Jo Ellison © Marili Andre

Few places capture the imagination like Newport, summer home of the most famous American dynasties and a symbol of the country’s much mythologised gilded age. Edith Wharton drew on her experiences as a resident of the Rhode Island enclave to write her devastating chronicles of late-19th-century high society, and a new book reveals that much of the pageantry that Wharton documented still takes place to this day. A Newport Summer offers a glimpse of what goes on beyond those fine-clipped croquet lawns: a season of balls and gala dinners, swimming, sailing and many other ball sports; of picnics and recitals; of odd, eccentric customs and a world watched over by lots of rare-breed dogs. 

Children in the Rhode Island enclave of Newport
Children in the Rhode Island enclave of Newport © Nick Mele

Baya Simons visited the authors in the town a few weeks before the book’s publication. Yet much as she discovered a place of immense privilege and social protocol, she also found a world of ghostly mausoleums, local schisms and cost-of-running upkeeps requiring astronomical bills. Many of its most notable addresses are now maintained by The Preservation Society of Newport, an organisation that has helped wreath the area in a mist of profitable nostalgia and keep arrivistes away. But the community is still battling to preserve its customs in the face of inevitable cultural change. Is that such a bad thing? 

Baya’s story makes for gripping reading, a haunting and romantic elegy for a culture fast being eclipsed by “progress” but one in which some families still summer in the houses – “still sit around the same imitation Louis XIV dinner tables and eat with the same custom Tiffany cutlery, overlooked by the same John Singer Sargent portraits – as their great ancestors once did”.

Louise Giovanelli in her Manchester studio
Louise Giovanelli in her Manchester studio © Saesha Blue Ward

The painter Louise Giovanelli may not be a billionaire heiress, but the Monmouth-raised artist has still built a distinctive oeuvre based on her attention to the wonders of the past. Louis Wise, who met her in Manchester while she was preparing for her new exhibition, describes how she draws on the traditions of the Old Masters to create her technically virtuosic oils. As an art student in Manchester, Giovanelli often felt like an outsider: while her peers investigated concepts, she was studying the canon and trying to learn and recreate technique. It gives an illuminating depth and humour to her canvases, which will be seen next month at White Cube, Bermondsey. As Susan May, White Cube’s global artistic director, tells us: “She is able to deftly reference art historical tropes of Renaissance and 17th-century Dutch painting through a resolutely contemporary lens.”

Loro Piana linen Lucienne shirtdress, £1,955. Aeyde leather Kelly slip-on shoes, £195. Monet 1980s vintage gold-plated earrings, £125, susancaplan.co.uk. Knitted belt, stylist’s own
Loro Piana linen Lucienne shirtdress, £1,955. Aeyde leather Kelly slip-on shoes, £195. Monet 1980s vintage gold-plated earrings, £125, susancaplan.co.uk. Knitted belt, stylist’s own © Andrea Urbez
Kurt Cobain – grunge god with a golden barnett, 1993
Kurt Cobain – grunge god with a golden barnett, 1993 © Shutterstock

Equally deft of reference, and possibly as obsessive, Fiona Golfar has embarked on her own study of the masters to achieve the perfect blonde. Blonde hair has much changed over the decades. Do you want the dirty blonde of Noughties Sienna? Outgrown roots like Dua Lipa? Billie Eilish’s platinum mane? Fiona talks to the experts to find out which blonde is right for now (for what it’s worth, I think no one nailed it as well as Kurt Cobain).

Another conundrum: what to wear in the office now the temperatures are warmer? Aylin Bayhan and Andrea Urbez have captured summer in the city in sleek silhouettes and a cooling palette. I can literally imagine myself wearing all of the looks they featured, as the shoot took place right here in the FT office at Bracken House.

@jellison22

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