With an introduction by Lord Snowdon (aristo-scion-photographer), Rizzoli's exuberant publication of Oliver Messel's work throughout the 20th century is exactly what it ought to be: richly hagiographic to the point of technicolor splendor. There are few things more frustrating for fans of bygone decorators than a dearth of color imagery that leave us conjuring colors in our own limited lobes. While the archives of Country Life
magazine are a glorious resource, it strikes one as sheer sloth when a publication leaves a renewed exploration of the past at that. Lord knows many of these rooms have survived well into the reign of color photography; would it were the editors of such compendiums sought out those later images. Thankfully, In the Theatre of Design
has made the effort. And, somehow, where those gelatin prints are all that survive, even these sing with the full tonal range of conviction in which they were originally conceived.
Messel was a contemporary of Cecil Beaton, Stephen Tennant, inter alia and made his name as a set and costume designer for the Royal Ballet and other London stages. In addition to his interiors, many of these sets and their costumes are colorfully exhibited in this book, as is his later work in the eastern Caribbean.