Tony Award-winning American artist and designer Anthony “Tony” Michael Duquette (due-kett) (June 11, 1914 – September 9, 1999). (Photo: tonyduquette.com)
Duquette was born in Los Angeles, California. He was raised in a musically talented artistic family, which included an uncle who was partners with London designer William Morris.
He studied theatre at Yale and art on a scholarship at Chouinard Art Institute in Downtown Los Angeles, CA. After graduating from Chouinard, he began working at Bullocks Department Store in promotional display and advertisment. His unique, fanciful spaces earned him apparent favor with long time client Elizabeth Arden for whom Duquette designed both homes and business salons. He also began to free-lance for the time’s top designers. His father drove Duquette, who worked as a store designer after graduation, to a meeting with Hollywood great William Haines. (LINK TO HAINES BLOG) Other designers in his name filled portfolio included James Pendleton, Dorris Duke and Adrian.
Duquette was discovered in 1941 by designer and socialite Elsie de Wolfe at a dinner hosted by the well-known art dealer cum interior designer James Pendleton for which Duquette had designed the dinner table’s centerpiece.
It was their first conversation at this now infamous dinner, that thelong-timee patronage of de Wolfe and her husband Sir Charles Mendl began between Duquette and Elsie de Wolfe, during which de Wolfe commissioned a secretary. It was through this patronage and her lengthy and a-list of social contacts by which Tony Duquette became firmly established among the top designers in Los Angeles.
His art was famed worldwide.
In 1951 Duquette became the first American to have a one-man show at the Pavilion de Marsan of the Louvre Museum, Paris. During this year in Europe, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor commissioned Duquette. He was then honored with a one-man exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art upon his triumphant return to Los Angeles.
Duquette’s talent would seemingly not be contained to canvas and stone. He’s noted for his interior designs for the likes of Doris Duke, Norton Simon, and J. Paul Getty. There were exotic locals like a castle in Ireland for multi-project client Elizabeth Arden and a penthouse in the Hawaiian Islands.
His residential designs style mirrored his art. His designs consistently displayed an eclectic, quixotic combination of material and styles in both his professional projects as well as his own home designs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pictured here is his 60’s Dining Room at the Ducommun Bel Air Residence. Here we can see his famous Biomorphic Gold Leaf Console and Mirror on the back wall, in front of the window he placed one of his own designs a 3D costume pieces for the SF Ballet titled “Jest of Cards”, and a custom Duquette tiger stripe shag carpeting under a glass top bronze table surrounded by suede upholstered gilt metal chairs. (Photo: tonyduquette.com)
He also stayed true to his commercial beginnings designing interiors for commercial and public spaces like the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Sheraton Universal Hotel, Arden Salons and sculptures and tapestries for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago as well as the Los Angeles Music Center including the Founders Room and Proscenium’s Curtain at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Musical Passions Designed and Displayed
An avid lover of the Arts his passions clearly come to life in multi-dimensional splendor in each of his designs for film and theatre include Yolanda and the Thief, Lovely to Look At, Kismet, and Ziegfeld Follies for MGM, as well as Jest of Cards, Beauty and the Beast, and Danses Concertantes for the San Francisco Ballet. Operas for which Duquette designed both costumes and settings include Der Rosenkavelier, The Magic Flute, and Salome. His designs for the original Broadway production of Camelot won Duquette the Tony Award for Best Costume Design (pictured left - Photo: tonyduquette.com). His family and friends were treated on several occasions to private ballet performances in Los Angeles. Perhaps his personal piece de resistance was Jest of Cards, a ballet where the costumes became the set. Duquette raised the funds for the SF Ballet to put on the production. The Ballet premiered on April 17, 1962 at the Geary Theatre.
The later years of Duquette’s life read like an art’s philanthropists “how-to” manual. 1979 he and his wife Elizabeth founded “The Foundation for the Living Arts”, and he continued to exhibit the world over. Elizabeth passed in 1995. Duquette was admitted to the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 1997 and passed away on September 9, 1999 of a heart attack at UCLA Medical Center.
If you love and support the musical arts like Tony Duquette did, please donate to my design at the Pasadena Showcase today!