Philip Standish Read, American (1927 - 2000)

Philip Standish Read

Birth 22 Jun 1927 Dobbs Ferry, Greenburgh, Westchester, New York

Philip Standish Read was active in the Palm Beach social life
From a 1976 New York Times account titled, MASKS HID PALM BEACH FACES, BUT GEMS WERE A GIVEAWAY:

"It's a merry-go-round and I've had to stop going to a lot of things or I'd never get any work done," said Philip Read, a painter and muralists.

Mr. Read was one of the comparatively few men who did something more than wear a black eyeshade. He attached large duck wings to a pair of glasses, and looked as though he was about to take off any minute. The effect didn't surprise anyone. Mr. Read lives in a converted church on Long Island, a converted garage here, and drives an ambulance painted red.

In addition to the various pictures and documents attached, two large murals by Edward Laning and Philip Read may be found in the main restaurant of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.

Residence Between Abt 1964 and 1990 Brookhaven, Brookhaven, Suffolk, NY
at old Methodist Church, converted to a studio and residence

He also had residences in Palm Beach, FL; Highlands, NC; Thegra, France; and New York City. The church residence is Brookhaven/South Haven historic structure ID Br29C. He had a residence in Brookhaven until at least 1990, as he still had a post office box at the Brookhaven post office then.

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The logo Philip Standish Read designed for himself sums up his philosophy of life better than anyone else could. The phrase "love, laugh & live" flows from the profile of a classical head.

Mr. Read - a mural painter who decorated several homes in Palm Beach, and an artist of 1,000 styles - died Thursday of lymphoma at Hospice of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach. He was 73. Mr. Read's 4,000- square-foot home and studio in a former bottled water warehouse in West Palm Beach was packed from floor to ceiling with his paintings, collages and assemblages.

It was just one of many distinctive habitats he transformed.

His homes were usually recycled buildings. He converted an 1848 church on Long Island, N.Y., and barns in North Carolina and southwest France into character-filled studios and living quarters.

His cars were frequently unusual, too. At different points in his life he drove an ambulance and a Cadillac hearse, in part because they had plenty of room for carrying paintings.

Mr. Read had a gift for creating environments and making people feel welcome in them.

West Palm Beach caterer Ann Z. King recalled visiting Mr. Read's converted barn overlooking the mountains in Highlands, N.C. "Everyone would come," she said. "We would all cook, sing and dance together. We'd light fires and roast chestnuts and go for long walks."

King fondly remembered their long talks about art and philosophy.

Mr. Read's business was transforming everyday spaces into anywhere his clients wanted to be. He made a lucrative living painting murals.

His murals, executed with great expertise in the Venetian trompe l'oeil style, adorned the home of many Palm Beachers, including Prince Michel de Bourbon, Michael Paul, Robert and Arlette Gordon, Thomas Nicholson and Ann Light.

Other clients included Allen Funt, Bobo Rockefeller and Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper. His art was shown at Tiffany's and Cartier's on Fifth Avenue in New York and at galleries in New York, Palm Beach and elsewhere.

He got his start in Palm Beach painting a botanical motif on the door of Martha Phillips' women's clothing boutique on Worth Avenue. Others who commissioned his murals include retailers Lord & Taylor and Bergdorf Goodman, the Boca Raton Resort and Club, the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Schrafft's sweet shop in New York.

Mayflower roots

Mr. Read, who traced his lineage back to pilgrim forefather Miles Standish, was born on June 22, 1927, in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

He studied art at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. But Paris shaped his identity as an artist.

In the French capital, he studied at the Academie Julian, a small Bohemian art school, and socialized with collector Peggy Guggenheim. Among his friends were surrealist artist Max Ernst, and writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

Surrealism had a profound influence on the collages, assemblages and smaller paintings Mr. Read made for his own pleasure.

Mr. Read continued his art studies in Rome and at the Art Students League in New York.

He began his career as a freelance package designer for the New York industrial design firms Raymond Lowey and Russell Wright Associates. In time, he graduated to painting murals for department stores, banks and restaurants.

The muralists' craft required Mr. Read to master a variety of styles - impressionism, modernism, classicism, Orientalism - whatever the market demanded.

The eclecticism spilled over into his private work. His West Palm Beach studio looked as though it were filled with the work of a team of artists rather than one man.

Mr. Read's art may be his most material legacy, but his friends remember the man as much as the artist.

Mr. Read "was always a bright light," said Nicholson, a retired investor and part-time Palm Beach resident. "He was full of innovative ideas."

Artistic patio

One of his most inspired notions was to convert the stone pig house at his farm in Thegra, France, into a studio with a cocktail patio outside.

"It was absolutely charming," said Michelle Dick, a Palm Beach friend who owns a home nearby Mr. Read's Thegra farm.

Mr. Read was a generous friend, an intrepid and convivial travel companion, and an ideal guide, his friends said.

He helped Dick find her home in France, wined and dined her and showed her around the countryside.

Robert Lagna, a West Palm Beach interior designer, traveled with Mr. Read throughout Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary and France.

"He was extremely flexible," Lagna said. "He went with the flow. If there was no room at the inn, he went someplace else. We never had reservations. We just went."

Time and again, his friends could not keep from chuckling as they recalled Mr. Read, even though they mourned his death. "He was a real person," said Silvana Safrin, wife of Robert Safrin, The Society of the Four Arts' recently retired executive director.

JAN SJOSTROM, Daily News Arts Editor
Published: November 3, 2000

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