May 29, 2017

Who is Rachel L. Mellon?

Cristobal Balenciaga Museum displays her legacy in a new exhibition

Last week we talked about Rachel L Mellon Collection, the exhibition that displays Bunny Mellon’s legacy for the first time at Cristobal Balenciaga Museum. Today we will dive into the life of this extraordinary women, heiress, philanthropist and art collector, part of the 20th century American high society.

Rachel L. Mellon, better known as Bunny, was the granddaughter of chemist Jordan Lambert, creator of Listerine, and the oldest daughter of Gerard Barnes Lambert, president of Gillette. She married Stacy Barcroft Loyd, Jr. in 1932, filling divorce in 1948. That same year she married Paul Mellon, millionaire bank heir and art collector. Toguether they collected work from Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Hopper, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Camille Pissarro. Bunny was also and avid collector of jewelry, furniture, decorative objects and botany book.

A well-know garden designer, she created the gardens of Hubert de Givenchy, Hattie Carnegie and the rosegarden of the White House during Kennedy’s presidency, of whom she was a close friend. Kathy McKeon, Jackie Kennedy’s secretary, told in her memoir that the First Lady went nervous every time Ms. Mellon visited her, going to a lot of effort to make everything perfect. 

Her relationship with Balenciaga was close, being also his most devoted customer. The designer gave Mellon a favourable treatment, allowing her to alter his garments (something Balenciaga never did) and even designing her underwear. He made hundreds of pieces for her, some of them even in triplicate, so that she could have one in each of her homes.

During the exhibition that the museum of Getaria showcases the next few months some of this designs will be displayed, but also personal mail or the sketch book that Bunny herself prepared with the designer’s drawings. Objects that show their tight relationship, based on a shared passion for art and discretion, which both defended in a world of appearances and extravagance.

Bunny Mellon dies in 2014, at 103, and left her large collection to Cristobal Balenciaga Museum, where they are displayed.