Tony Duquette

Tony at his Malibu ranch

This month I’m focussing on the remarkable Tony Duquette, who became a personal friend of Annie and myself in the last decade of his life, and helped me to document his entire still-existing oeuvre.

It was a privilege and constant inspiration to spend time with Tony. He was endlessly inquisitive, attracted to anything fresh and new, and a huge inspiration for both of us. It was with his enthusiastic help that I documented all his surviving projects, and these are now uploaded onto the site. 

I especially remember the day I shot the Palmer Ducommun house that he designed in 1965. It began with a crazy last minute phone call from Tony one morning at around 11am. “Are you free today?” he asked. Luckily I was. “It’s a client’s house in Beverly Hills. The surviving owner has just died and the art is to be taken away later this afternoon!”. I arrived and just had sufficient time to catch the critical shots, in which a Klee, a Modigliani, and a Braque each anchored Tony’s decorations. I was then able to relax and shoot everything else. This elegant project, for Palmer Ducommun, was his most successful client design, and these were his most supportive and sophisticated clients, collecting Tony’s maquettes and small scale artworks.    


I shot Dawnridge, his own house in Beverly Hills, several times: in its original state while he was alive, as well as in the later revived version we see today, cleverly reconstituted by his surviving partner Hutton Wilkinson with Duquette artworks after the auction that followed.


I also spent many weekends at Tony’s ranch Sortilegium in Malibu. My favorite times with Tony were at his Malibu ranch. Tony was depressed after the fire that had engulfed his San Francisco studio in the early ’80s, prompting his return to Los Angeles, and he had stopped working. After my first visit to the ranch I quietly began to photograph it, and Tony, seeing the photographs, started to call, asking if I could bear to come and take some new ones, as he was making changes. This began to re-spark his creativity, and soon he was hiring landscaping crews, and interns to help decorate newly built pavilions. We would celebrate with lunch there each Sunday as his mood brightened. He even gave Annie and myself a cottage for ourselves to visit whenever we wished. The ranch became more and more amazing and Tony’s Sunday lunches became increasingly festive. One visitor I remember was Doris Duke, lunching and then discussing new fabrics for her bedroom.


Then, tragically, it was all destroyed by another fire. At least the pictures survive! 

This for me is an evolving tapestry of Los Angeles design and architecture at its best- and I was most grateful recently for a flattering Agency review that appeared in Architectural Digest online.

share this post