In the history of taste and style, where does one era end and another begin? Can you find a sharp dividing line, as sharp as a crease on a map? In tracing the fascinating shift in taste from the fin de siecle Belle Epoque of the late nineteenth /very early 20th century to the stripped down modernism that is still today's rule of thumb, a very interesting woman keeps coming up. No, not Coco Chanel though her role as one of the mothers of modernism is quite clear. The woman in question is a certain Eugenia Errazuriz, a Chilean heiress whose father made a serious fortune in silver mining. There is an amazing chapter on her in art critic John Richardson's "Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (which I read like the bible nearly every night). He describes Errazuriz as "a girl of considerable beauty, Eugenia was brought up in the archaic conventions of Spanish colonialism" .
Eugenia was painted by John Singer Sargent as well as Boldini, Helleu and Orpen. As a kind of patron of the avant-garde, she became one of Picasso's greatest collectors. Her interests though also included the newer strains in literature (Cocteau), music (Stravinsky) and ballet (Diaghlev).