Friday, December 27, 2013

Fine Taste And History

From the second floor looking down, the main entrance into the Chateau Laurier can be seen here.

The lobby from the ground level. The entire place, now over a century old, bears the signature of the man who had it in mind, a luxurious and commanding place. Too bad he didn't get to live to see it opened. The poor chap died on the Titanic, and many of the furnishings he meant for the hotel went down with the ship. His ghost is said to haunt the hotel.

Coming back into the lounge on the east side, we see the Christmas trees and the dark paneling. It's an appealing space to me, personally, occupying the area between the lobby and another of the hotel's restaurants.

You notice the pictures on the walls in this lounge, well illuminated? All portraits from one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century, who lived here in Ottawa and had his studios inside the Chateau for many, many years.

Yousuf Karsh was one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of the century, photographing both the well known and the ordinary citizenry in his signature style. He came from a family of immigrants from Armenia that settled here; his brother Malak Karsh was just as accomplished a photographer, but chose landscapes of Canada as his subject. The two brothers had their work together in the oddest of places: Canadians who still remember the dollar bill might be surprised to know the picture of the Queen is taken from one of Yousuf's portraits of her, while the river view of Parliament Hill on the other side of the bill was based on a photograph by Malak.

This is one of the portraits in the lounge, the Karsh portrait of Einstein.

While this of course is Winston Churchill. The story goes that when Karsh took the photo during the Second World War, he removed Churchill's cigar from his hand... hence the annoyed look. It's arguably the definitive photo by Karsh and of Churchill.


  1. It's very grand yet the wood makes it cosy somehow;

  2. So luxurious! I'd love to stay there someday. I am a fan of Yousuf Karsh. I had no idea he had a brother who was a photographer too. You learn something new every day!

  3. I'm personally most drawn to one of those stuffed sofas. Makes me feel like sitting down and reading something, but maybe with a glass of wine in my hand and a carafe resting on one of those tables.

  4. I have never been inside the Chateau Laurier so had no idea there were portraits by Yousuf Karsh there! I very much appreciate his talent.

  5. What a beautiful place to show photos. I was lucky enough to see Karsh exhibitions in both Paris and Washington DC in the last month. He made so many iconic portraits. It was stunning to see so many of them together.

  6. An interesting bit of history about the Karsh's. I'm so impressed with this hotel and sad to know the man who built it died on the Titanic.

  7. Hey, partner--I can't answer any of your email messages. Outhouse keeps bouncing them back with a Delivery Failure notice, I can't find your Gmail addy, and I know you almost never look at Yahoo. Thought you might see this message here.

  8. it is beautiful...and such a sad story...although i am intrigued by the ghost story!

  9. I've enjoyed this tour of the Chateau Laurier, William.

  10. So great so see the interiors. And the portraits and your information about the Karsh brothers are fascinating. Thanks.

  11. Such luxury! I loved the furniture below Einstein's picture. Thanks for posting.

  12. As others have posted, I too am familiar with Yousef Karsh, but not so much his brother. Too bad the hotel designer met such a tragic fate, but his legacy survives in this building. Looks comfy especially at the holidays.

  13. Don't usually think of Armenians in Canada! Nice pix!

  14. I recently saw a Karsh exhibition in Paris!

  15. @Ciel: it's quite a contrast between grandeur and coziness.

    @Tamera: Malak's books are out there as well. I've got a number of them myself. An amazing talent for his profession.

    @Revrunner: those sofas are very comfortable!

    @EG: my former landlady actually worked for the Karsh brothers at their studio for a time.

    @Stuart: the Karsh studio in the Chateau is now available as a suite for the night.

    @Sharon: last year's centennial for the opening, I found myself wondering if his ghost was wandering the halls...

    @Norma: I hope outlook gets that sorted...

    @Tanya: I always like a good ghost story.

  16. @RedPat: thank you!

    @Merry: you're welcome!

    @Inna: thank you!

    @Mari: thanks for dropping in!

    @Beatrice: one of these days I'll have to have high tea there.

    @Cheryl: thank you!

    @Vreni: he's everywhere!