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Hilary Knight, the artist who brought Kay Thompson’s character Eloise to life in 1955 with his iconic illustrations, and over the course of many subsequent Eloise books, lives in a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side that he has called home for the past 52 years. He watched the modern building go up when he lived four blocks away, in a railroad flat, and decided back then that a spanking new apartment would be a nice change. On a recent visit, I was happy to find that Eloise was there too, of course. Knight’s apartment really is her home away from home at the Plaza—especially now that the hotel has been so discombobulated by the unsettling changes to the iconic rooms she knew so well.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

I found his shelves filled to the brim with musical-theater records. Knight illustrated many theater posters, and the framed one here was done in 1982 for the musical Colette, starring Diana Rigg.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Every single corner of his space is adorned, even the intercom phone to the lobby. The gilt Venetian frame belonged to his mother, Katherine Sturgis, who was also an artist. The red-and-gold-ribbon necklace is from India.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The entrance, “Bird Hall,” is filled with Knight’s collection of prints and embroidered Burmese fabrics. “It started with a woman I knew called Mary Jo McConnell who collected birds and silk-screened prints of their feathers,” he recalls. “I bought two of them and then added to the collection. I’ve eliminated everything that is not birds.”

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The living room is a cozy composite of furniture and paintings, including those by both Knight’s mother and his father, Clayton Knight, who was a pilot during World War I and then a famous aviation illustrator for books and magazines. The painting of five pilots over the desk was done by Knight senior for Liberty magazine. “The apartment started out all white, and I painted it black about twenty years ago.” The day I came over, he was in the midst of a major purging, and getting rid of knickknacks that he was reexamining one last time before tossing.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

This painting by Knight’s mother was his inspiration for Eloise. “I grew up seeing this painting. It was embedded in my brain.”

Photo: Wendy Goodman

The crimson Carlyle sofa bed sits beneath another large painting by Knight’s mother. “It was done in the mid-thirties, and she sold a lot of paintings during that time. This was one I really loved, and when she gave it away, I told the lady who got it that if she ever wanted to get rid of it, I’d love to have it. She left it to me in her will.” The painting of a woman’ s head in the right-hand corner is by Marie Laurencin.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Knight is a cat person and recently lost his third cat, who won these ribbons the one time he was entered into a cat show. “He was not a pure breed but a child of two different kinds of Persians,” Knight says. “I was amazed that he tolerated [being shown] at all.” The metal palm tree was assembled and painted by Knight, who found its origins at a long-gone store on Sixth Avenue. “It was one of those curiosity shops that was filled with such bizarre and enormous things that were so grotesque.” Knight stripped the palm tree, left the leaves, then painted the whole thing.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Knight painted this hallway a deep raspberry after a trip to London to interview Isabella Blow at Philip Treacy’s shop. “We all became friends, and they came to the apartment on a trip to New York, and I had just painted this hall, inspired by the interior color of Philip’s shop.” The airbrush portrait of Carmen Miranda by a Brazilian artist was found at an auction. “In 1939, I was taken to see Streets of Paris at the Broadhurst. Carmen was onstage exactly seven minutes and became a major star in America. Some might call it a caricature, but in her glorious way, so was she.”

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Knight and Kay Thompson spied this armchair in the window of an antique shop off Second Avenue in the late fifties, and even though they both liked it, as it happened to be Knight’s birthday Thompson gave it to him—sort of, as she only paid for half. “Every single Eloise book was done in tight collaboration,” Knight says of his work with Thompson. Today, he is working on a new book. “This one is for adults,” he adds. “But it’s an adult book that children will like, too.”

Click here to see how one young illustrator paid tribute to Knight's iconic character in the latest issue of New York.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Craig Murphey (left) Ten Eyck Street and Union Avenue, Williamsburg. Early in the morning of October 18, 2007, Murphey was biking home from escorting his date to her South Williamsburg apartment. According to police reports, Murphey attempted to outrun a gas truck turning left on Ten Eyck Street. His pelvis shattered on impact, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. In his honor, over 40 friends have since received tattoos that read BE BETTER.

Frank C. Simpson Linden Boulevard near 175th Street, St. Albans. Simpson, a janitor returning from the evening shift at a Con Edison facility, was hit by a Dodge Stratus on November 9, 2006.

Jose Mora (left) North Conduit and McKinley Avenues, Cypress Hills. On September 4, 2006, 11-year-old Mora was on his way to the barber for a back-to-school haircut; that week, he was to start the sixth grade at nearby Junior High School 302. He was struck by a Honda while walking his bike across an intersection.

Jonathan Neese South 4th Street and Roebling Street, Williamsburg. On August 12, 2006, Neese, a bike messenger known as “Bronx Jon,” was struck by a livery cab while cycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Sam Khaled Hindy (left) Base of the Manhattan Bridge. On November 16, 2007, Hindy was run over after mistakenly entering a Manhattan Bridge lane reserved for cars.

Habian Rodriguez Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing. On September 1, 2007, Rodriguez collided with a city bus and died 30 minutes later.

Elizabeth Padilla (left) Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place, Park Slope. Commuting to the Brooklyn Bar Association on June 9, 2005, Padilla swerved to avoid the open door of a parked P.C. Richard’s truck. She lost control of her bike and fell underneath the wheels of an ice-cream delivery truck.

Juan Luis Solis East Gun Hill Road and Bouck Avenue, the Bronx. Attempting to pass a double-parked car on June 22, 2007, Solis was struck by a box truck and died of severe head trauma. The truck did not stop.

Jeffrey Moore (left) Chauncey Street and Rockaway Avenue, Bed-Stuy. According to witnesses, on May 29, 2007, Moore was run over (twice) by his girlfriend Jeanine Harrington. She was indicted on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon (her Nissan Pathfinder).

Derek Lake Houston Street and La Guardia Place. On June 26, 2006, Lake reportedly skidded on a steel construction plate and was crushed underneath the wheels of a passing truck.

Elijah Armand Wrancher (left) Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens. On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.

David Smith Sixth Avenue and 36th Street. On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Fall Fashion Features

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.

 

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.
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