Falling for Isadore

We’ve got eyes for Ronelle Pienaar Jenkin’s debut wallpaper release.

Ronelle Pienaar Jenkin
Ronelle Pienaar Jenkin

Ronelle Pienaar Jenkin is a visual storyteller and artist whose work draws on the depths of the human psyche and our behavioural patterns. Her new release for Lemon – called Isadore – marks the start of a new chapter with the brand. Having worked with Lemon since 2008 in various capacities from employee and graphic designer to contributing artist for the brand’s print collection, Ronelle’s first wallpaper for the brand is a natural fit. 

Isadore is a single design, comprised of various fine ink drawings and scribbles on loose sheets of paper that combine to tell a tragic love story, one that could be the base of an epic novel or film. But one that is entirely fictional. For their new collection – The Artist’s Story – Lemon’s mandate to its collaborators was to create a design around a fictional story of their imagining; for Ronelle the given framework was “a Slim Aarons’ summer-inspired wallpaper.”

Ronelle’s capacity as an artist to dive deep and build rich narrative is clear to see. She portrays beguiling fragments of 1920’s Italy with a loose and nostalgic hand that documents not only love, but also sadness, loss, rejection, death and forgiveness. 

Her fleeting love saga begins in Rapallo, Italy in 1927, where a brief affair between 17-year-old, French born Isadore and Captain De Bortoli takes place. Unable to deal with the torment of his love for another man – a married man – , the young Isadore walks into the sea to meet with his death. Bortoli never recovered from this loss and finally, after years of agonising mourning, followed suit, leaving behind a wife (but no children) who had known about her husband’s secret. 

To honour him and the love she was unable to give him, she planted two burgundy bougainvilleas along the stairs leading up to Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro, in memory of her Captain De Bortoli… and his Isadore. 

“The story was likely born subconsciously over the years from a combination of loves and interests,” she explains, listing folklore, history, literature and European film as well as her love of Italy, whose harbours must have witnessed a multitude of stories that remain untold. “I wonder how many hearts were broken and mended on the pier,” she says. She also cites “the fine line between fact and fiction and how something that may once have been a true event can take on a life entirely of its own through years of retelling and embroidery,” as one of the streams of thought that inform the story. 

“I felt it important that the individual designs, once pulled together, gave a sense of both something rambling (bougainvillea-like) as well as unravelling – both states symbolic of the story itself. Also, what is an Italian love story without a glass of wine, some lemons and a double tragedy (the skull)?”

When asked whether we can expect more from Isadore and Captain de Bertoli and The Artist’s Story, Ronelle remains surreptitiously quiet…

Isadore is available exclusively through Lemon in 9 colourways, printed on paper backed or vinyl. In her mind’s eye, Ronelle envisions the wallpaper in a classically designed, but slightly dishevelled interior in a beautiful heritage building… something with an arch. But wherever you use it, this wallpaper will bring rich narrative and nostalgia to the scene.


Words and Production: Mila Crewe-Brown
Images: Lemon