Posts Tagged ‘De Stijl’

Exhibitions | Honnegger’s Concrete Rugs

Friday, August 14th, 2015

H 12, 2005
Hand tufted rug

Gottfried Honegger
– Teppich Konkret / Concrete Rugs
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
26 August > 1 November 2015

H 27, 2005
Hand tufted rug

Not to be confused with the subject of our previous post, Concrete Buildings – What’s Not to Love Now? – the rugs in this exhibition are certainly not made of concrete. To be clear, the term ‘concrete art’ was first introduced in 1930 by De Stijl founder, Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883 > 1931) in his Manifesto of Concrete Art, published in the first and only issue of the magazine Art Concret. While the members of De Stijl envisioned the ideal fusion of form and function, in his manifesto van Doesburg maintained that there was nothing more concrete or more real than a line, a colour, or a plane (a flat area of colour). Gottfried Honegger, aged 97, whose rugs embody the spirit of concrete art as well as those of De Stijl, is a leading artist with a major retrospective on show at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until 14 September, 2015.

It’s fitting that the Honigger’s rug exhibition is being shown in Switzerland, not just because Honegger is Swiss, but because another Swiss artist, former Bauhaus student Max Bill (1908 > 1994), who took up the concrete art (aka concrete-constructivist art) baton, organised the first international exhibition of work by the movement in Basle, in 1944. Bill stated that the aim of concrete art is to create ‘in a visible and tangible form, things which did not previously exist – to represent abstract thoughts in a sensuous and tangible form’. Some years later, Gottfried Honegger would go one stage further, declaring that the primary purpose of art is to change the world. There is a museum of concrete art in Zürich. Somewhat less well known than the great Bill, Gottfried Honneger (aka Gottfried Honegger-Lavater) is nevertheless a prominent figure in the story of concrete art.

H13, 2005
Hand tufted rug

During a sojourn in Paris in 1939, he produced a few landscape paintings and some portraits in a cubist style, but the outbreak of war meant he returned to Switzerland, where he created little more that might be called fine art until 1949. He studied window-dressing at the Zurich Kunstgewerbeschule and afterwards became a very successful graphic designer. From 1955 to 1958 he was art director of the Basel-based pharmaceuticals company Geigy, which, as well as being involved in pioneering drugs research, had an in-house packaging and publicity design department. The cutting edge work produced at Geigy was crucial to the development of the globally-influential Swiss Style in graphic design.

On a trip to New York in 1958, where he met several abstract expressionist painters, Honegger decided to become an artist himself, and stayed there. His first exhibition, in which he showed monochrome paintings on surfaces covered by a repetitive pattern of geometric elements in thin card, was held in the city. Relocating to Paris in 1961, he would concentrate on painting, exploring circles and squares, and by 1968 had begun to produce sculpture. One of the first artists based in France to be inspired by the possibilities opened up by computers, in 1970, he produced computer-aided low relief works. His multi-panel paintings with cut-out sections that involve the wall behind in the work, were executed in the 1980s.

H18, 2005 (detail)
Hand tufted rug

In 1990, Honegger and his wife Sybil Albers were instrumental in setting up l’Espace de l’Art Concret, at Mouans-Sartoux, close to Mougins, in the South of France, a museum dedicated to concrete art. Ten years later they donated their personal collections of over 550 works by avant-garde and abstract artists to the French state, with the proviso that they are kept on permanent exhibition in a purpose-built building, designed by Swiss architects, Gigon and Guyer.

The 1990s saw his relief works, freed from the flat plane, transform into sculptures in painted metal, and in 1999, Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) a retrospective of Honegger’s painting and sculpture work was shown at Jean Nouvel-designed Fondation Cartier in Paris – itself a fusion of design and form in steel and glass. Honegger’s more recent work, the Pliages is in the form of white cylinders with foldout cut-away sections.

The rugs on display in the forthcoming Gottfried Honegger – Teppich Konkret exhibition in the Schaudepot at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are a natural extension of the artist’s relief pieces, simply executed in another medium.

All images courtesy Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
All rugs by Gottfried Honegger © Tisca Tiara

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Design | Marcel Breuer: Defying Gravity at Villa Noailles

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Marcel Breuer… Sun & Shadow Exhibition
Design Parade 8 Festival
Villa Noailles & Tour des Templiers
Hyères, France
Festival: 5th – 7th July, 2013

Exhibitions at the Villa: 5th July – 29th September, 2013
Exhibitions at Tour des Templers: 6th July – 29th September, 2013

Book: Marcel Breuer à la villa Noailles
Directed by Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare
Available July, 2013

Conference: Villa Noailles gardens, 7th July, 2013

Each summer, as part of the international Design Parade festival and the permanent exhibition Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, A life as Patrons, the Villa Noailles, focuses its attention on a theme or an artist connected with the famous couple and their modernist villa, designed and built for them by Robert Mallet Stevens between 1923 and 1927. This year, in Design Parade 8 it’s key modernist figure Marcel Breuer’s turn.

Although well known amongst designers and architects, the organisers argue that Breuer (1902-1981) remains strangely unheard of amongst the general public, and that his architecture in particular is overlooked. Their aim, via the forthcoming events at Hyéres, near Toulon on France’s Mediterranean coast, is to raise more general awareness of Breuer’s achievements.

‘Breuer defied gravity, searching for a balance between the stable and the vertiginous, between the functional and the symbolic, between emptiness and fullness, write curators Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare, citing the striking slate tile covered ecumenical chapel in the ski resort of Flaine (1974) and its nearby hotel Le Flaine (1969), which partly overhangs a cliff, as emblematic of the boldness that was a feature of Marcel Breuer’s career.

Only 18 years old when he arrived at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Breuer’s phenomenal talent quickly raised him, in a few years, from student to Bauhaus teacher. The Africa chair (1921), a kind of giant throne, incorporating decorative sculptures, and upholstery from the Bauhaus weaving workshop, was his first finished design. His later experiments in wood owed much to the De Stijl movement, particularly to Gerrit Rietveld’s work. His first real breakthrough occurred in 1925, when, inspired by his Adler bicycle frame, he began designing chairs in tubular steel. At first, he marketed these through Standard Möbel, the company he set up, but licensing agreements with furniture manufacturers such as Thonet, soon followed. Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles were amongst the first to acquire several of Breuer’s radical B3 (decades later named Wassily by Italian manufacturer Gavina) chairs, which they installed at the Villa and in Marie-Laure’s boudoir in their Paris home.

Breuer first ventured into architecture in 1923, with his design for a small apartment block, and in 1925 he devised a single family dwelling in metal – das Kleinmetallhaus. Prefabricated from standardised industrial components, the window and door panels could be hung on a modular frame, allowing the house to be constructed in just three weeks. In 1927, he built prefabricated metal terraced houses for the young masters of the Bauhaus – by now relocated to Dessau and housed in the iconic building designed by Walter Gropius for which Breuer provided folding, tubular steel theatre seating, dining tables and stools for the canteen – including himself, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Herbert Bayer, Otto Meyer-Ottens and Joost Schmidt. The Harnischmacher House (destroyed in WWII), which Breuer was commissioned to design for a rich, private client in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1932, shows influences from Le Corbusier, whom he had met in Paris some years before.

By 1932 Breuer was creating furniture from aluminum which was to win international competition in Paris. Invited by Gropius, who was already there, he emigrated to London in 1935, becoming involved with him at the Isokon Furniture Company, for which Breuer produced a number of designs in plywood. He continued to experiment with plywood construction after moving to the United States in 1937, where he and Gropius – who had gone there before him – formed a joint studio. However, during the 1940s the two fell out.

Breuer was teaching at Harvard and had built a house for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1939. In between designing several private homes, and two further ones for himself, he was set to embark on an epic architectural journey that would see him building an abbey, a convent, and auditoriums for various universities. In the Netherlands, he built a large department store in Rotterdam and the American Embassy at the Hague. He was chosen to design the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss, inaugurated 1958), and in 1960, designed the IBM Research Center in la Gaude, France. He went on to create New York’s Whitney Museum (inaugurated 1966, with Hamilton Smith) and, before his retirement in 1977, he had built the aforementioned ski resort, set up Marcel Breuer Associates in Paris, been involved in numerous important projects, buildings, administrative complexes, large company headquarters, universities, banks, dams, as well as urban housing (ZUP de Bayonne).

Shortly after Breuer’s death in 1981, Furnitures and Interiors, a retrospective exhibition opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Robert Gatje and Marion Jossa, who joined Breuer’s New York-based studio in 1953 and 1963 respectively, will be present at the Villa Noailles conference.

Images from top
Zinc plated steel and wood lounge chair
Made by Embru, distributed by Wohnbedarf, 1932
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

IBM La Gaude, Building 1, 1962
Frontage and supports
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Five B10 tables, Nickel plated steel. Black laminated wood top
Made by Thonet, circa 1927
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Stéphane Briolant

Ecumenical chapel, 1974, Flaine ski resort
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Lounge chair
Made by Isokon, 1936
Marc Hotermans and Galerie Mandalian-Paillard collections
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

Marcel Breuer in his third house,
New Canaan, Connecticut, circa 1975
Photo Knoll International

B3 / Wassily armchair
Nickel plated metal, Eisengarn fabric
Made by Thonet, 1931-32
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
B9 table (variation)
Made by Standard-Möbel, circa 1927
Marc Hotermans collection
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

B3 ‘Wassily’ armchair and B9 nested tables
in the vicomte’s outdoor bedroom at Villa Noailles
Photo Thérèse Bonney, published in Art & Décoration, August 1928
Villa Noailles collection

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Ellsworth Kelly – More Real at 90

Friday, June 21st, 2013
Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004 – 2009
The Phillips Collection
Washington DC, USA
22nd June – 22nd September, 2013

The Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, represent Ellsworth Kelly, who is the subject of their current show, Ellsworth Kelly at Ninety. Opening the relavent ‘Works in Exhibition’ page on their website, one gets an overview of the shapes and colours that have preoccupied the artist during recent years. Almost child-like in simplicity, they might comprise the elements of a dismembered Alexander Calder mobile. Though less playful when viewed singly, each of Kelly’s paintings emotes a similar subtle sense of balance and is as easy on the eye as Calder’s sculptures.

Born in 1923 in Newburgh, New York, Ellsworth Kelly, has a prolific career spanning over 60 years. Comparisons with Calder stem from when Kelly, then 25 years-old, arrived in Paris after WWII, where he met and came under the influence of both Calder – by then 48 and firmly established amongst the modernist pioneers, having been working in the city since the 1920s – and Brancusi, already 70, whose simplification of natural form had a lasting effect on him. It was then that Kelly began to produce abstract work although, due to the illness and depression brought on by his war experiences, at first he restricted his palette to black and white. Over the next few years, he immersed himself both in the rich historical resources of Paris, its architecture and contemporary art scene, discovering Henri Matisse, whose paper cut-outs he admired along with Jean Arp’s colourful collages. As is evident in the images illustrating this post, the geometry and simplicity of form expressed in the work of the De Stijl artists, Georges Vantongerloo and Piet Mondrian, particularly impressed Kelly and would remain abiding influence throughout his life. He sites Fernand Léger’s use of bright colours as being particularly inspirational. In his mid-80s, in a throw-back to those early Paris days, as a reflection of his concerns over the controversies surrounding US involvement in the Iraq war, Kelly was to return, temporarily, to working only in black and white. But generally, he says, he is not political; as with Calder, he paints in bright colours because he wants his paintings to have a good spirit.

1954 saw Kelly back in New York during the heyday of abstract expressionism but, fiercely independent, he avoided aligning himself with that movement or any other. In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, he was among the first artists, including Frank Stella, to discard the conventional square or rectangular painting format in favour of irregularly shaped canvases or panels. When he places one panel on top of another panel, he has said about the effect achieved, that it makes the work ‘more real’. His exhibition Panel Paintings 2004 – 2009 at Washington DC’s Phillips Collection, comprises seven of his multi-panel works. These large-scale, rectilinear pieces blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture and make more sense when seen in the round – playing with light and shadow, dramatically engaging with space – which is how he intends them to be viewed.

Also showing in Washington DC, Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper Images, is an exhibition of 23 prints at the National Gallery of Art.

MoMA is currently showing the Chatham Series, the first series of paintings, Kelly produced after leaving the city for upstate New York, in 1970. For an overview of all Ellsworth Kelly 90th birthday-related events happening in New York, go to the GalleristNY blog.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation’s ‘first show of contemporary art in ninety years,’ and first by a living artist is Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall, dominated by the 1956-57 Sculpture for a Large Wall, made of 104 anodized aluminum panels, some of them colored red, blue, yellow and black, arrayed in four long rows each measuring 65 feet.

All works above from Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004 – 2009
at The Phillips Collection
. From top

Yellow Relief over Red, 2004
Oil on canvas, two joined panels
Private collection

Green Blue Black Red, 2007
Oil on canvas, four panels
Private collection

White Diagonal II, 2008
Oil on canvas, two joined panels
Private collection

Red Relief, 2009
Oil on canvas, two joined panels
Private collection

All photos Jerry L Thompson, courtesy the artist. ©Ellsworth Kelly

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Architecture + Design | Eileen Gray: One-off

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Eileen Gray
Centre Pompidou
Paris, France
20th February – 20th May, 2013

Gliding up the escalator at London’s National Portrait Gallery, one looks down on the Digital Space on the mezzanine level, where friendly, comfortable, and exceedingly stylish Bibendum chairs mingle effortlessly, despite their bulk, with the glowing computer screens. Anyone can sit down on one but at a retail price of £2,215/€2,563/$3,380, few could afford to buy one. Aptly named after the Michelin tyre company’s symbol, Eileen Gray’s Bibendum chair was designed principally, as a one-off. The same can be said of her furniture for E1027, the modernist holiday home she built with her lover, Jean Badovici, at Roquebrune Cap Martin in the south of France between 1926 and 1929. Had it not been for English furniture manufacturer, Zeev Aram, who was responsible for reviving her reputation during the 1970s, when she was almost entirely forgotten, Gray’s other classic designs for furniture, rugs and lighting may never have gone into mass-production. E1027, too, which fell into a decrepit state, may also easily have slipped into oblivion.

‘Eileen Gray ranks among the architects and designers who have left a significant mark on the 20th centuty,’ asserts the press release for the eponymously titled, long-overdue, eponymously titled retrospective that opened this week at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. But, although it reflects many of the trends, debates and dilemmas of the early 20th century, her legacy of buildings and furniture is small in comparison to that of her contemporaries, such as Le Corbusier. Indeed, some even lay the blame for this at Le Corbusier’s door. Director Mary McGuckian’s The Price of Desire, in which Winona Ryder take the lead role as Eileen Gray is scheduled to begin shooting this summer at E1027, where painstaking renovations are almost complete. The story is based around the controversial belief that Le Corbusier, (played by Vincent Perez) effectively effaced Gray’s contribution to modern architecture. Badovici had kept E1027 after his and Gray’s split in 1932 and to Gray’s astonishmernt and anger, invited Le Corbusier, by then a regular visitor, to decorate its walls with murals in his characteristic, crude, Picasso-esque style – which he customarily executed while nude. While others have interpreted this as an act of envy and covetousness, Gray called it vandalism. It could also be true that she considered the subject matter as critical of her bisexual lifestyle. Apparently, in 1949, Le Corbusier went on to published photographs of the the murals without accrediting the house – vaguely described as being ‘at Cap Martin’ – to Gray, and not himself, thus providing the tenuous crux of the forthcoming film’s plot. It ignores that fact that, shortly after it’s completion and after spending a few days there, Le Corbusier sent Gray a postcard extolling its ‘rare spirit… so dignified, so charming and full of wit,’ and that in 1936 he invited her to show within his Pavilion des Temps Nouveaux at the Paris Exposition Internationale, where she presented her plans for a holiday centre, after which she appears to have gone into effective retirement.

Gray, born into an arty, Irish, aristocratic family had studied fine art at at the Slade in London. Bored, in 1902, she moved to turn-of-the-century Paris, plunging headlong into the hedonistic lifestyle and sexually-ambiguous milieu. Her apartment, at 21 Rue Bonaparte, was to remain her principal home until her death in 1976. On an extended visit to London, to be with her ill mother, she learned the art of lacquering. perfecting the skill on her return to Paris, where she started to produce high quality lacquered furniture with a craftsman-like finish in the style later to be called Art deco. As her confidence grew, she began to design whole commissioned rooms down to the smallest detail, listing Elsa Schiaparelli among her clients. However, on her return to Paris from England after World War I, during which she had spent time working as a nurse and discovered a social conscience, Gray became dissatisfied with the the type of work she was producing. At this point she met fell in love with Jean Badovici, a Romanian émigré, studying architecture in Paris and involved in the production of several avant-garde magazines. Coming into contact with the highly influential Dutch De Stijl group, whose projects included the design of social housing, she decided to become an architect. Badovici, aware of her wealth, suggested that he should write a brief for a house that she might build for him. She leapt at the idea, and immediately began searching for a suitable site in the south, where they might escape prying eyes. Badovici would provide the necessary technical support, which she, having had no formal training as an architect, lacked.

The Roquebrune Cap Martin villa site, an idyllic setting on the edge of a rocky outcrop, a few miles east of Monaco, may have come as a recommendation via Le Corbusier’s wife, Yvonne, who was Monégasque, so he might already have been familiar with the location, where he was to spend every August for the next 18 years, building his famous and idiosyncratic cabanon close by, as well as a small group of modular holiday homes, the Unités de Camping. Eventually, in 1965, he died there while swimming in the bay below. The powerful Paris-based Fondation Le Corbusier won the argument over whether his murals would be painted over – they will be remain and are being restored.

Despite her claimed social conscience, Gray only ever got around to building her compact but luxury villa E1027, and another larger one for herself, Tempe a Pailla (1934), overlooking Menton. Le Corbusier had been commissioned to build his first recognisably modernist house, The Amédée Ozenfant House and Studio, in Paris, in 1922. His Villa le Lac (1923), at Coreaux, Switzerland, destined to be the home his parents, has a free, adaptable floor plan, sliding, room-length windows looking out over the lake (although not floor-to-ceiling height), a flat roof that could be used as a sitting-out area and a garden terrace – all strikingly similar to E1027. Just before work on E1027 was started, Le Corbusier’s adjoining luxury Villas Jeanneret and La Roche, in Paris, (now housing the Foundation Le Corbusier Museum) were completed, in 1925. He designed many other luxury houses in the late 1920s and early 1930s, notably Villa Savoye (1931). His first apartment block was completed in 1926. In 1929, he built the Cité de Refuge, for the Armée du Salut (The Salvation Army), in Paris. His output continued and was stupendous. Many years later, Le Corbusier’s landmark social housing project the Unité d’Habitation (Housing Unit), in Marseille, France, was completed in 1952.

Gray’s Art deco pieces are remarkable and have a sensitivity and human quality which was totally new to furniture design that she somehow clung on to and carried through to the modernist items she designed for E1027 and Tempe a Pailla. Her E1027 table and Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus (who had been inspired, himself, by Mart Stam – a prominent socialist), while the Transat chair pays tribute to Gerrit Rietveld but avoids his uninviting rigidity of form.

Original Eileen Gray furniture does not come cheap. In a Christie’s auction in 2009, an art deco Snake armchair from Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s collection fetched £18,930/€21,905,000/$28,238,000. Along with the villa, Badovici had retained the furniture. After his death in 1956, both were apparently well looked after by a the next owner, a Madame Schelbert. Fortunately, when Dr Kägi, who bought the property in 1982 (he was later murdered there by his gardener in 1996) decided to sell off the furniture for €390,000 the Centre Pompidou exercised its right of pre-emption on the sale and bought the most important items, which are on display in the current exhibition. The chairs and other items of furniture at the restored villa are being donated by Zeev Aram. Visitors are unlikely to be allowed to sit on them.

Photographs from top
Panelled screen by Eileen Gray, 1919-1922
Black lacquered wood
Special collection, courtesy Galerie Vallois, Paris
© Photo Vallois-Paris-Arnaud Carpentier

Portrait of Eileen Gray, Paris, 1926, Berenice Abbot
©Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

View of the salon at villa E 1027, built by Eileen Gray
and Jean Badovici between 1926 and 1929
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky
Estate of Eileen Gray
Photo Alan Irvine

Bibendum armchair by Eileen Gray, circa 1930
Chrome, leather
Private Collection, Mme Tachard
©Photo Christian Baraja, Studio SLB

View of the southern façade of Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici’s
villa E1027, from the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Paris
Estate of Eileen Gray/Guy Carrard

View from the lake of Villa le Lac, built by Le Corbusier in
1923 at Corseaux, Switzerland

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Design | Modernism and Stained Glass

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York,
Rockefeller Plaza,
New York City, USA
14th December 2012

The Avery Coonley Playhouse windows, circa 1912, with their buoyant circles and patriotic flags, that stand out for their distinctive, asymmetrical composition and vibrant color, are considered Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in glass. The building, a small structure created by Lloyd Wright to serve as a school for Queenie Ferrie Coonley to educate local children, was a short distance from the Coonley’s home in Riverside, Illinois, that Wright had previously completed for the couple in 1908. Just one of the 40 original windows – sadly, all of them were removed in the 1950s to be replaced by replicas – that ringed the main school room and were designed to encourage a spontaneous, playful air, is included in Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale. His use of bright red, green, blue, orange and black glass was, by all accounts, inspired by a passing parade, complete with confetti, balloons and American flags. The European abstract art movement, including the paintings of Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky, which Wright saw in Paris on his European sojourn in 1909-1910, that included a trip to Vienna, significantly influenced the designs.

A stained glass revival had been triggered in Holland in the 1850s, when William Morris’s ideas gained currency there, and a domestic demand emerged for non-figurative, decorative art that accorded with strict Calvinist principles. Via the De Stijl movement founded in the Netherlands in 1917, this late 19th century trend would evolve into abstract stained glass panels. That year, leading member, Theo van Doesburg, completed a set of five identical windows, strikingly geometrical in style, whose motif was abstracted from skating figures, for a house designed by fellow member, Jan Wils. In 1918, Van Doesburg began collaborating with another member, architect JJP Oud, on his first municipal housing blocks at Spangen, designing stained glass panels for each apartment – some are still in place, others, inevitably, as van Doesburg’s reputation as an artist grew and his work became much sought after, were sold off. Later, in 1934, another significant Dutch architect, Jan Kuyt, designed intricate stained glass skylights for his V&D Department Store building in Amersfoort.

From the same early period, Josef Albers’ Red and White, 1923, created for that year’s first Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar – sadly, since destroyed – was a stained-glass window that was granted a title, in the style of an artwork.

Of course, stained glass had been around for many centuries before the early modernists, recognising its potential, took hold of it and adapted it to suit their buildings, in the process turning it into an art form. And, although its popularity during the 20th century swung in and out of fashion, it never really went away.

In a note on an early drawing of the Glass Pavilion – the pineapple-shaped temporary building that German expressionist architect, Bruno Taut, erected at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in 1914 – a prismatic glass dome structure of concrete and glass, he said he made it in the spirit of a gothic cathedral. Inlaid coloured glass plates on the façade acted as mirrors. Inside, there were floor-to-celing, coloured glass walls and a glass-treaded metal staircases led to the upper projection room that showed a kaleidoscope of colors. But when, some 40 years later, Le Corbusier built Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in France, between 1950 and 1955 – in which daylight enters via a system of openings covered with glass, much of it coloured – the architect was keen to maintain that his glass had no connection to stained glass, which he considered a form of illumination too closely bound to archaic architectural notions, with particular reference to Romanesque and Gothic art.

At Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, a small chapel, next to the main building, has stained glass windows designed by Braque in the 1960s. More contemporary examples include a stained-glass window installed at Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill, London, during the 1990s.

Two other windows by Lloyd Wright are included in the Christie’s sale, alongside a skylight and panel made by Louis Sullivan in 1890 for the Auditorium building, Chicago. Meanwhile, a set of four square windows (26.9 x 26.9 cm) of graphic, abstract design, in opalescent, cathedral and slumped glass, produced in 1880 by American painter and muralist John la Farge, and estimated to sell at $8,000 – 12,000, are on offer at Sotheby’s, New York, in their Important 20th Century Design sale on 15th December.

Images from top
Window from the Avery Cooonley Playhouse, Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1912
(Detail, the complete framed panel is also shown above)
Leaded glass, with original oak window frame, 61 x 97 cm
Estimate $200,000 – $300,000

Photo © Christie’s Images Limited, 2012

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Happy Alvar Aalto!

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Aalto vase: 75th anniversary

It still looks like it was created yesterday but, arguably the best-known vase in the world – it could very easily be a product of the 21st century architecture/design practices of  Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry was designed in 1936 by the most important Finnish architect of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto (1898-1976). Famous as much for his characteristically, curvy furniture designs as for his distinctive architecture, Aalto was a modernist, who fused the ideas developed at Germany’s Bauhaus and of the Dutch De Stijl group, for example, with traditional Scandinavian humanism. The result was that certainly his early creations, whatever their scale – from the Paimio Chair, 1933 – devised to ease the breathing of tubercolosis patients to his undulating, glass-fronted, Finnish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, 1939, where, incidentally, the vase made its debut – were more user-friendly, far less remote, than those of the other more rationalist moderns.

The organically-shaped glass vase was originally given the surreal name ‘The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breeches’ by Aalto but became known as the Savoy Vase after a new luxury hotel in Helsinki that opened in 1937. Finnish glassware manufacturer Iittala market it eponymously as the Aalto Vase; each item individually mouth-blown, the design comes in a multitude of colours and sizes. It’s called a vase but apparently the most boring use for it is as a container for flowers; the owner is required to stamp something of his/her own personality on it. To me, diktats of any sort are like a red rag to a bull so, with that particular one in mind, I went out purposefully and came home with two bunches of beautiful, deep pink-red tulips, half-filled our Aalto with water and unceremoniously, pushed the stems into it. They looked colourful but, perhaps, a little sterile. Okay, I thought, maybe I should have been a bit more creative. Overnight, however – and I like to think it had something to do with the eskimo woman’s leather breeches – they sprang to life and arranged themselves prettily and naturalistically for my camera.

Do you have an Aalto vase?
What do you put it?

Please post a comment and, better still, send a picture

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