Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time Certified Appraiser of Personal Property. Designated with the International Society of Appraisers in Antiques, Furnishings + Decorative Art. Nineteen years of personal property appraisal experience, since 1999. Generalist appraiser specializing in estates, collections and large donations. Specialty in art glass. Member of the Desert Estate Planning Council, Decorative Arts Trust, Foundation For Appraisal Education and Art Alliance For Contemporary Glass.
619-670-4455 (San Diego)
760-205-2582 (Palm Desert)
Serving the San Diego and Palm Desert, California regions. Willing to travel for large projects.
The WPA Federal Art Project was a Depression-era New Deal program set up to fund the visual arts in the U.S. It was not created as a cultural activity. It was a relief measure to provide employment for artists and artisans to create murals, paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, theater scenic design and arts & crafts. (wikipedia.org).
The philosophy of the New Deal arts projects was unique. Artists were workers, and art was cultural labor worthy of support from the government. The project’s non-discrimination clause attracted and employed not only white males, but artists of color and women, two groups whose talents were often ignored in the mainstream art community of the era.
The Roosevelt administration commissioned a large body of public art without any restrictions on content or subject matter. 10,000 artists and craft workers were employed throughout the Depression and more than 200,000 separate works were created.
Murals and sculptures were designed and installed in municipal buildings, schools, libraries, post offices and public spaces. When the program was halted in 1943, many of these works were allowed to deteriorate or were destroyed when the buildings were renovated or torn down. Those that remain are among the most notable pieces of public art in the country.
The Coit Tower murals in San Francisco and the 1934 Astronomers Monument at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles are but two examples in California of WPA projects still in existence. Others can still be found in public buildings and spaces in many U.S. cities.
Tess Thackara, Writer-at-Large for artsy.com, states in her article: “WPA art favored Social Realism, in the form of public artworks and murals that celebrated industry and labor. These works put art within eyesight of ordinary people going about their daily lives and are consequentially also among the most famous created through the WPA initiative.”
The WPA Federal Arts Project established over 100 Community Art Centers throughout the country. It was a novel approach that brought “art within reach” and created new audiences by bringing art education and exhibitions to neighborhoods and communities with little or no access to museums or galleries. Artists contributed their talents to these centers and made art training and appreciation accessible to a wide and culturally diverse audience. Its intention was to affirm the democratic possibilities of a project that extended across class, ethnic and racial boundaries.
The creation of the poster as an art form was one element of the project that truly engendered the democratic principles the government was attempting to encourage during the darkest days of the Depression. Posters promoted health and safety, travel, sports and recreation, theater, dance and music, community events, defense and the war effort.
Ennis Carter states in her book Posters for the People: “As artifacts, posters serve as an important snapshot of a moment in our nation’s social, cultural and art history. Their creation played a key role, not only in promoting the hopes and aspirations of a government, but also in advancing American poster design and printing techniques.”
Posters are a powerful and influential public art form. They attract attention and send strong messages, able to reach a wide and varied audience. WPA posters appeared everywhere. Not only were they intended to promote social programming, but also were designed to encourage positive values and behaviors. Surprisingly, given the era of the 1930’s, diverse cultures and ethnicities were represented and depicted with respect.
The messages these posters conveyed are as relevant now as they were then. We continue to confront the issues highlighted in these works today.
WPA posters demonstrated ground-breaking technical developments in American graphic design and printmaking. Hand-painted images on easels shifted to woodblock and lithography. In 1936, silk-screening came into wide use. Poster artists influenced a new generation of fine art printmaking and opened the way for the avant-garde, and the innovative works of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol among many others.
Mark Rothko, Willem deKooning, and Jackson Pollock, trailblazers of the abstract expressionist movement, Lee Krasner, and Wanda Gag, are a few of the artists who began working for the WPA arts projects and went on to garner acclaim after the project ended.
Partisan political opposition and the war brought a rather abrupt end to the WPA art projects in 1943. Much of the poster art was discarded or buried in boxes hidden away in obscure storage areas. Interest in this art form was rekindled with the discovery of a cache of posters in a Library of Congress attic tower in the late 1960’s. WPA poster artists are now widely recognized for their contributions to the history of graphic arts. The posters have become a valued and well-regarded body of work.
Whether you are fortunate enough to find original posters of the period or the reproductions that are available, the bright colors and unique shapes make them eminently collectible. The travel and National Parks posters are especially remarkable.
As appraisers in the field, we must be aware of the existence of New Deal and WPA art when performing valuations. Pieces owned by the government have been lost and could turn up anywhere, including private collections. Many have marks or stickers stating that they are owned by the U.S. Government. In these cases, they should be returned to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) so they can be preserved for future generations. For more information see “Legal Title to Art Work Produced Under the 1930s and 1940s New Deal Administration”.
Posters for the People, Art of the WPA, Ennis Carter, Quirk Books. Philadelphia, 2008
Posters of the WPA, Christopher deNoon, University of Washington Press. 1987
What We Can Learn from the Brief Period When the Government Employed Artists, Tess Thackara, Writer-At-Large, January 31, 2017, artsy.net
Looking for America: The Index of American Design, Series of Essays by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project, historymatters.gmu.edu
WPA Projects, Public Art Throughout the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Times. November 13, 1994
WPA Posters, Library of Congress, Collection of 900 Posters 1936-1943 Images, loc.gov
What Was the WPA Art Project (1935-1943), List of Federal Art Project Artists, en.wikipedia.org
The word redux has its root in the Latin verb reducere meaning to lead back, something brought back, or a resurgence.
Southern California will soon be seeing a “resurgence” giving us a new chance to view some of the greatest artifacts of Ancient Egypt in a major exhibition entitled King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. The exhibit, the first of a 10-city world tour, will open in Los Angeles on March 24, 2018 at the California Science Center in Exposition Park and will be on view until early January 2019.
This exhibit will be the largest world tour ever, comprising 150 artifacts. The previous tours had a limit of 50 objects. Many of these King Tut treasures have never been seen outside of Egypt. It will be the last time to view these artifacts before their return to Egypt to be housed permanently in the new Egyptian Museum. The purpose of the tour is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Featuring items owned and used by the “Boy King” (he is thought to have been 19 at the time of his death), the exhibit will include golden jewelry, carvings, sculptures and ritual artifacts. In addition, multimedia displays include how the scientific analysis of the 3000-year old mummy has revealed new information on his health and ancestry. It also addresses how the latest in archaeology tools are aiding in the discovery of new tombs and in the analyzing of existing ones in new ways.
There have been several waves of Egyptian Revival throughout the last two centuries. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone during Napoleon’s 1798-99 Egyptian campaign was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The publication of volumes in 1809 cataloging the sights and discoveries of the eventually ill-fated campaign ignited the creation of the field of Egyptology. A second edition in 1830 elicited further interest in Egyptian art and culture.
Egyptian inspired buildings were erected in Paris during the decade after Napoleon’s campaign. Ancient Egyptian art and architecture provided designers in France and England with a wide range of motifs. Winged sun-disks, hawks and crocodiles were all incorporated into decorative arts and architecture. An Egyptian dining room was created (1802-1806) at Goodwood House in Sussex for the Duke of Richmond. It was the first interior in England that had its origin from the illustrations of ancient Egyptian monuments by the artist who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt. A number of motifs were applied architecturally and to the design of the furniture in the room. The dining chairs had bronze crocodile figures inserted into their backs.
In America, Egyptian influence during these early years was primarily architectural. Egyptian revival architecture in America can be seen in Benjamin Latrobe’s original design (not built) for the Library of Congress Room in the new Capitol (1808), the 4th Precinct Police Station in New Orleans (1836), The Tombs in New York City (1838), and the Washington Monument (1850) as well as in many other public and private buildings in cities and towns across America. There is a 3500-year old Egyptian obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle, in New York City’s Central Park. Egyptian themes, however, didn’t begin to be evident in the decorative arts until the end of the 19th century.
After the Civil War, Americans became interested in other cultures. Designers and artists looked to Japan, the Middle East and Africa for new ideas. Egyptian motifs were combined with more traditional western styles and the result incorporated details such as gilt-bronze sphinxes, textiles woven with Egyptian themes, geometric depictions of palm fronds, lotus blossoms and reeds.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi’s 1871 opera Aida and continued archaeological discoveries, particularly the excavation at Tel El-Amarna in 1887, kept the public’s awareness and interest focused on Egypt.
Egyptian symbols and images translated well into the decorative arts and this aesthetic found its way into jewelry and silver designs. At the turn of the 20th century as the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles became popular, Egyptian motifs appeared in jewelry, textiles, wallpaper and other decorative arts, providing an exotic alternative to the conventional and traditional styles of the time.
Scholars refer to these periods as Egyptomania – an obsession with Egyptian antiquities and design. However, there would not be another major one until the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. Egyptian motifs began to be seen everywhere in modern culture and became an essential element in Art Deco design and architecture, carrying on into the 1930’s and early 1940’s.
The phenomenon continued to grip the world fueled by the rumors of a curse related to the death of Lord Caernarvon, who had financed Carter’s search for the tomb. According to Robert Nemeth, an English architectural historian and conservationist:
“The discovery was still in the early days for Art Deco which took its name from the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries held in Paris in 1925. Designers of the time were enamored by the brilliant colors, angular shapes, hieroglyphics and mysterious symbols prevalent in ancient Egypt. These design features were incorporated into Art Deco furniture, art, clothing, jewelry and architecture.”
It will be interesting to see if the upcoming King Tut Exhibition will be the catalyst for a new wave of Egyptomania in design and the decorative arts. As an appraiser, it is important for us to understand the forces in the marketplace that affect value. An event like this may cause an increase in demand for items with these motifs.
Egyptian Revival. Sara Jakow, Institute of Fine Arts. N.Y., 2012
This exploration of Latin American and Latino art, led by the Getty Museum, includes more than 70 exhibitions across Southern California. Art and cultural institutions from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, and from San Diego to Santa Barbara are taking part in “thematically linked exhibitions and program highlighting different aspects of Latin American and Latino art from the ancient world to the present day.”
On the introduction page of a small booklet, billed as a travel guide to the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA experience, is an overview of the exhibition’s purpose: “With topics as varied as luxury arts in the Pre-Colombian Americas, 20th-century Afro-Brazilian art, alternative spaces in Mexico City, the mural tradition, and the boundary-crossing practices of Latino artists, exhibitions range from mono graphic studies of individual artists to broad surveys involving countries throughout Latin America.”
This wide-ranging exhibition opened at the end of September 2017 and dates for closing vary by institution. Some events close at the end of January and others continue on into the spring of 2018.
Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas
Showcasing spectacular luxury arts from the Royal courts of the Maya, Incas and Aztecs. The Getty Center – through January 28, 2018.
Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985
This is the first exhibition to examine design trends between California and Mexico that shaped the architecture and material culture of each place. LACMA – until April 1, 2018
California Mexicana: Missions to Murals 1820-1930
Exploration of how part of Mexico became California and the role of the visual arts in creating distinct pictorial motifs and symbols that helped define the new California. Laguna Art Museum – until January 14, 2018.
Kukuli Velardi – Artist
Personal and confrontational ceramic sculptures based on traditional forms and surface decorations of Pre-Colombian ceramics. American Museum of Ceramic Art Pomona – until January 28, 2018.
Kinesthesia Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969
Palm Springs Art Museum – until January 18, 2018.
A Search for Living Architecture: Albert Frey and Lina LoBardi
Explores the visionary building and design of two mid-century architects who shared a belief that architecture is a way to connect people, nature, building and living. Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center – until January 7, 2018.
Everyone is encouraged to visit familiar as well as new institutions. As the introduction states “Wherever your journey takes you, there will be art.”
As a result of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, more than 60 new illustrated exhibition catalogues have been published and are available from Southern California bookstores and individual museums. The publications are “…a permanent legacy of the ground-breaking scholarship on Latin American and Latin art generated through more than five years of planning, research and collaborative work among hundreds of curators, artists and scholars.” A complete list can be viewed at assets.contentful.com. Additional details and descriptions of selected catalogs can be found on the website artfixdaily.com.
As a personal property appraiser, it is important to be aware of major exhibitions. They may have an impact on the collecting community, influence trends and affect values.
There Will Be 70+ Exhibitions Across Southern California. There Will Be Art.
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Latin American and Latino Art in LA.
Presenting Sponsors: The Getty Museum and Bank of America
Contains complete list of sites, events and themes including a location map. Available from the Getty Museum.
The popularity of the television show, Madmen, had an important effect on the re-kindled popularity of mid-century modern furniture design. In the show, the character, Peggy Olsen, can be seen sitting in her desk chair designed by Ray and Charles Eames. The award-winning set designers were very knowledgeable and faithful in creating an aura of period authenticity for this very popular show.
This style of furniture has been around for over 75 years. We’ve seen it in offices, classrooms, waiting rooms, and restaurants. It is a style that never really went out. It was always there, ready and willing to be observed and appreciated. Now, according to HGTV, it is a growing design trend. Natalie Stungo says in her book, Charles and Ray Eames, it is “…because there is a freshness, a simplicity, a sense of naturalness that gives it instant appeal.”
According to the website, Curbed, in an article entitled “Why the World is Obsessed with Mid-Century Modern Design”, Laura Fenton states: “Today more than ever, the mid-century modern look is everywhere. …turn on the Daily Show and you’ll see guests sitting in classic Knoll office chairs. If you dine in a contemporary restaurant, there is a good chance you’ll be seated in a chair designed in the 1950’s whether it is an Eames, Bertoia, Cherner, or Saarinen.”
The term “mid-century modern” covers a wide range of design. It includes architecture, furniture, and graphic design and roughly covers the period between the years of 1933-1965. The term was first used by writer and art historian, Carla Greenberg. She titled her 1984 book Mid-Century Modern, to describe “what has since become a global and iconic design movement”.
Madeline Morley, in an article for anothermag.com stated: “…with its bubble shapes, neat proportions, and alluring sugar-coated colors – the mid-century has been aptly described as “furniture candy”. The furniture is identified by it’s straight, clean lines and smooth curved angles with little or no ornamentation or upholstery.
Among the many famous furniture designers of the era, both American and European, Ray and Charles Eames stand out. They were known as “the Fred and Ginger of the design world”. Charles had the experience of engineering and building, and Ray contributed color, structure, and form to their designs.
The duo designed a few buildings and houses including a showroom for Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer, but after 1945, furniture design became the main focus of their studio.
In 1946, the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured Charles in a one-man show showcasing his latest experimental designs in seating – dining and lounge chairs, and the office desk chair, which is now considered a 20th century classic. This design, the original and variations of it, was an instant success. By 1951, Herman Miller was selling 2000 chairs a month.
Charles stated that their philosophy was that good design should be available to everyone. In his words: “…the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.” Their furniture was priced to appeal to a mass audience.
The Eames’ experimented with a wide range of materials. The simply designed molded fiberglass /plastic chairs, lightweight, stackable, and inexpensive can be seen in almost every classroom today and came in all sizes. They designed chairs made from wire mesh, which architects likened to the Eiffel Tower. Cast aluminum chairs were another successful innovation.
Charles and Ray Eames didn’t stop at furniture design. They curated exhibitions, made films and coordinated multi-media events. They enjoyed pointing out and highlighting the beauty of everyday things and ordinary objects because they believed that “…design should not be an elitist exercise.”
Charles Eames was described as “…without doubt the most creative and original designer of the 20th century…”
A number of Eames designs are no longer in production, but several of the most popular styles are still being manufactured. An original Eames lounge chair is valued at around $6000. They are still being reproduced today for between $1600-1800.
The Palm Springs area abounds in mid-century modern design. Modernism Week, February 15-25, 2018, is the signature festival which highlights mid-century modern architecture, art, interior and landscape design and vintage culture in Greater Palm Springs. An extensive article detailing lectures, tours and the events taking place can be found on the website palmspringslife.com.
Tickets for this informative, educational and entertaining week can be purchased on the website modernismweek.com.
The Palm Springs Art Museum has an impressive collection of mid-century furniture, art, and design in its permanent collection.
Charles and Ray Eames. Naomi Stungo. Carlton Books, 2000.
Modern Furniture Classics, A sourcebook of Styles, Designers and Manufacturers. Miriam Stimson. Whitney Library of Design, 1987.
As early as the 1920s, the Coachella Valley, and particularly Palm Springs, became known for the dry clear climate and mild warm winters which were so helpful to those recuperating from serious respiratory conditions. Wealthy people from all over the country, wishing to escape the winter snows and cold, soon began to value the area for relaxation and fun and as a place to enjoy the stark beauty and contrast of the scenic wonders the desert offered.
Soon the area became a get-away playground for the Hollywood elite and the stars created their own burgeoning movie colony here in the desert. Palm Springs became a safe retreat from the prying eyes of the “paparazzi” of those days. The stars could stroll down the main streets and enjoy themselves in the restaurants and watering holes in relative comfort confident in being fairly anonymous.
Even though numerous spas and resorts sprung up to accommodate the visitors, many of the “snowbirds” and movie stars began to build second homes. Because these homes were not the primary residences of the occupants, the owners felt that they had more freedom to take architectural risks in the designs. The uniqueness of the desert landscape and environment and the luminous, rich, clear and strong light required an architecture that was sophisticated and understated – one that would blend with the spectacular austereness and palette of the desert.
The desert was a blank canvas to the architect, open to creative and innovative approaches in new lines, angles, and textures that worked with the environment. It inspired artists to work with, blending and contrasting, the natural materials in abundance around them.
Dolly Faibyshev states in her book Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern, that Palm Springs has one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country. Many of the most famous architects of the period were inspired by the desert environment. With commissions from film stars, private wealthy patrons, and corporations, architects of the caliber of Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, John Lautner, Paul Williams, William Krisel, and A. Quincy Jones, among many other notables, were able to envision, design and play with new and innovative architectural features.
The style emphasized creating structures with broad generous windows and open floor plans, all to the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outside in. The novel post and beam design eliminated the need for heavy and bulky support walls in favor of walls that seemed to be made of glass. The idea was one of “clean simplicity and integration with nature”. In mid-century designs, function did not follow form, it was as important as form.
The mid-century modern movement in the United States was an American reflection of the International Style and the Bauhas movements which had held sway in early 20th century modern architecture. In the 1940’s, the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with the prevalent styles in modern architecture and a reaction to the lack of variety of Mies van der Rohe and LeCorbusier. Surface ornament and historical references began to re-emerge and influence decorative forms. The International Style’s architectural orthodoxy was challenged by these new approaches. Mid-century design was used in residential structures with the “goal of bringing modernism to post-war American communities.”
The deserts of Palm Springs offered architects and designers fertile and virtually untouched ground for their experimentation with and development of fresh and innovative forms of design. An outstanding example is the work of A. Quincy Jones, the architect and designer of the Walter Annenberg estate, Sunnylands.
Palm Springs celebrates its heritage with Modernism Week, February 15-25, 2018, a very popular and always sold-out event. Fortunately, there is a Fall Preview from October 19-22, 2017. Although also a popular event, it gives a brief overview of the full two-weeks taking place in February. The Mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of mid-century architecture, design, art, fashion, and culture. A list of events and tours can be found on the site modernismweekly.com. Tickets can be purchased online and are for sale now. The online store also offers many books, prints, photographs and objects relating to the event and to all aspects of mid-century modernism.
As a personal property appraiser, it’s important to recognize mid-century modern furniture and decorative art. Many of the important designers are highly collectible, and the values for those items have increased over the last several years.
In other events this month, a four-month long showcase of Latin-American and Latino Art entitled Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is being launched on September 17, 2017. Fifty museums in Southern California will offer free admission on that day. According to the website pacificstandardtime.org, the exhibit is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, it is a collaborative effort from Arts institutions across Southern California. Further information can be found on the website as well as on laist.com.
Julius Shulman: Palm Springs; Michael Stern and Alan Hess, Rizzoli 2008
Desert Modernists: The Architects Who Envisioned Mid-Century Modern Palm Springs, published in collaboration with Modernism Week and Palm Springs Life 2017
Tourism really hasn’t changed very much over the last 300 years. Traveling for pleasure, knowledge, and acquisition had its beginnings in the 17th century. Those travelers on the classic “Grand Tour” and modern-day tourists have much in common – a willingness to be inspired and enlightened by the art, beauty, and culture embodied in the famous cities of Europe, and eventually as travel methods improved, around the world.
The emphasis in education, particularly for young people of wealth and privilege, was steeped in Classical literature, art and architecture. At first Italy and France were the goal. The desire to see firsthand all they had studied gave rise to what we today call the “gap year – two or even three years then – and the tradition known as the Grand Tour came to be.
It soon became the fashionable thing to do before settling down to fulfill the familial duties waiting for them at home. Enduring the extreme rigors, the weeks and sometimes months it took to get somewhere, and the perilous dangers of travel in those days was part of the adventure. In the days before photography, it formed the basis for the sketches, letters, diaries and eventually books they wrote about their experiences as well as the lessons they learned on their journeys. They collected art, sculpture, literature, and decorative objets d’art and shipped it all home to fill their country estates and London townhouses.
What to do and where to stay, what and where to eat; the best routes for traveling, the best merchants from whom to buy, the best artist studios; the best entertainment, and the visual wonders, natural and man-made were all experiences communicated to family, friends, and future travelers. Sound familiar? Now we have up-to-date guidebooks, Instagram and the Internet to communicate our favorite images, ideas, and experiences.
In the words of Matt Gross, of the Frugal Traveler, a New York Times Blog: “Even though the basic contours of the Grand Tour were established in the 17th century – as a kind of finishing school for affluent young gents – it has mutated to meet the shifting demands of generations of travelers.”
Now bargain fares and “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” type tours are available to everyone, not just the privileged few. Colleges have instituted semesters abroad where students study and immerse themselves in the arts and culture of the country under the auspices of the university.
All travelers, and especially those who have traveled the world, enjoy collecting objects that reflect the countries they have visited. Many of them find themselves in a similar situation as this woman. She has traveled all seven continents and has filled her home with dozens of artworks and objects displaying her interests. When asked if she had cataloged her possessions, she replied: “Oh. No, I haven’t ever thought about it as they are really only of value to me.” She was advised when the time came, her family and heirs were going to be left with the very stressful task of figuring it all out.
An excellent source for organization to aid future heirs as well as estate and insurance appraisers is On the Record – Creating a Road Map for Your Family. Amy Praskac, owner of On the Record has compiled a comprehensive website on all aspects of record keeping. She also has a blog filled with valuable information and ideas on how to gather and store records for safekeeping.
This summer, an event of note allows “travelers” to embark on a “grand tour” of Europe without getting on an airplane. A major festival of the arts going on in Southern California (July 7- August 31) is the 2017 Pageant of the Mastersin Laguna Beach. The theme this year is aptly titled “The Grand Tour”.
According to the website: “A pageant ticket becomes your passport on the Grand Tour to experience spectacle, music, stories and grand illusions as masterpieces come to life. …a breathtaking theatrical journey through the centuries in search of unforgettable art.”
For some first-hand observations about the Grand Tour, there are several very enjoyable books by such famous authors as Mark Twain, Henry James, Edward Gibbon, and Francis Bacon, whose advice to travelers in 1625 is still relevant today. And of course, lots of fun movies to watch.
As an appraiser, I have had the opportunity to examine several 19th century souvenirs of The Grand Tour including sets of plaster medallions with Classical scenes, prints depicting ancient ruins, carved cameo shells and micro mosaics. I’ve even seen tables inlaid with stone, mosaics and porcelain plaques.
Grand Tours and Cook’s Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915. Lynne Withey. William Morrow, 1997.
Italy and the Grand Tour. Jeremy Black. Yale University Press, 2003.
Ladies of the Grand Tour. Brian Dolan. Flamingo, New Ed Edition, 2002.
The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. Jeremy Black. Sutton Publishing, 2003.
The predominant motif in Art Deco design was the appearance of “Speed”. Streamlined sweeping curves based on aerodynamic principles – a symbol of forward movement.
The pessimism – some critics considered it decadence – that pervaded society at the end of the 19th century was replaced with a sense of optimism and excitement. People looked ahead to the new century witnessing the industrial progress that was giving them hope for an economic and social revival.
The term “Art Deco” derived from the 1925 Paris L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The purpose of the exhibition was to “unite art with industry”. The concept was to embody the ideas of this modern age with a complete break from the past. The work of designers was not to imitate earlier historical periods. They could, however, draw on ancient designs for inspiration, as long as the artisans adapted the designs in the modern style.
Gathering from diverse sources, we see motifs from Mayan and Aztec cultures; Egyptian themes that coincided with the discovery and worldwide interest in King Tut’s tomb, and interest in the striking patterns and colors inherent in African and Japanese art.
The cost of fine handcrafted objects was out of the reach of many. Exotic woods, and other expensive materials made this new design form available only to the very wealthy. A need was created for production of machine-made objects in quantity, cost-efficient, modern looking and affordable to all; items that were not only functional, but beautiful in their simplicity.
Streamlined designs were applied to cars, trains, ships, and objects whose purpose was certainly not forward movement. Buildings, gas pumps, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, radios and gramophones, kitchen utensils, toasters, ceramics, pottery and glassware, clocks and wall sconces, and other everyday items all displayed this new form of design. Striking geometric patterns, bold and contrasting use of color, symmetry, lack of frills and of anything faintly romantic defined the style.
Art Deco concepts permeated all things in the 1920s and 1930s – architecture, fine art, cinema, graphics and advertising posters, and in fashion design for both men and women.
Bakelite and other new synthetic materials were particularly well-suited to the mass production of Art Deco jewelry. Now anyone regardless of their social position could afford the trendy and decorative pieces that were now available to all.
Sleek-looking metals, stainless steel, aluminum and chrome appeared in even the most common household items. The cocktail shaker became the symbol of fashionable sophistication in many middle-class homes. If you enjoy the “Thin Man” movies or any movie from the 1930’s, spot the cocktail service that was always present as part of the set decoration.
Walk into a home department at Macy’s, and you will most likely see a display of Fiesta Ware. Still popular with its simple, streamlined forms in brilliant colors, it was introduced by the Homer Laughlin China Co. of West Virginia in 1936.The line was noted for its Art Deco styling which featured concentric circles and a variety of bright colors and shapes. It was discontinued in 1972 due to changing tastes in dinnerware styles, but was reintroduced in 1984 with new glazes and colors. Popular again, Fiesta Ware is considered to be the most collected brand of china in the United States.
An organization devoted to the preservation of Art Deco in all its forms is the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. They are sponsoring a festival aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California from August 18-20. It will be a weekend of total immersion in the Art Deco era. They are also planning their annual Avalon Ball in January in the Casino on Catalina Island. The Catalina Casino on Avalon Bay, built in 1929, is a remarkable example of Art Deco design. Information and many interesting articles on preservation as well as other topics and events can be found on their website.
The theme of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – “A Century of Progress” sums up the underlying ideas of the period known as Art Deco: Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.
Art Deco survived into the early 1940’s when it evolved to mid-century modernism.
One of the most interesting assignments I’ve had was to appraise a large collection of Art Deco period furniture and posters for insurance purposes. Identifying the exotic veneers was a challenge.
Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s. Alastair Duncan.
Harry N. Abrams New York, 2009.
Art Deco 1910-1939. Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, Ghislaine Wood, Editors
V & A Publications. London, 2003. (Victoria and Albert Museum)
During the years 1890 to the beginning of the First World War, Art Nouveau, or the “new art” movement encompassed graphic arts, interior design, architecture, the use of technology and new scientific discoveries, as well as many of the decorative arts including textiles, jewelry, silver, ceramics and glassware, tile, ironwork, lighting, and the fine arts. It was considered a “total art style”, more of a movement than a style, which promoted the philosophy that art should be a way of life. In the words of William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It was rooted in the Arts and Crafts movement of the mid to late 19th century which called for a closer union between the fine and decorative arts and away from the academic styles of the overly fussy and conservative Victorian tastes of the time.
Designs were inspired by all things in nature, employing flowers, vines, and other flora and fauna. Intertwining curvilinear forms, asymmetrical and dynamic, flowing one into another, always striving for harmony. It was described in 1894 as “sudden, violent curves generated by the crack of a whip “. Through exhibitions in Europe and the U.S. in the late 19th-early 20th century, Japanese woodblock prints became popular and were an important influence in Art Nouveau designs with their many references to the world of nature.
Art Nouveau designs have a distinctive appearance, instantly recognizable. The artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement frowned upon the use of the machine as an aid in creating their art forms. Their ideal was to create a more humane and just society through their artistic endeavors. The artists of this “new style” enthusiastically adopted new materials and new technology in developing innovative, imaginative, and fanciful designs, particularly in jewelry, glass, and the new medium of cast iron, which was artistically utilized in architectural interiors and exteriors. It was truly “art for art’s sake” and beauty, grace, and harmony were the desired results.
In the United States, Art Nouveau is often referred to as “Tiffany style”, although there were several other well-known and highly regarded American design studios. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and his studio were most famous for their lamps. He experimented with the processes of coloring glass, and in 1894 patented favrile glass, which used metallic oxides to color the interior of molten glass giving it an iridescent effect. Among Tiffany’s most notable designs was the dragonfly. Gossamer-winged dragonflies, mysterious and ethereal, are admired in many cultures. They are a symbol of agility and purity because they are always found hovering and darting about near water. To the Chinese, they symbolize harmony and prosperity. Dragonfly lampshades became one of the Studio’s most popular designs, and were produced in many colors and styles. The most valuable and most highly prized by collectors have a matching base inset with mosaic glass. Tiffany lamps can be worth anywhere from 4000 to several hundred thousand dollars.
On June 6th, 2017, Sotheby’s will feature the estate of Carol Ferranti: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios. On June 16th, James D. Julia, Inc. will be featuring lighting from Tiffany studios in their upcoming auction of Rare Lamps, Glass, and Jewelry. Among other designs, a dragonfly lamp and a remarkable wisteria leaded-glass window will be highlights. Another resource, Liveauctioneers, is an excellent free website to view realized prices from various auction houses.
In my travels last year, I was fortunate to go to the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca, Spain. Among their collections are wonderful examples of glass by Loetz, Galle’, Daum and Lalique.
The ideal of this movement can be summed up in the words of Christopher Dresser, a botanist, and a strong influence on American Art Nouveau design: “…nothing is too mundane to be transformed into a thing of beauty” if it was from nature.
American Art Nouveau. Diane Chalmers Johnson. Harry N. Abrams Inc., NY 1979
The Art of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Donald L. Stover. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 1981
Louis Comfort Tiffany. Alastair Duncan. Harry N Abrams, Inc. NY 1992
Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry: An Identification and Value Guide. Lillian Baker
Essentials of Art History. George M. Cohen, PhD. Research and Education Association
The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, spanning the years from 1875-1930, saw its beginnings as a rebellion against the fussiness and excesses of the Victorian age and the terrible economic and environmental conditions fostered by the industrial revolution. It had its origins in expressing the ideas of the Movement as stated in this quote from an exhibition catalog published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:
“Convinced that industrialization had caused the degradation of work and the destruction of the environment, Arts and Crafts reformers created works with deliberate social messages. Their designs conveyed strong convictions about what was wrong with society and reflected prescriptions for living. The aim was to incorporate art into everyday activities and thus, to democratize it”.
Groups of like-minded artisans formed guilds and collectives to produce handcrafted wares including tall vases, tiles, utilitarian shapes for daily use, original designs with simplified shapes, experimental glazes and painting techniques, many with incised and raised decorations. From the 1880’s to post World War 1, highly decorated Japanese porcelain and artifacts inspired American pottery artists and designers.
Many pottery-making collectives sprang up across America during these years, and especially in California, incorporating new ideas about design, philanthropy, and social consciousness. The Arequipa Pottery located in Marin county in Northern California, was established as part of a tuberculosis sanatorium for young working-class women who were taught the craft as part of their recovery program and produced wares for sale in stores across the country, as well as being displayed at the Pan Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915.
The popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement began to decline after World War 1 as newer design forms began to evolve. The design aesthetic of the movement continued to influence modernism in the 1930’s and 1940’s and into the post-modernism period of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sunnylands, the Walter Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, is a fine example of post-modernism architecture as it echoes the idealism, beauty, grace, form in nature, and simplicity of the earlier movement.
There are a few Arts and Crafts potteries still producing today, but almost all of them were out of business by 1930. There was a resurgence of handcrafted pottery and objects late in the 20th century and there are many artisans producing fine handcrafted works today. American Art Pottery can be found in antique stores, auctions, and on line. There are collections in many museums around the country. There are walking and home tours in San Diego and Pasadena focusing on arts and crafts design and architecture at various times of the year and many websites, books, publications, organizations and dealers can be found on line relating to the Arts and Crafts movement and, specifically, art pottery.
A worthwhile show for those who are interested in handcrafted art pottery, old and new, is the upcoming Los Angeles Pottery Show at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 20-21, 2017. It is the largest pottery and tile show in America.
General Books on the Arts and Crafts Movement:
The Art That is Life – Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875-1920, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Wendy Kaplan 1987
The Arts and Crafts Companion, Pamela Todd, 2004, Bullfinch
The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World 1880-1920, Wendy Kaplan, 2005, Thames & Hudson
The Arts and Crafts Movement (World of Art), 1991, Thames & Hudson
Arts and Crafts in Britain and America, Isabel Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, 1978, Rizzoli
General Books on American Art Pottery and Tile:
American Art Tile 1876-1941, Norman Karlson, 1998, Rizzoli
American Art Pottery, David Rago , 1997, Knickerbocker Press
California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism, Book Published in Conjunction with Exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2003-2004
Journal of the American Pottery Association – bi-monthly magazine with fully researched and in-depth articles and information on all aspects of art pottery
The American Cut Glass Association has a very informative website. In addition to membership information there are tips on identifying cut glass, dating and patterns.
There are several free articles from past issues of their journal “The Hobstar”. Among them are two articles by Vickie Matthews.
“The Care and Cleaning of Cut Glass” has tips on handling, washing and displaying. Since I’m located in an area prone to earthquakes, I especially like the suggestion of using a neutral wax or gel product sold at antique shops, hardware stores or on-line. These products can be removed without harming the glass or signatures.
“Packing and Shipping of Cut Glass” has tips on wrapping, boxing and using various shipping services. Many of these tips can be used for transportation of glass, china or collectibles in general.
One of the best places to view cut glass in Southern California is the Historical Glass Museum in Redlands. They have an entire room dedicated to American Cut Glass. Located in a Victorian house, they have many other types of American made glass; the largest collection West of the Mississippi. Check their website for upcoming lectures.