The Tale of a Bodhisattva

Nearly every day I run across some previously unknown person or event relative to Cranbrook’s history. My latest obsession is with a Chinese wall painting purchased in 1939 by George Booth for the Art Museum’s collection. Sadly, it is no longer in our collection, but the story is quite interesting nonetheless.

As early as 1916, Booth was acquiring Chinese objects from the Japanese dealer Yamanaka & Company, and soon after from Duveen Brothers and the Parish-Watson Company in New York, Spink & Son in London, and Gumps in San Francisco. As was customary, dealers maintained a relationship with their clients via letters often suggesting objects they might be interested in and including photographs and catalogs. In 1939, Booth began a relationship with the well-known Chinese dealer, C.T. Loo, who had offices and gallery space in both New York and Paris.

Bodhisattva from the Five Dynasties Period. Cisheng Monastery, Wenxian, Henan Province, China. You can clearly see where the wall painting had been cut into three sections in order to remove it from the temple.

Loo was widely considered one of the most prominent, and controversial, dealers in Chinese art and artifacts in the early twentieth century. Loo traveled annually to China to hand-pick the objects he wanted, many of which were chiseled out of or pilfered from ancient Buddhist Temples and monasteries. Daisy Yiyou Wang, Curator of Chinese and East Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the pre-eminent scholar of Loo, stated “he is remembered as a culprit for the depletion of the nation’s cultural heritage.” Loo justified his practice by stating that he was preserving China’s history by getting the objects out of China – that the Chinese couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them! In 1915, after a visit to the U.S., Loo opened a gallery in New York. His first sale was to Charles Lang Freer.

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The three sections were shipped to Paris and reassembled by restorers there.

Booth’s first interaction with C.T. Loo came in the fall of 1939 when he acquired two Chinese bronzes. In correspondence about the bronzes, Loo also suggested to Booth a large “fresco” (or wall painting) which stood thirteen feet tall. After consultation with Eliel Saarinen, Booth acquired the work, which arrived in January 1940.

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Part of the detail drawing of the Art Museum’s east wall. Saarinen designed a recessed panel which housed the painting. AD.11.236, November 5, 1940. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

In December 1941, John Gettens of the Fogg Museum examined the painting and found it to be in generally good condition. It was of the “usual mud wall of Chinese temple paintings” which included organic matter – straw, seed hulls, and rice. It was covered with a very thin white coating of kaolin, and the colored pigments were malachite, azurite, red iron oxide, yellow ochre, vermilion, and white clay.

The painting hung in the main gallery of Cranbrook Art Museum for more than thirty years. In 1974, the Museum Committee unanimously decided to sell the painting instead of pay the $5-6,000 to have it restored. Funds from the sale were to go towards the care and restoration of other works in the collection, as well as for renovations to museum storage space.

Tracing which shows the location of small areas of in-painting by Cranbook’s Marshall Fredericks, October 1941. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Thus ends the saga of the Chinese temple wall painting at Cranbrook as we do not know its whereabouts today. Other temple paintings can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Booth and Birds

In a corner of George Booth’s Old Country Office, there is a door that opens into a blank wall. I became curious about this door to nowhere last year when I was setting up the Center’s holiday display, and so this year’s Christmas scene is inspired by the door’s original purpose.

Around 1919, Booth purchased a blue and yellow macaw and named him Mack. Mack, like all parrots, enjoyed chewing things—Booth’s picture frames, furniture, and the walls themselves. Booth thought getting a second macaw, which he named Jack, might calm Mack’s chewing, but alas, he simply doubled the trouble.

In early 1920, Booth added a flat-roofed glass walled aviary outside of his office to give Mack and Jack their own space (and save the furniture). It was bound by the exterior walls of the office, living room, and library. Accessed through a door left of the fireplace, Mack and Jack were joined by canaries in the aviary, and according to Henry Booth’s memories, every time the canaries sang or the telephone rang, the macaws’ squawk would fill the house.

This ca 1925 view of Cranbrook House shows the exterior window of the aviary, covered with a cabana striped awning, between the bay window of the office and the library wing. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Eventually, the Booth’s gave Mack and Jack to the Belle Isle Zoo. The canaries remained for a time, cared for by one of the maids, Harriet. When she retired, the aviary was disassembled and the window was reused as a kitchen window for Brookside School, where it remains.

For my holiday display, I’ve opened the door to the aviary and staged a scene as if Mack and Jack were just here: destroying a book and leaving their feathers all around. You can find the canaries enjoying themselves around the Christmas Tree.

IMG_0798Also on display in the office, is a series of birds that Booth could have seen on his many walks around the Cranbrook estate–hawks, cardinals, robins, and plenty of ducks (on loan to me from Cranbrook Institute of Science). All are native to Michigan, except for the pheasant which would have been introduced to the area by early settlers. Pheasants, however, love fallow fields and run-down farms—exactly what the land which became Cranbrook was when Booth purchased the property in 1904!

IMG_0799Alongside the taxidermy I’ve included pieces from the Cranbrook Archives: early copies of Institute bulletins on the Birds of Michigan, original artwork from an ornithogist working at Cranbrook in the 1930s, and photographs and short biographies of other bird-related Cranbrook people, like W. Bryant Tyrrell, Walter P. Nickell, and Edmund J. Sawyer.

Come and see the Office display this weekend (December 1-3) for the House and Gardens Auxiliary’s Holiday Splendor event (Friday, 10-4pm, Saturday 9-4pm, and Sunday 12-4pm), visit it with me next Wednesday before or after the Center’s Järnefelt Piano Trio: Jean Sibelius Concert, or at any of the other Cranbrook House events before January 8th.

Kevin Adkisson, 2016-2018 Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Evolution of a Rink

Sixty years ago Cranbrook School headmaster, Harry Hoey, spoke to a group bundled in their warmest winter clothes at the formal dedication of the new outside skating rink at Cranbrook. The rink was unveiled on January 12th, 1957, at an estimated cost of $104,000. The new “artificial” rink, built on the site of the original natural ice surface, was constructed because there was a constant risk that the natural ice would not sustain a hockey season due to unreliable weather.

Hockey player on the “natural” ice rink, 1940. Photographer Richard G. Askew. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The new rink was built to hockey specifications (85 x 190 ft.) and was refrigerated by two over-sized compressors designed to operate in adverse weather conditions. Artificial rinks were a relatively new phenomenon in the 1950s and Cranbrook researched the project for several years before proceeding. The planning team looked at rinks around the country, including Dartmouth, Cornell, and Williams College.

Skaters at the artificial rink dedication. The Pontiac Press, 14 Jan 1957.

The rink was open six months out of the year and accommodated Cranbrook School ice hockey teams and students, as well as the outlying communities for day and night skating. From 1957-1982 the Cranbrook Skating Club oversaw all operations of the rink. During this time the club held Board of Directors meetings, generated correspondence for the raising of funds for daily operations, and supervised various program schedules, benefits, and employees of the skating rink.

By the 1970s the rink was showing wear and the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and middle school teams were forced to buy ice time at neighboring rinks for practice and games. A committee was formed and students, faculty, and friends staged a skate-a-thon and worked with then-Cranbrook president, Arthur Kiendl, to raise money.

The original plan was to build a new enclosed facility for winter skating and summer tennis, but the price was too high, so committee members and Cranbrook administrators decided to complete the work in phases. The first step – cement work for the rink surface and spectators’ section, new boards, and new piping – was completed with a gift by Grace Booth Wallace and her family in 1978. The final phases of the project – which included total enclosure of the arena – were completed in 1979.

A view of Wallace Ice Arena with the tennis courts in the foreground. Photographer Balthazar Korab, Oct 2000.

Today Cranbrook athletes, students, faculty, and the public enjoy the state-of-the art Wallace Ice Arena.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Annual Images

James Scripps Booth (JSB), eldest son of George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth,  attended St. Luke’s School in Wayne, Pennsylvania. According to the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, St. Luke’s School operated from 1863-1927. It was in its Wayne, Pennsylvania location from 1902 until its closing. In 1907, JSB was a student there and drew pictures for the school’s annual.

Cranbrook Archives retains the original drawings of the pages James contributed, as well as copies of pages from the annual which feature JSB, his work, or his friends.

For more on James Scripps Booth, see some of our previous blog posts:

https://cranbrookkitchensink.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/i-have-a-crush-on-james-scripps-booth/

https://cranbrookkitchensink.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/tranquil-still-room/

https://cranbrookkitchensink.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/cranbrook-and-the-car-part-1-the-aristocrat-of-small-cars/

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

The Devil Made Him Do It

In a grassy meadow (once called “Frisbee Valley”) at the bottom of Suicide Hill is a line of boulders – a sculpture colloquially known as Snake Rock. Actually titled “Lucifer Landing (Real Snake in Imaginary Garden)” or Lucifer Landing for short, the sculpture was designed by American artist Richard Nonas using thirty-nine boulders which zigzag in a serpentine line. One could describe the boulder with the sharp-angled end as resembling the head of a snake, while the rest of the boulders (relatively the same height as each other) taper to the tail section, which appear like rattles. While some think the boulders, which weigh a collective seventy tons!, were found on Cranbrook’s grounds, they were actually acquired in Clarkston, Michigan and represent a cross-section of the type of rocks deposited by the glaciers in Oakland County.

Richard Nonas, 1989. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Jane Knirr photographer.

Nonas was invited by Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Head of Sculpture, Michael Hall, to join other major artists like Alice Aycock, Mark DiSuvero, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Stackhouse in exhibiting temporary sculpture installations across campus. Funded by the Academy of Art Women’s Committee and Gilbert and Lila Silverman, Lucifer Landing was installed in 1989 – the first sculpture to be placed on campus since the 1970s. Twenty Academy of Art students helped put the boulders in place.

Trained as an archaeologist, Nonas was known for sitting abstract works in wood, stone, or metal directly on the ground. He said “it amused me to place something at Cranbrook that [Eliel] Saarinen might have seen as a child in Finland. There are prehistoric stone monuments near his boyhood home.” While working on the sculpture, Nonas developed a great respect for Cranbrook’s sense of place, and wanted to construct a small form that changed as you walked by and around it – a “sculpture that activates its space, that confuses you a little, keeps you involved in it as you walk past it.” A form that looked almost natural but really couldn’t be.

Lucifer Landing, October 2017. Photograph by the author.

The sculpture’s title suggests the relationship between man and not-man, man and nature, and nature as it was before man. Nonas described how Lucifer, the rebel angel who was expelled from heaven, came to Cranbrook and left an intrusive mark in the Cranbrook landscape, creating an “itch he [Saarinen] couldn’t scratch.”

NOTE: For an excellent article “A Mark of Place: Lucifer Landing Past, Present and Future” on the mistaken dismantling of the sculpture in February 1999, see The Crane-Clarion’s June 1999 issue. Cranbrook Kingswood senior and associate editor Erica Friedman discussed the Cranbrook landscape and how we must face the “problem of destruction passing for progress” – a topic many Americans, including those at Cranbrook, continue to face today.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Hats in the Alhambra

After a long illness in 1886, Ellen Scripps Booth’s father James Edmund Scripps (1835-1906) retired from his work life in the newspaper business (he had founded Detroit’s The Evening News in 1873). James spent two years recuperating and traveling in England and continental Europe with his wife Harriet and their children. The family visited Scripps cousins and traveled with some of his twelve siblings and their children. James, who had become interested in architecture (particularly church architecture), spent many hours sketching at the locations they visited.

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Scripps family members at the Courtyard of the Lions at Alhambra, Granada, Spain, November 1888.  From left: William Armiger Scripps, Ellen Browning Scripps, Eliza Virginia Scripps, Grace Locke Scripps, Florence May Scripps, Harriet Messinger Scripps, Anna Virginia Scripps, James Edmund Scripps. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

James Edmund Scripps sketched exterior wall decoration at Alhambra, below. Notice how closely it matches the wall in the photograph.

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In the picture at the Alhambra, take a look at James’s sister second from the left: Ellen Browning Scripps. Ellen was a publisher for The Evening News and wrote a daily column, nicknamed “Miss Ellen’s Miscellany” that rehashed local and national news in a conversational tone. She even sent dispatches back to Detroit from Europe. Shortly after their trip to Europe and well-hatted visit to the Alhambra, the Scripps siblings had a bit of a falling out: she and another brother headed to California, where she eventually founded many important educational and philanthropic organizations in the San Diego area.

If you want to hear more about Ellen Browning Scripps and the Scripps siblings, the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is hosting a lecture and book signing with Molly McClain on Sunday, November 12thEllen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy  is a new book by Dr. McClain, Professor of History at the University of San Diego. To learn more about the lecture and to purchase tickets, click here. Books are also available to purchase through the Center.

–Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

Cranbrook Celebrates Halloween

Campus celebrations throughout the years.

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Edna Vogel: Cranbrook’s Other Wright Weaver

Researching in the Archives before a big tour, I came across an interesting person whom I earmarked to come back and examine further. I already knew Loja Saarinen wove textiles for Frank Lloyd Wright, but Edna Vogel’s story of weaving for Wright intrigued me; it turned out there was a bit more to learn about Edna Vogel.

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Edna Vogel in her weaving studio, July 1942. Joe Munroe, photographer. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Edna Vogel (1901-1953) grew up in St. Louis and studied at a teacher’s college and then Washington University in St. Louis. She wasn’t in love with teaching elementary school, but she did like making costumes, so in the early 1930s she went to New York to study dress design. Not finding the cloth she wanted in stores led her to discover an interest in weaving, and weaving led her to Cranbrook for summer courses in 1939.

Vogel studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art for four summers and two regular academic years, earning her MFA in May 1943. Like so many Academy students, Vogel bounced between disciplines, studying weaving with Marianne Strengell, ceramics with Maija Grotell, and working in the metals shop. She spent most of her time in the ceramics studio, with Grotell commenting in 1941 that Vogel had a “very fine understanding for color and form” and that “her technical research and discoveries are exceedingly valuable.”

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Ceramics and place-mat by Edna Vogel, made as a student at Cranbrook. Detail of a photograph, June 12, 1941. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

In the early 1940s, Vogel moved into the carriage house of Bloomfield Hills socialite Kate Thompson Bromley, who kept detailed diaries that include information on Vogel’s work and travels. 

Vogel worked in the carriage house with two assistants between three looms (small, medium, and very large), she began weaving placemats, pillows, fabrics, and rugs. The largest rug Vogel wove was for architect Albert Kahn, in a Swedish style, and she wove others for Kahn’s family. She also wove the rugs for Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1941 Gregor Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills. Wright instructed Affleck to use long, strip-like rugs for his living room in order to leave much of the concrete floor exposed. Affleck, who may have met Vogel through Grotell or Bromley, commissioned rugs from her sometime in the early 1940s.

Thrilled with receiving the commission, Edna Vogel set off in her car towards Wisconsin and Wright’s estate, Taliesin. Approaching Taliesin, she became nervous that the famous Wright would not want to see her without an appointment. She ended up knocking on the wrong door of the house, introduced herself to an apprentice, and, to her surprise, being taken into a meeting with Wright. He seemed charmed—with both her and her ideas for the Affleck House rugs. He was so impressed by Vogel that he invited her to come and work at Taliesin as both weaver and ceramicist.

She stayed for a long weekend, but as remembered in Mrs. Bromley’s diaries, Vogel’s chief complaint with Wright’s work centered on his interest in providing functional architecture but not always functional furnishings. Wright did not, Bromley wrote, “aim to make a house and furniture one unit as at Cranbrook,” and so Vogel decided to return to Michigan and remain at the Academy. She completed the rugs for the Affleck House, and at a visit to the house later, Wright’s wife Olgivanna commented that the rugs were the “finest she had ever seen.”

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Edna Vogel’s rugs for the Gregor Affleck House, c. 1941-45. Courtesy of Lawrence Technological University.

At the end of the 1940s, after exhibiting ceramics internationally and producing textiles for homes, Vogel moved to New York. She wanted a place to find new inspiration and focus on her weaving. In South Salem, about thirty-miles north of New York City, she bought a former school house with a first-floor residence and an open studio large enough for her 12-foot loom on the second floor. She produced rugs of various sizes that were noted for their painterly, subtle uses of color, and she maintained an extensive collection of yarns from around the world. Tragically, Vogel died of smoke inhalation in 1953 when a chimney fire spread to her yarn storage.

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Rug by Edna Vogel, displayed at Cranbrook. Photograph, July 30, 1942. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

We have just a few images of Edna Vogel’s works in our archives and I found only a handful more in periodicals in the Art Academy Library. If you know more about her, or where her work lives on, let us know in the comments or at center@cranbrook.edu.

– Kevin Adkisson, Collections Fellow, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

The Littlest Rebel

In March 1936, Henry Scripps Booth traveled to California to meet up with his parents who had been wintering out west. Henry spent three weeks at The Desert Inn in Palm Springs where he went for walks, painted, and wrote many letters home to his wife, Carolyn. The following letter from him describes the famous people he saw while there.

“Desert Inn pepped up yesterday. There were three hundred fifty extra for lunch out-of-doors . . . Monte Montaigne (I believe that’s his name) entertained the people with trick roping acts and riding his trick horse, but I knew nothing about that until it was all over. I did see the horse in his private trailer parked in the grounds, however.

“But the guest of guests is none other than little Miss Shirley Temple who has come here with her mother and a mother’s friend to spend a couple of weeks.”

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Letterhead, March 1936. Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers, Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Temple and her family were frequent visitors to The Desert Inn, often around the Easter holiday. In 1936, the Temples stayed there after Shirley had completed filming “Captain January” and “Poor Little Rich Girl.”

“The new King of bally old England could hardly cause the other guests to take more notice. A waitress called my attention to her last night at dinner, sitting at right angles to me only two tables away. Everybody was craning his neck to have a look at her, and those who left the room first all sat by the door so they could see her make her exit. When she came out and walked over by the office, most everyone suddenly had business over there too. Monte Montaigne and his wife and baby were there, and as the Temples talked to them, the crowd became fictitiously interested in the baby also. It is the same story where ever Shirley is.

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Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

“This morning she was out trying to bat tennis balls one of her bodyguards was batting to her. A few other children were in on the play. The gallery consisted of at least six people nearby and a lot of others (like Myself) in the distance. Later when she was throwing a ball to a dog, people were talking movies and generally going ga-ga over her. When I came back from the pool where I had been painting this afternoon, I did see her without spectators, but of course with the guard who in reality is her playmate, and another guard in uniform. The two of them had a lot of dried peas and were shooting them with a sling-shot just like the Littlest Rebel.

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Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

“She is not pretty, but certainly is cute. Her hair is curls all over of sort of a deep taffey [sic] color. She is very blond with pink cheeks. She screws up her face when she talks, has a twinkle in her dark eyes, and sort of minces around in her usual movie manner. She is very well behaved, sitting at the table and eating her dinner as good little girls should, and generally taking the attention she gets with good grace. Both nights she has taken a doll to dinner; last night a girl doll, tonight an Indian chief with a feathered headdress. She has a pink coat more or less like Cynthia’s [Henry’s daughter], but short as the French would have it so her bare legs are seen pretty much all the way up. She played around today in sort of drab slacks with a jacket to match. Their cottage is by the pool so I will see a good deal of her.”

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The pool at The Desert Inn, 1936. Henry Scripps Booth, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

NOTE: In December 1937, Nellie Coffman, owner of The Desert Inn, dedicated the bungalow to Shirley Temple. Held in front of family, hotel visitors, and the press, the ceremony featured nine year old Shirley who christened the bungalow not with a bottle of champagne, but with a bottle of milk.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

The Art and Science of Numbers

“La science du nombre devient la clef de toute culture scientifique,” prefaces an article by then-director, Robert T. Hatt, in the May 1966 Cranbrook Institute of Science newsletter. Roughly translated – the science of numbers becomes the key to any scientific culture – an idea promoted through a long-term exhibition at the Institute, titled Mathematics Emporium.

Sponsored by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), the exhibition was a replacement for the World of Numbers, which was a mathematics-focused exhibition on display at the Institute from 1961-1966. The goal of the Mathematics Emporium was to discover the character of mathematics or as Dr. Hatt explained, “what mathematics is all about.”

Invitation to preview the Mathematics Emporium exhibition, Apr 1966.

The exhibition was created by well-known designer, Gordon Ashby, who previously worked with Charles and Ray Eames.  During Ashby’s tenure with the Eames Office, he worked on the Mathematica exhibition (also sponsored by IBM) for the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles (now the California Science Center) and later for the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair (1964/1965). For the Cranbrook exhibition, Ashby worked in consultation with several mathematics teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area to design displays about geometry, calculus, the properties of space, the giving of form to algebraic equations, and the measurement of motion and change.

Letter from Ashby to Hatt, Feb 1966.

Ashby’s goal with the Mathematics Emporium was to depict mathematical subjects in an imaginative way to stimulate the curiosity of visitors and encourage further investigation. The exhibition was enclosed in an 18-foot modular showcase that contained a graphic panel with sketches or diagrams, as well as a collection of thirteen small displays. Ashby said he hoped to create an exhibition “that would make mathematics ‘look-at-able’ and bear repeated visits.”

Mathematics Emporium exhibition. Photograph by Harvey Croze, Apr 1966. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The exhibition showcase was trimmed in gold-leaf and included photographs, mathematical limericks, and quotes by famous mathematicians. Within each display there were thought-provoking questions, such as “what has a can of baking powder to do with calculus?” and “which mathematical science sees a coffee cup and a doughnut as alike?” The Mathematics Emporium was very popular with visitors, and it remained a permanent exhibition in the Institute’s collections for more than 14 years.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

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