There’s Always a Detroit Connection

In the main hallway of Kingswood and in the living room of Thornlea, there are paintings by artist Myron G. Barlow (1873-1937). I love the look of these paintings and began to wonder about the artist. I’ve come to learn he was an internationally known Detroit-raised painter. As with all things Cranbrook, it seems, there is always a Detroit connection.

Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow.

The Kingswood painting Two Women with a Bowl of Flowers on a Table depicts two peasant girls, one standing and one bending over a bowl of flowers. It was donated to Kingswood around 1970 by Herbert Sott in memory of his wife Mignon Ginsburg Sott, who was Kingswood Class of 1943.

Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, circa 1912 by Myron G. Barlow

The other painting, Young Girl Braiding Her Hair, is of a girl looking in a mirror braiding her hair. It was purchased by James Scripps Booth from the artist in 1912. James attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and in 1911 had studied under Barlow; James’ painting “Onion Gatherer, Cote d’Azure” depicts Barlow’s cottage studio. James gave Young Girl Braiding Her Hair to his parents George and Ellen Booth. It originally hung in Cranbrook House’s main staircase. George and Ellen gifted the painting to Henry and Carolyn Booth, who hung it in their home, Thornlea.

Myron Barlow (1873-1937). Son of Adolph and Fanny Barlow who were members of Temple Beth El. Courtesy Temple Beth El Facebook page.

Myron G. Barlow (1873-1937), son of Adolph and Fanny Barlow who were members of Temple Beth-El in Detroit. Courtesy Temple Beth El.

Myron G. Barlow was born in Ionia, Michigan in 1873 and raised in Detroit. As a teenager, he trained at the Detroit Museum School, where he studied under Joseph Gies, and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. He began his career as a newspaper artist. He eventually traveled to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where studied under Jean-Leon Gerome.

While copying paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Barlow discovered Johannes Vermeer. As stated in William H. Gerdts’ Masterworks of American Impressionism from the Pfeil Collection, “Like Vermeer, one of Barlow’s favorite artistic themes became the depiction of figures, often female and usually set in an interior; frequently isolated and motionless, surrounded by a dream-like atmosphere rendered in a single, dominant tonality, often blue.”

Barlow in his studio after 1900. Courtesy of Nancy Brett (Barlow's great-niece) on Temple Beth-El Facebook page.

Barlow in his studio after 1900. Courtesy of Nancy Brett (Barlow’s great-niece) via Temple Beth-El.

Around 1900, Barlow moved to the French village of Trepied. There he transformed a peasant’s house into his studio. He would, however, make frequent trips back to Detroit and kept a home there as well.

He served as the Chairman of the Scarab Club around 1918. According to his Detroit News obituary, “Among his major achievements in Detroit are six large murals which he painted for the main auditorium of Temple Beth-El, which were completed in 1925.”

In 1907, he was the only American elected to the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts and in 1932 was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French Government. He was recognized for his work with gold medals at the St. Louis and Panama Pacific Exhibition, and by having his works purchased by many international museums, including the Musée Quentovic in France, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Detroit Club and the private collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild also included works by Barlow.

In May 1937, he left Detroit with the intention of selling his studio in France and returning to the city for the remainder of his life. Unfortunately, he died in his home in Trepied that fall.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Do you know the Rustic Man?

A recent request made me curious about Albert Charpaize, a French landscape gardener with expertise in rustic woodwork. In the annals of Henry Wood Booth, it states that he was engaged by George Gough Booth in the fall of 1914 to complete rustic woodwork on the estate. He had worked until Christmas that year, when he had returned to his home in Dayton, Ohio, before returning to Cranbrook in the Spring of 1915.

Having found no correspondence between George and Charpaize, I anticipated there would be mention of him in the letters that George sent to his son, Henry Scripps Booth. The correspondence between George and Henry is always a delightful source for information on Booth family life and travels, as well as the progress of early Cranbrook architectural projects. While I found no direct mention of Charpaize, I noticed that George referred instead a “Rustic Man”.

Letter from George Gough Booth to Henry Scripps Booth, September 20, 1914. Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers (1982-05) Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Letter from George Gough Booth to Henry Scripps Booth, September 20, 1914. Henry Scripps and Carolyn Farr Booth Papers (1982-05), Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Henry Wood Booth’s Annals state that, between 1914 and 1915, Charpaize built two rustic summer houses (small one near the Pump House and a larger one on the hillside west of Nob Hill), a rustic fence on the northward side of Oakdale Road, a rustic wood bannister on Nob Hill, and five rustic bridges – one across the entrance to Mill Pond, one across the Serpentine near the Spillway, one across the brook near Cranbrook Road, and one each across Sunny Brook (located between Kingswood School and the lake) and Stony Brook (located north yet parallel of Sunny Brook).

Bridge across Sunny Brook. Pleasures of Life Volume 2, Page 2

Bridge across Sunny Brook, Pleasures of Life Volume 2, Page 2

Visual sources are an important source for verifying information in documents, in this case for identifying the work of Charpaize, and his artistic signature is distinctive. Look again at the bridge across Sunny Brook and compare it with the rustic fence and the rustic tea house below:

Mar 1916 Rustic fence with steps to gazebo

March 1916, Rustic fence with steps to gazebo

Looking east over Cranbrook Road Gazebo by Albert Charpaize “Rustic Tea House”

Looking east over Cranbrook Road, Gazebo by Albert Charpaize, “Rustic Tea House”

Archives are the vestiges of times past – they are the key to historical accuracy. Yet, different types of records hold varying degrees of evidential value. From the description of the work of the Rustic Man given by George, the list of projects described by Henry Wood Booth, and the visual sources, it is possible to confidently infer that the rustic man is Albert Charpaize.

Ideally, the list of projects in the annals should be corroborated by an informal source (a document created to officially record an activity, rather than consciously conveying history as is the case with annals, chronicles, and newspapers). The test for historical evidence is always who created it, for whom, when, why and for what purpose. Then I found Charpaize in the Coats and Burchard Appraisal of 1914-1918, which refers to him four times: “pergola to well” at Colony House, and three rustic bridges – one at mill race, one across the stream near Brookside Cottage and one across the stream at Cranbrook Road (all in 1915). The appraisal provides the evidence for Charpaize working on specific projects across the estate.

Page of appraisal listing three rustic bridges built by Albert Charpaize in 1915 Coats and Burchard Appraisal, 1914-1918 George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth Financial Papers (1981-02) Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

Page of appraisal listing three rustic bridges built by Albert Charpaize in 1915. Coats and Burchard Appraisal, 1914-1918, George Gough and Ellen Scripps Booth Financial Papers (1981-02), Cranbrook Archives, Center for Collections and Research

The archives of three generations of the Booth family have contributed to our knowledge of Albert Charpaize. I feel sure there is more to be discovered – the appraisal only listed three of the bridges described by Henry Wood Booth. The story of Cranbrook’s Rustic Man is to be continued…

We are busy preparing for House Party this weekend, where we are celebrating the history of the Cranbrook Archives! And there are many more events coming up – we all look forward to seeing you soon!

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

Photo Friday: Family Life at Thornlea

Henry Scripps Booth designed his home near Cranbrook just north of the Meeting House and Brookside School (another building on which he served as architect) in a thorny meadow. He called it “Thornlea” after its hardscrabble site. Built from 1925-1926, the house and its grounds hosted over sixty years of family gatherings, large and small. As is evidenced in Henry’s photograph albums, he, his wife Carolyn, and their five children celebrated holidays and entertained friends often. Equally represented are images of everyday life, such as this one:

Henry Scripps Booth can be seen soaking up the rays alongside the pool at Thornlea House in the summer of 1964. To his right are son David and grandson Miles. 

Henry Scripps Booth can be seen soaking up the rays alongside the pool at Thornlea House in the summer of 1964. To his right are son David and grandson Miles. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, Henry Scripps Booth Papers.

With just ten official days left of summer, let’s take a moment to bask in similar memories of long hot sunny days.

See Thornlea for yourself and help us make new memories at the house on Saturday, September 21st, when you join us for A House Party at Cranbrook. Thornlea will be open for tours, live jazz at the piano, and cocktails on the patio prior to the evening’s live auction and dinner at Cranbrook House. Join us and support Cranbrook Archives and the Center for Collections and Research at our annual fundraiser, tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available!

 

Deborah Rice, Head Archivist

The Day Cranbrook Went Bananas

You probably know Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School has a football team, and you might remember that the Detroit Lions held training camps here in the 1970s, but did you also know that Cranbrook Academy of Art is an undefeated intercollegiate football team?

Homecoming Queen Barbara Tiso takes a convertible ride around the field with Academy President Wallace Mitchell.

Homecoming Queen Barbara Tiso takes a convertible ride around the field with Academy President Wallace Mitchell. Cranbrook Archives.

As The Cranbrook Magazine reported in the Winter 1971 issue, “Before winter zeroed in [the Academy] had a rousing football weekend similar in events, at least, to those at large universities that specialize in such things.” There was a bonfire pep rally, organized cheering sections, a Homecoming Queen, the game itself with a halftime show from both schools, and a victory banquet.

Sculpture head Michael Hall regarded the weekend as a conceptual art project, and said “as spectacle, pageant, formation and participation football is a direct parallel to art forms as disparate as the Baroque Mass and Alan Kaprow’s ‘Soapsuds Event’.”

The idea for a game began after conversations between Hall and a colleague at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The students at both schools accepted the challenge, and Cranbrook’s bucolic suburban setting (replete with Thompson Oval) seemed the idea location.

The game of flag football was covered by newspapers in Detroit and Chicago, with radio DJ’s in Detroit billing the game on Cranbrook School’s field as a season highlight. Cranbrook’s seventy-six male students were augmented with faculty and Nick Vettraino, groundskeeper. After an extensive (minor) injury list, only twenty players made the roster. I’ll let the Magazine coverage of the game speak for itself:

Emma Kay Szabados was a big hit as the Academy's mascot banana.

Emma Kay Szabados was a big hit as the Academy’s mascot banana. It is unclear why we were the bananas. Cranbrook Archives.

“Hog Butchers and Bananas were noticeably self-conscious when they trotted onto the field. But as the game progressed and the crowd of 300 cheered vociferously, players and spectators alike were caught up in the spirit of true athletic competition.

Cranbrook grabbed an early lead on the swift running of Nick Vettraino and the spectacular pass catching of Dick Ewen. But the Hog Butchers kept fighting back.

Quarterback George Sorrels used a “flexible formation from the pro set,” allegedly adapted from Detroit Lions plays by Coach Mel Baker. Cranbrook Archives.

“Cranbrook grabbed an early lead on the swift running of Nick Vettraino and the spectacular pass catching of Dick Ewen. But the Hog Butchers kept fighting back.

the pro-Bananas crowd flocked onto the field and hoisted heroes onto their shoulders.

The crowd going wild as Cranbrook marches on to victory. Notice Gerhardt Knodel, Artist-in-Residence of the Fiber department (and future Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art) in the foreground. Cranbrook Archives.

 

“As darkness descended Cranbrook led 27-25 with time left for just one play. Chicago tried a field goal that would bring victory. The kick failed, and the pro-Bananas crowd flocked onto the field and hoisted heroes onto their shoulders.

Patrick and Mary Mitchell, son and wife of Academy President Wallace Mitchell, manned the sideline markers.

Patrick and Mary Mitchell, son and wife of Academy President Wallace Mitchell, manned the sideline markers. Cranbrook Archives.

“Art or not, it was a helluva weekend. And after it was all over the campus was permeated with a camaraderie never seen before in Academy history.”

As the Upper School kicks off its season against U of D Jesuit tonight, I’d like to wish everyone a happy football season (Go Cranes!) and welcome Schools and Academy students back to campus. Perhaps we will see a rematch of the Bananas and the Hog Butchers on the gridiron soon? If so, there’s a new press box from which to call the game. I volunteer to provide color commentary!

Kevin Adkisson, Curatorial Associate

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