A Hunter of Taos

Earlier this week, as part of our regularly scheduled inventory and evaluation of cultural properties, I took a specialist from Sotheby’s New York to see a painting a bit off the beaten track of Cranbrook’s usual spots to find art. Hanging in the Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Boys, A Hunter of Taos is an incredible work by the American painter Oscar Edmund Berninghaus.

A Hunter of Taos

A Hunter of Taos, 1926
Oscar Edmund Berninghaus, American, 1874-1952
Oil on canvas, 34 x 39 in.
Gift of Henry S. Booth to the Cranbrook School

The painting shows a male American Indian proudly standing with a bow and arrows, while horses and riders pass behind through a rocky landscape and trees aglow in warm sunlight. The trees are made up of swirling golds, ochres, and greens, their abstraction complimenting the almost impressionistic rendering of the figures immediately below. The central hunter, however, is rendered clearly, with his face set immediately in front of a draped white fabric and his gaze looking back at the viewer. The scale of the painting, about three-feet square, is impressive. But why is it here in the Boys Middle School, or even at Cranbrook?

First, let’s step back a bit further to the artist himself: Oscar Edmund Berninghaus (1874-1952). A native of St. Louis, he began his career as a commercial lithographer, draftsman, and illustrator. He explored painting as a fine art through classes at Washington University and at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, where in 1899 the twenty-five year-old was awarded a month’s long paid journey westward by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. On this trip, Berninghaus was introduced to beauty and culture of the American Southwest, particularly Taos, New Mexico.

The Taos Pueblo, in north central New Mexico, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America, with the Pueblo people settling there over one-thousand years ago. It became a popular spot for artists in the late-1890s, and by 1910, Berninghaus was making annual pilgrimages between Taos and St. Louis. In the winter he would work on his lithography and commercial mural work to finance summers at Taos. There, he painted Native Americans, their horses, scenes of daily life, and the landscape. In 1915 he became a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, composed of European-Americans who came to Taos to paint American Indian subjects. Berninghaus claimed he was “infected with the Taos germ” and was “fascinated by the people, the Indians and Mexicans, the adobe architecture, the sagebrush, the mountains; they all inspired me as a subject matter.”

In 1925, Berninghaus relocated permanently to Taos. He painted landscapes, animals, and scenes of daily life in the pueblo and village. In A Hunter of Taos, the model was Santiago Bernal, a Pueblo farm laborer and frequent model for Berninghaus. In a letter to a newspaper in 1927, Berninghaus wrote, “I think the colony in Taos is doing much for American Art. From it I think will come a distinctive art, something definitely American–and I do not mean that such will be the case because the American Indian and his environment are the subjects. But the canvases that come from Taos are as definitely American as anything can be. We have had French, Dutch, Italian, German art. Now we must have American art. I feel that from Taos will come that art” (as quoted in Pioneer Artists of Taos, p. 98).

Our painting, considered one of the artist’s finest, was first exhibited at New York’s National Academy of Design in its 1926 Winter Exhibition. The work won the Second Altman Prize, one of several awards given out by the Academy of Design. On June 6, 1927, Henry Booth purchased the painting from the artist.

North Lobby with Taos Painting

View of A Hunter of Taos in the North Lobby, Hoey Hall, Cranbrook School. 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, Photographer. Cranbrook Archives.

After Booth purchased the work, the painting hung in the north lobby of Hoey Hall for the opening of Cranbrook School for Boys in September of 1927. Henry formally presented the painting to Cranbrook School on October 18, 1927. In the last half of the century, the painting was moved to the new Cranbrook Kingswood Middle School for Boys, where it hangs in a small lobby for administrative offices. Examining the painting Tuesday, we saw it is in excellent condition, and I appreciated that it’s in a spot where many young men and their parents have a chance to sit and appreciate it. It’s one of the great assets of Cranbrook that the campus is sprinkled with great art in all of our buildings—I think it’s a big part of what makes this place so magical.

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

NB: If you want to learn about another Cranbrook connection to the Southwest and the Pueblo people, revisit this excellent post on Amelia Elizabeth White and her gift of Native American art and artifacts to the Cranbrook Institute of Science in 1937.

Photo Friday: Details, Details, Details

Recently, I have been researching the objects in the historic rooms at Cranbrook House. The things I have noticed the most about these objects are the details: it seems no object was chosen for the house that did not have detailed ornamental carvings, woodwork, or decoration. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Object Spotlight: Refectory Table

Generally, the term “Refectory Table” describes long dining tables resembling those in dining halls of monasteries, especially oblong tables with four or six turned legs that may be expanded by leaves.CEC37 (4)Purchased by George G. Booth, before 1949, for use in Cranbrook House, the Refectory Table (CEC 37) in the Cranbrook House Oak Room has a plain 76 inch by 35-1/2 inch rectangular top, with two extendable tops of 31-1/2 inches each.cec37-13.jpgThe extension mechanism works by removing the top wood leaf, pulling out each side of tabletop – these are supported by bars under the table top that pull out – removing the center section, then placing the top leaf in the center.

“Interesting, but not really worthy of a spotlight,” you say?

“My table at home has leaves built into it. Why is this one so special?”

It is distinct because the top of this table sits over a beautiful and vibrantly carved and painted frieze, and is raised on four carved and painted legs and a box stretcher with a carved and painted linear design. It is the frieze and the carvings that make the table stand out.CEC37 (3).JPGThe frieze runs all around the table and features a grapevine interspersed at regular intervals with Medieval-style figures: mermaids, men, women, and animals.CEC37 (10)The figures carry banners and staffs, are sitting on benches, and, in the case of the mermaid, holding a fish.CEC37 (18)The frieze background is painted red; the grapevine and grapes are brown with black and the leaves are green with gold detailing; the figures and animals are mostly tan with gold and the mermaids are gold as well.  The lower edge molding of the frieze is painted with diagonal lines of green, gold, and red.CEC37 (11)Each of the four carved and painted legs is decorated with a different linear design of stripes, twisted around the trunk, with hexagonal base and top.CEC37 (6)Metal stars are attached to the base and top of each leg.  The legs are painted blue, green, red, and tan, all with gold detailing.CEC37 (12)The outer side of each stretcher has carved lines painted red and green.

The table is an English antique, likely from the 19th century. A careful study of comparable tables in books or at other museums could help us narrow down its age.

I am happy to share this beautiful table on the blog. If you ever find yourself in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House, whether for a meeting, house tour, or special event, please take the time and give this exception table a closer look.

Refectory Table

Refectory Table in the Oak Room, 1952. Cranbrook Archives.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar and “Keeper of Keys and Cultural Properties” at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

Speak up!

Every once in a while, you stumble upon an artifact that takes you down an interesting path.

Recently, while discussing interesting artifacts in museum collections – specifically “Edison’s Last Breath” in the collections of The Henry Ford – I discovered that we had George Booth’s hearing aid!

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The hearing aid was manufactured by Western Electric Company of Kearny, NJ in 1938. A Google search directed me to the Hearing Aid Museum (yes, there is a museum for everything), which claims to be the “largest on-line hearing aid museum in the world, and indeed, probably the second largest collection of old hearing aids in the world.”

George Booth’s hearing aid is a Model 1-A “Ortho-Technic” Carbon Hearing Aid. We have the microphone, receiver, amplifier, battery, and soft leather carrying case. We are only missing the molded earpiece which was attached to the receiver.

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Having a “use” item in such great condition is rare in most museum collections and I’m glad we have it as part of the George Gough Booth Papers in the archives.

– Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar

 

The “Bad Boys” of the Cranbrook Gardens

 

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Putto coyly peeking out from behind his hands, left knee is bent and foot is off the ground. The statue stands at the center of a cast stone birdbath (CEC 453/CEC 454). Photo by Venus Bronze Works.

 

“Putti” are little friends found throughout Cranbrook Gardens.

A Putto (singular of putti) is a representation of a cherubic infant, often shown winged.* Sometimes people refer to them as cherubs, but unlike a cherub, the putto can be wingless, like our friend above. Moreover, while cherubs are often sacred in context, putto can be non-religious.

 

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Detail of Putto in the birdbath (CEC 453/CEC 454). Photo by Venus Bronze Works.

 

This putto has been entertaining visitors to the garden for a long time. Warren and Henry Booth, and their friends, enjoyed fooling around with them.

 

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Warren S. Booth and the coy putto (CEC 453). Photo POL 2.119.2, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

 

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Friends of Henry S. Booth mess around with the same putto (CEC 453). Photo POL 2.87.2, Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

 

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

* putto. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/putto (accessed: August 30, 2017).

Hidden in Plain Sight at Brookside

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The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug (BS 1), 1973. Cultural Properties Collection, Brookside School.

In honor of the Cranbrook Kingswood Alumni Association’s Reunion Weekend, I thought I would share the story behind The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug.

In 1973, New York designer Rhoda Sablow (1926-2013) was commissioned to design a rug for the Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Auction. The idea for the rug came from Mrs. Arthur Kiendl, wife of the first President of the Cranbrook Educational Community.

The border and geometric squares are reminiscent of Eliel Saarinen’s designs and surround depictions of various Cranbrook buildings and sculptures. The buildings are Christ Church, Kingswood, Cranbrook School, and Brookside. The sculptures are Orpheus, Jonah and the Whale, Europa and the Bull, Orpheus Fountain, Triton with Shell, Siren with Fishes, and Diana.

The rug was needlepointed by Cranbrook Schools parents: Mrs. Iain Anderson, Mrs. Richard Darragh, Mrs. Micheal Davis, Mrs. Fritz Fiesselmann, Mrs. Walter Flannery, Mrs. Robert Flint, Mrs. Mounir Guindi, Mrs. Wilfred Hemmer, Mrs. Charles Himelhoch, Mrs. James Holmes, Mrs. Lee Iacocca, Mrs. Arthur Kiendl, Mrs. George Kilbourne, Mrs. Jamse Lowell, Mrs. James May, Mrs. David Mott, Mrs. John McCue,  Mrs. Richard Pearce, Mrs. Donald Pendray, Mrs. J. Pierson Smith, Mrs. Edwin Spence, Mrs. Wright Tisdale, and Mrs. James Williams.

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Ellen Scripps Booth with granddaughter Elizabeth Wallace at Cranbrook House, circa 1919. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

Elizabeth Wallace McLean bought the needlepoint rug at an auction during the three-day celebration of the founding of Cranbrook schools. Mrs. McLean, the granddaughter of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth, immediately donated the tapestry back to the school in honor of its golden anniversary. Elizabeth was in the original class of seven who attended Brookside School, so it is appropriate that the rug now hangs inside the main entrance of Brookside.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

 

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The Cranbrook 50th Anniversary Rug (BS 1), 1973, on display in the Brookside Main Entrance. Cultural Properties Collection, Brookside School.

The Elves and the Saarinen Home

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research “elves,” with help from the Cranbrook Archives and Cranbrook Art Museum, have worked their magic to bring out treasures designed for this summer’s reinvigorated and expanded tours of the landmark Saarinen House. This three-month installation entitled Saarinen Home: Living and Working with Cranbrook’s First Family of Design, expands on the life and work of the remarkable Saarinen family, displaying items used in their home, at Cranbrook, and for projects around the country.

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Selecting sliver, glass, and ceramic items for the exhibition.

The exhibition kicks off with an Open House from 1-4pm this Sunday, April 30th, during the Art Academy’s OPEN(STUDIOS). It will also be open for four nights of special programming – “Finnish Fridays” – the first of which is May 5th. Normal tours of the exhibit are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May through July. For all the details, check out the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research website.

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Preparing the space to display weavings by Studio Loja Saarinen.

Leslie Mio, Assistant Registrar

Photo Friday: Documenting Exhibitions Across Campus

As many of you know, Cranbrook Archives is located in the lower level of Cranbrook Art Museum (CAM). At various times throughout the year, museum registrars and preparators install and de-install the exhibitions presented in the galleries at CAM. Over the past few weeks this process of de-installing exhibitions in the lower galleries started, in preparation for new exhibitions to take over these spaces.

The first exhibition held at Kingswood School in what is now the weaving studio. Primarily designs for Kingswood School, but includes costume designs by Pipsan Saarinen Swanson. Photographer, George W. Hance, 1932

I am always in awe of the work that goes into changing these spaces to support new ideas and work – from the vision and physical work of the preparator and staff to the tracking, un-packing, and condition reporting that is completed by the registrars – it is impressive! In our collections at the Archives, we have correspondence, exhibition files, posters, publications, and photographs to document more than 85 years of exhibitions not only from CAM, but also from Cranbrook Kingswood Schools, the Institute of Science, and exhibitions that faculty and students have participated in across the country.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Illuminating a Craftswoman

The work of British arts and craftswoman Jessie Bayes (1876-1970) has been described as ethereal, magical, and an “expression of things felt and seen.” Cranbrook has in its collection three of Bayes’s works, acquired by George Booth between 1920 and 1929. The illuminated manuscript “Hymns to the Elements” is one of her most stunning works.

Bayes was known for her work in woodcarving, painting, calligraphy, gesso and gilding, and stained glass, but is best known for her ethereal illuminated manuscripts inspired by Scandinavian, Celtic, and French poetry. She often wrote the texts which were dominated by themes of romance and mysticism and strove to beautify everyday life and “wed the physical and spiritual.” The art of illumination requires patience and laborious attention to detail, which is clearly evident in “Hymns to the Elements.” Bayes, who combined tempera with watercolor and gold gilt, developed her own sense of jewel-like color, often in blues and golds. She felt that the “idea of colour symbolizing love should be above all precious to an illuminator, since, in illuminating, colour can reach its intensest [sic] height of purity and radiance.”

Hymns to the Elements, ca 1923. One of Bayes’ largest and most elaborate illuminated manuscripts. Close-up of Athena, Mistress of the Air.

Jessie Bayes was raised in an artistic family where the four children were taught by their father Alfred, an etcher and book illustrator, to appreciate beauty at an early age. Her brother Gilbert became a sculptor, her brother Walter was a painter who also designed theatrical scenery, illustrated books, and lectured about art, and her sister Emmeline worked in enamel.

Bayes received art education from evening classes at London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts, which grew directly out of the Arts and Crafts Movement of William Morris and John Ruskin. There, Bayes learned to gild on wood and discovered a love for writing and illumination which she deemed among the strongest of the curriculum. She was also heavily influenced by her employment with Sydney Cockerell, an engraver and former librarian for William Morris. In this role, he had been responsible for completing the Kelmscott Press publications after Morris’s death.

Close-up view of Hephaistos, the Fire King.

Bayes exhibited widely with the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society, and at the Royal Academy and the Baillie Gallery in London, alongside artists like Walter Crane, Arthur Nevill Kirk, and Omar Ramsden. In 1922, Bayes exhibited some of her illuminated books, as well as paintings on vellum, fans, and panels, at the Art Center in New York. Bayes gradually expanded her repertoire to include painted and gilded decoration on furniture as well as interior design and stained glass work. Jessie Bayes died in Paddington, Central London in 1970.

For Jessie’s personal views on family, life, and art, read The Bayes Saga (1970).

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Craft in Time: Oscar Bach and the Cranbrook School Dining Hall Clock

For nearly ninety years, diners in the Cranbrook School dining hall have marveled at the clock that hangs high above the fireplace. Designed and fabricated by New York metalsmith Oscar Bruno Bach, the clock is a tribute to George Booth’s beloved Arts and Crafts Movement. Each hour is represented by an art or craft, ranging from metalworkers to woodworkers.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Cranbrook School Dining Hall, 1928. Peter A. Nyholm, photographer.

Oscar Bruno Bach (1884-1957), who was born in Germany, came to the United States in 1913 and established a metal design studio with his brother in New York City. As they built up their reputation and the business grew, Bach exhibited his work through The Architectural League of New York and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. His work graces numerous churches, industrial buildings, and residences primarily in New York but also in the Midwest. His first known work in Michigan was ornamental metalwork for the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit (1915).

Bach was known for incorporating a variety of metals and metal techniques in his work. Cranbrook’s clock (1926) is made of four concentric iron rings with a center element (two male figures at an anvil) of repoussé brass surrounded by three brass “flame” rings. Each of the twelve figures representing arts, crafts, and trades are also made of brass, surrounded by floral elements made of iron. Copper was used for the rivets and for the small fleur-de-lis elements on the outer rim. Finally, the hour and minute hands are made of aluminum with brass rivets.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

Detail of the center panel, 2001. The clock was restored courtesy Cranbrook Class of 2000.

The clock however was not Bach’s first contribution to Cranbrook. In 1919, he fabricated lead “conductors” for the exterior of the east and west wings of Cranbrook House. George Booth also acquired a smoking stand (1922) and two table lamps (1929) for Cranbrook House, and commissioned Bach to fabricate Cranbrook School’s Peacock Gates (after Eliel Saarinen’s drawings) and the Treasury Door (1928) at Christ Church Cranbrook. Other local commissions include The Detroit Players Club (1925), Moulton Manor (1926), the estate of William Scripps (Ellen Booth’s brother) in Lake Orion, and the First National Bank (1927) in Ann Arbor.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the four Oscar Bach “conductors” at Cranbrook House, 2004. Mira Burack, photographer.

One of the most interesting discoveries I made in writing this post was that the clock used similar elements as doors Bach designed for the new wing of the Toledo Art Museum (1925). They both feature arts and crafts figures – a potter, sculptor, glassblower, draughtsman, metal worker, and bookbinder. In January 1926, Bach received the “Medal of Honor in Design and Craftsmanship in Native Industrial Art” from the Architectural League for his design for the doors so it’s no wonder that he incorporated some of the same elements in the Cranbrook School dining hall clock. I may be a bit partial, but I think our clock is even more magnificent than the doors and I imagine you will too!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

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