All Wright Walk 2014: Isabel Roberts House (1908)

This past May, Design and Desire in the Twentieth Century celebrated our fourth anniversary by going on the road to attend the Frank Lloyd Wright Trusts’ All Wright 2014 house walk and fundraiser.

The Trust is also celebrating an important anniversary (although much more significant than ours), the 125th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois. To mark this occasion, this year’s house walk features all Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes — including one home seldom open to the public, the Isabel Roberts House in neighboring River Forest.

Early in her career Isabel Roberts worked as a draftsman in Wright’s Oak Studio. According to the brochure that accompanied the All Wright Walk, Wright designed the structure a home for Miss Roberts, her mother and an unmarried sister. Miss Roberts later moved to Florida and established her own architectural firm there.

In 1927 new owners made changes to the home’s exterior. They hired as the project’s architect, William Drummond whose own home can be seen in the background of this photo.

The home changed owners again and in 1955 the current owners “persuaded Wright himself to remodel the interior.”1 Wright updated the flooring and woodwork and added a dramatic stepped ceiling consistent with the style of the interiors of architect’s 1950s Usonian buildings.

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Left Frank Lloyd Wright, Isabel Roberts House (1908), River Forest, IL.
Right: William E. Drummond House (1909)

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Frank Lloyd Wright, Isabel Roberts House (1908), River Forest, IL.

All photos credit: Bill Bowen © 2014.

Reference

1. Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, (2014). All Wright Walk [Brochure].

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Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline Turns 75!

It has been seventy-five years since illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans, children’s book Madeline was published. The series of books follows the adventures of a mischievous Parisian schoolgirl and has been favorite reading for several generations of readers, this writer included.

To celebrate Madeline's seventy-fifth birthday, The New York Historical Society Museum and library in New York City is exhibiting many of Bemelmans’s original illustrations created for Madeline along with drawings of the old Ritz Hotel in New York and murals from a Paris bistro. The exhibition, “Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans” runs now through October 13, 2014.

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Ludwig Bemelmans, Cover Illustration for Madeline (1939).
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In addition to his children’s books, Ludwig Bemelmans created cover illustrations for the leading American magazines of the Twentieth Century, designed sets for a Broadway play and is renowned for his murals in The Carlyle Hotel in New York.

For more on Ludwig Bemelmans and Madeline visit the Madeline Wed site.

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Mary Blair, the Disney Artist You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

The Huffington Post recently ran an article on Disney art director, Mary Blair, whose most recognizable contribution to Disney is the design of the “It’s a Small World" ride. One of her concept illustrations is shown below.

Blair’s background in modern art and watercolors influenced her work on such productions as “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Disney’s animated productions during the mid-Twentieth century all bear her influence.

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Mary Blair, It’s a Small World concept art (ca. 1966) ; Walt Disney Family Foundation; © Disney
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A retrospective "Magic, Color and Flair: the World of Mary Blair" is on view now through September 7, 2014 at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, CA.

For more on Mary Blair read the article on Huffington Post and visit the Disney Family Museum Web site,

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Hans J. Wegner: Shell Chair, 1963

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Hans J. Wegner, Shell Chair (1963).
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While teak was Hans Wegner’s medium of choice, he did execute a few chair designs in bent plywood. His 1963 Shell Chair, also popularly referred to as “The Smiling Chair” is perhaps his most stunning bent plywood design.1

The Shell Chair was originally produced in a limited run in 1963, but never really took off. The design was shelved until 1997 when the chair saw a resurgence in popularity and remains in production today.2 

References

Design Within Reach, (2014). Shell Chair: Product Information. http://www.dwr.com/product/shell-chair-walnut-leather-thor.do

Hive, (2014). Ch07 Lounge Chair. http://hivemodern.com/pages/product5/carl-hansen-hans-wegner-ch07-lounge-chair

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Hans J. Wegner: Ox Chair, 1960

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Hans J. Wenger, Ox Chair (1960).
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Danish Designer Hans Wegner was admired the work of Pablo Picasso and drew inspiration for his Ox Chair from Picasso’s surrealist paintings of the 1930s. Like Wegner’s Shell Chair which was introduced in the early 1960s, the chair was not successful upon it’s first introduction. The chair, considered too difficult to manufacture during the period, was pulled from production.

In the mid-1980s, furniture-making technology had advanced to the point where the Ox Chair could be produced at a reasonable cost. The chair was reintroduced to the market in 1985 and remains popular today.

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Hans J. Wenger, sitting in his Ox Chair (circa 1960). Photographer unknown.
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Reference

Danish Design Store, (2014). Wegner Ox Chair. http://www.danishdesignstore.com/products/wegner-ox-chair-by-erik-jorgensen-designer-hans-j-wegner

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Hans J. Wegner: The Round Chair, 1950

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Hans J. Wegner, Round Chair (1950).
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Unlike Hans Wegner’s earlier works, The Wishbone Chair (1949) and the Peacock Chair (1947), the Round Chair did not draw as directly from past furniture types. The Round chair, or “Round One” as Wegner always referred to it, was uniquely modern and uniquely Danish.

Most Americans’ introduction to the Round Chair occurred during the televised Kennedy/Nixon Debates in 1960. According to the chair’s manufacturer, PP Møbler the piece “was chosen mainly for its comfort and genuine quality.” After the debates Americans began to refer to the Round Chair as simply “The Chair.”

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Senator John F. Kennedy sitting in Wegner’s Round Chair while preparing for a debate against Richard M. Nixon, 1960.
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Hans J. Wegner: Peacock Chair, 1947

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Hans J. Wegner, Peacock Chair (1947).
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The Peacock Chair got its name from Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl whose first impression upon seeing the design was that the chair’s flat back slats looked like a peacock’s plumage.1

The shape of the chair is also reminiscent of British and early American Windsor Chairs.2

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Windsor Armchair (ca. 1700).
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Reference

1, 2.  P.P. Møbler. The Peacock Chair, 1947.  http://www.pp.dk/index.php?page=collection&cat=2&id=35

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Hans J. Wegner: Wishbone Chair, 1949

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Hans J. Wegner, Wishbone Chair with cane seat (1949).
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Danish furniture designer Hans J. Wegner’s Wishbone Chair was one of a series of chair designs inspired by Chinese court chairs from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).1 The Wishbone Chairwas one of the last of the “China” series and perhaps Wegner’s most famous chair design.

Wegner’s inspiration for the Wishbone Chair:
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Ming Dynasty Chair (ca. 1368-1644)
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According to the Carl Hansen & Søn Web site:

Despite the chair’s straightforward appearance it takes more than 100 steps to make one. Amongst other things, the hand-woven seat consists of more than 120 meters of paper cord.

They should know. Wegner designed the Wishbone Chair for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1949, and the firm has been continuously manufacturing the chair since that time.

Reference

1.  Carl Hansen & Søn, (n.d).  Hans J. Wegner. http://www.carlhansen.com/designers/hans-j-wegner/

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Hans J. Wegner: King of Chairs

"The chair does not exist. The good chair is a task one is never completely done with." — Hans J. Wegner

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Danish Furniture designer, Hans J. Wegner. During his prolific career Wegner designed over 500 chairs, many being the most popular and recognizable mid-century furniture.

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Hans J. Wegner with models of his chairs, 1997. Photo credit: Associated Press.
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In honor of Wegner’s cennteniary, the Designmuseum Danmark is running an exhibition, Just One Good Chair, highlighting the designer’s work. For those of use unable to attend the exhibition, we’ll be spotlighting one of Wegner’s iconic chair designs each day this week.

Read more about the exhibition on Fast Company’s design blog.

See a timeline of Wegner’s career on the PP Møbler Web site.

Read Hans J. Wegner’s 2007 New York Times obituary.

imagePhoto from the “Just One Good Chair ” exhibition. Copyright 2014 Designmuseum Danmark. Photo credit: Pernille Klemp.
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Irving Gill and the Dodge House (1916)

Thank you to the folks at The Gamble House in Pasadena, California for sharing this 1965 documentary produced by architectural historian Esther McCoy. The film documents the architect, Irving John Gill and his masterpiece the Walter Luther Dodge House (1916) in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

The film’s purpose was to promote the home’s preservation during a 7-year battle to save it from the wrecking ball. Unfortunately the campaign failed; the house was demolished in 1970. Now the documentary serves as the building’s best surviving visual record.

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