Sunday, February 27, 2011

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, A King's Mentor

As my readers know, I love Neoclassic architecture, and I've posted on two of my favorite practitioners, Thomas Jefferson and Sir John Soane. But no study of Neoclassicism is complete without a good look at Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841). In my opinion, he is the greatest of Neoclassic architects.

Schinkel quickly came to the attention of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, who was himself an amateur architect. The king, who ruled from 1797 to 1840, had big plans to rebuild Berlin and came up with many designs himself. He looked upon Schinkel as both a collaborator and a design mentor, and the two became close friends.

From 1815 until his death in 1841, Karl Friedrich Schinkel transformed Berlin to such a degree that the period is sometimes referred to by his name — Schinkelzeit.

While Schinkel was rendering his architectural services to the state, he was also designing seemingly every aspect of the daily life of Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Louise.

Rather than show you images of Schinkel's many architectural monuments, I thought it would be more exciting to show you the scope of his designing. And mind you, this is just a tiny sampling!

Architectural drawings — this is Schinkel's view of the Staircase Hall in the Altes Museum
Paintings — Schinkel's work was reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings
Fabric design
Stage set design — this is a set for The Magic Flute
Pen and ink drawings — Schinkel was a great observer of nature
Schinkel designed the Iron Cross in 1813
* A bronze and gilt balustrade *

* The king's toilet set — note the neat insets *

* Entrance to the court gardener's home *
* Vase design *

Furniture — for this chair design, Schinkel was influenced by the Regency style

* Furniture — a buffet table *

* Interior design — a detail from the king's study *

* Interior design — this was a royal guest room, which Schinkel himself would use *

It seems as though there was nothing that Karl Friedrich Schinkel couldn't and didn't design, and it was all beautiful. He had an amazing drive and produced large- and small-scale designs at a rapid pace. He finally had a stroke, and spent the better part of his last two years in bed.

When Schinkel died in 1841, he was remembered not only for his brilliance, but also as one who was engaging, considerate and humble. Thousands attended his funeral, and the king (by then Wilhelm I) decreed that the state buy Schinkel's entire estate.

.  .  .

The image of the Iron Cross comes from
Orders and Decorations  |  Vaclav Mericka  |  Paul Hamlyn Ltd., London
Photograph by Josef Fiala

All other photographs come from these two superb books. The first is Karl Friedrich Schinkel, A Universal Man, by Michael Snodin, Yale University Press in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London...

...and the second is Karl Friedrich Schinkel, An Architecture for Prussia, Barry Bergdoll, photographs by Erich Lessing, Rizzoli, New York.

Those images with asterisked captions are from the second book. All the other images are from the first book.

Both books have beautiful photography, and because Schinkel's design work was so extensive, these books do not duplicate each other, but are instead perfect companion pieces.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Logging Annual Report

Annual reports can be very boring tomes, but they're also a great opportunity for companies to put a best face forward, and to be human. When I see annual reports that are well designed and interesting, I save them as style reference. One such publication is the 1983 annual report for Potlatch, a lumber company that made $40.5 million in 1982.

Jonson Pedersen Hinrichs & Shakery used a montage of photos and illustrations to present the history of Potlatch and lumberjacks. It's a look that's particularly engaging and an excellent way to present facts.

Did you ever wonder about those famous lumberjack breakfasts? The report says that, "A 10-12 hour day in the woods demanded a lot of energy. Just to keep up their strength, early day loggers consumed about 9,000 calories a day."

Monday, February 21, 2011

19th Century Linen Tags

Since today is Presidents Day and tomorrow is George Washington's birthday, I thought I'd share this interesting piece of ephemera. It's a tag that was sewn onto a bolt of cloth sometime between 1846 and the Civil War. One can still see where the corners were sewn to the fabric. This piece is a fine example for explaining the nature of my collection of antique ephemera. Certainly this tag was never meant to be saved, and yet, perhaps out of a sense of patriotism, it was. Would you ever consider saving the tags from the clothes or accessories you buy? Maybe your would if they were beautifully designed.

Incidentally, I looked up Washington Mills and was heartened to discover that the original buildings still exist and are now a stylish apartment complex.

And now I will make a segue from the Washington Mills to my collection of other linen tags. Remember that in the early part of the 19th century, Americans especially desired cloth from Britain, which was exporting both fabric and fashion to the United States. With the exception of the first Swiss tag, I think all the other linen tags are from English and Irish exports.

With the exception of the last tag, these are all approximately 2" x 3". Below are larger tags, brightly gilded.

6.875" wide
9" wide

Have you seen any labels lately that you'd want to save for future generations?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Sandblasted Glass

Back in the 1980s, a quarter of my income was derived from sandblasting window and door designs. The current owner of the glass shown above, Katie Pemble, was kind enough to allow a photo session of my very first door. For a number of years after this door, I had steady glass work, all by word-of-mouth.

My clients were uniformly interesting people and I had my share of unusual requests — from the lady who wanted a door featuring her pet peacock, to the psychologist who wanted a window depicting the brain as a tree, to the gentleman who was enamored of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and wanted a 12-ft. mirror of seagulls — and I pleased them all. After the initial meeting, I'd usually provide a client with a tissue of four or five designs.

Kemerer Museum  |  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Eventually I started working with flashed glass — I was inspired by beautiful pieces like this Bohemian presentation cup that I saw on a visit to the Kemerer Museum in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Here's one of my own designs on flashed glass, a piece I call The Pointer. Below is what the same pane of glass looks like if viewed from the side:

Flashed glass is usually clear glass with another color "flashed" onto it in the glassblowing process. Using a frisket, the design is sandblasted away to reveal clear (and at that point, frosted) glass. Notice in my cross section that the orange is a little thicker on the bottom, or right-hand side. That makes the color a little deeper, and in fact The Pointer glass is a gradient of color.

Because certain colors of glass (like red) were so expensive, flashed glass was developed to save money. The flashed glass appears as rich to the eye as if it were a solid pane of color, and so the price of colored glass could be greatly reduced. Ironically, flashed glass is rare today, and more expensive than solid colored glass.

This stained glass Christmas cover for the Floridian magazine was a collaboration between Geri Willingham and I. The magazine's logo is etched out of the glass and Geri included clear marbles as bubbles. Sadly, this glass image didn't print well because the photo editors, who had lots of fancy new equipment, could not believe that natural sunlight is still the most effective way to photograph stained glass.

In a moment of great serendipity, my brother and I came across a full door of pressed glass, a detail of which is shown here. I don't know how old it is, but it's what would have been used at one time as an office door. The pattern looks like an M. C. Escher design, doesn't it?

I reconfigured the pressed glass to make a window for myself, and I incorporated flashed glass in the border. In this case, the flashed glass is blue on yellow. The interior design is a copy of a window in an Oxford College dining hall.

Each of the border's flashed glass flowers represents an aspect of my own life. The flower above is a Florida orange blossom.

Today I sandblast small pieces of glass for my own pleasure. Sandblasting glass is not without its hazards. As the sand hits the glass, it creates a dust of glass (silica) so fine that the glass can be ingested through skin pores. Needless to say, every inch of my body was always carefully covered, and I always wore goggles and a respirator. All that layering and the humid Florida weather would cause my goggles to eventually fog up, so I relied on my brother to sight where frisketed areas needed additional sandblasting. For that reason, all of my sandblasting has certainly been a collaborative effort.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Early Valentines

Printed valentines became popular in the United States in the 1840s, and the early ones were engraved and hand painted. Today I'll be sharing seven cards from my collection that date from that early period. I've heard dealers refer to these cards, not as valentines, but as "sentiment cards."

If you were to see these cards in person, you would notice that the card stock is heavier and whiter than most other paper of the time, and has a gloss finish. That's because the 1840s saw advancements in papermaking which included the incorporation of white lead into the paper. The result was a luster not unlike fine china. Cards like these, and especially the first of the next three, are sometimes referred to as "porcelain cards."


Saturday, February 12, 2011

19th Century Lucky Strike Tin


This lithographed tin from my collection is in exceptionally clean condition. It probably dates between 1875-1885.

The front reads, "Lucky Strike Cut Plug, Fragrant & Delicious."

The back has a gold fan with the words, "No. 60, Second. Dist., State of Va."

The rest of the back reads, "NOTICE. - The Manufacturers of this Tobacco have complied with all requirements of law. Every person is cautioned under penalties of law not to use this package for tobacco again."