Saturday, May 18, 2019

R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra: Space Architecture and the Pueblo

Viennese emigre architect R. M. Schindler, in Chicago since early 1914, wrote to fellow Viennese architect Richard Neutra extolling the virtues of Southwest vernacular architecture after visiting Taos in 1915 (see Schindler photo of Taos Pueblo below). (See also my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel-Taos Connections"). 

Taos Pueblo, October 1915. Photograph by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

R. M. Schindler in Taos, October 1915. Photographer likely Victor Higgins. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

Schindler fondly remembered his Taos experiences in at least two letters to his future partner Richard Neutra. A couple months after his return to Chicago he wrote, "My trip to San Francisco, but especially my stay in New Mexico among Indians and cowboys are unforgettable experiences. That part of America is a country one can be fond of." (Letter from RMS to Richard Neutra, Chicago, February 9, 1916, courtesy Dione Neutra Papers). 

In a later letter to Neutra shortly after his December 1920 move to Los Angeles to supervise construction of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House for Aline Barnsdall, Schindler wrote of his strong impressions of the vernacular architecture of New Mexico,
"When I speak of American architecture I must say at once that there is none. . .The only buildings which testify to the deep feeling for soil on which they stand are the sun-baked adobe buildings of the first immigrants and their successors — Spanish and Mexican — in the south-western part of the country." (Letter from RMS to Richard Neutra, Los Angeles, California, ca. January, 1921: quoted in E. McCoy, Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys (Santa Monica, Arts & Architecture Press,1979), p.129).
Remembering these letters inspired Neutra to visit the Pueblo exhibit at New York's Natural History Museum shortly after finally reaching the U.S. in 1923 of which he wrote in his memoirs, 
"I visited the Natural History Museum and came into the room of the Pueblo Indians. These are the people who influenced the modern [Schindlerian] Californian building activity. Whole villages were built in one block on top of a mountain. These cubes, hardly without any windows, are more than one story, have terraces on the front of the setback of the upper stories. It is impossible to comprehend the complexity of this agglomeration of building cubes." (Life and Shape by Richard Neutra, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1962, pp. 170-171). 
Schindler's Pueblo Ribera on the cover of Neutra's Wie Bat Amerika?, 1927. From my collection.

Shortly after moving into Schindler's Kings Road House in 1925, Neutra included photos of Schindler's Pueblo Ribera project in La Jolla on the cover of his first book Wie Baut Amerika? (see above). (Also see much more of Neutra's book publishing evolution in my "Taliesin Class of 1924: A Case Study in Publicity and Fame".).

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Aline Barnsdall and Alfred Barr Poster Exhibitions, 1927-1937

(Click on images to enlarge)
Lovell Beach House, Newport Beach, R. M. Schindler, architect. Photo by Edward Weston, August 1, 1927. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Besides acting as construction supervisor for Aline Barnsdall's Hollyhock House for most of 1921, R. M. Schindler also performed numerous other architectural projects for Barnsdall between 1924 and 1928, much to her original architect Frank Lloyd Wright's chagrin. This included many modifications to Residences A and B, and Hollyhock House itself, to make it more habitable for its picky owner and ready the house for its 15 year lease to the California Art Club beginning in 1927. Perhaps the most fun project was designing the installation for the European Posters Exhibition as part of the five-day gala grand opening exhibition of the Art Club at Olive Hill on August 31, 1927. Working to install the infrastructure to proudly display Aline's posters while his close friends photographers Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather (see Mather photo of Barnsdall below), artist Conrad Buff, and Art Club president E. Roscoe Shrader were hanging their work for the Art Club's annual exhibition must have been great fun indeed. (Author's note:  Weston had recently photographed Schindler's Lovell Beach House (see above for example). (The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. 2, California,  p. 33, 38). (Author's note: See also my "The Schindlers and the Hollywood Art Association, 1921-1926" for much more on the interactions between the Schindlers and California Art Club members.).

Aline Barnsdall by Margrethe Mather, ca. August 1927.

A very busy Weston chronicled in his Daybooks, 
"Margrethe has been out for the second time since my return: she came to choose prints for the photographic exhibition in connection with the formal opening of the new Calif. Art Club house, Olive Hill, Hollywood. Three of Brett's photographs will be hung, four of mine, and one of Chandler's." (Vol. 2, California, p. 38).
Olive Hill, Hollyhock House, et al, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, R. M. Schindler, construction supervisor, 1921. Date and Photographer unknown.

This was also right about the time that Schindler's mercurial wife Pauline left King's Road with her son Mark, likely due to more philandering by her hopelessly wayward husband. Galka Scheyer was then living in the guest apartment for the summer, learning about the intricacies of modern architecture as they applied to the display of modern art. Besides being a witness to the familial split, Scheyer was fortuitously on hand to broker the keeping of the Lovell Health House commission in the Kings Road family, so to speak. Philip Lovell finally awarded the important commission to Neutra with the proviso that Schindler also be allowed to take part in the design.

(Aline Barnsdall Travel Poster Exhibition Installation designed by R. M. Schindler, August 1927. Photographer unknown, perhaps Viroque Baker. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

By the summer of 1927 Schindler must have felt like an old hand at Olive Hill. Close mutual friend, and his by then tenant/partner Richard Neutra's client, and fellow Art Club dignitary Conrad Buff had this to say about Hollyhock House,  
"In the middle '20's or the later '20s, the club had a wonderful opportunity. Miss Barnsdall of Barnsdall Hill gave her residence to the club, to be solely used by the club. I don't know why Miss Barnsdall didn't like her house, although at this time it was considered the most beautiful building in Los Angeles. It was, of course designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the supervising architect was Rudolph Schindler; as I said, it was quite a remarkable building and everybody liked it except the other architects. The architects were down on Frank Lloyd Wright. We were very fortunate in having this privilege of using the building for fifteen years. She gave us a fifteen-year lease on the building." (Conrad Buff Oral History Transcript, p. 129. Author's note: For much on the Schindlers and Westons familial friendship see my "The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School.") (Author's note: See also my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club: Pathways to the Josef von Sternberg and Dudley Murphy Commissions" for much more on Neutra and other Schindler coterie members' involvement in the Art Club.).
Schindler and Neutra, right after his March 1925 arrival from Taliesin where he learned in great detail of Wright's (and Schindler's) recent Southern California projects, designed for Barnsdall a pergola, wading pool and landscaping out of the remnants of Wright's abandoned Little Dipper Community Playhouse project. This project was realized just after Schindler's wife Pauline and Leah Press Lovell had assisted Barnsdall with her progressive school for daughter "Sugar Top" in 1923-4. ("Culture for Children", Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1923, p. 2-II). (Author's note: About this time is likely when Sam and Harriet Press Freeman first visited Leah Press Lovell on Olive Hill and decided to commission Frank Lloyd Wright to design their Hollywood home.).

California Art Club Bulletin, February 1927.

"Art Club Fete Announced," Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1927.

The Los Angeles Times and other outlets covered the five days of festivities surrounding the grand opening of Olive Hill as a hilltop cultural center for the citizens of Los Angeles (see above and below for example).

"Art Club Home Opens Tonight," Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1927.

Program for "European Posters Exhibition" designed by R M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Program for "European Posters Exhibition" designed by R M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Visitor's Ballot for European Posters Exhibition, Barnsdall Park designed by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

To ensure interest was generated in her poster collection Barnsdall directed Schindler to design the above ballot. It is not known which posters walked off with the three prizes. A small sampling of the posters can be seen below. 

"The Trossachs" by Austin Cooper, England, ca. 1927.

"York" by Fred Taylor, England, 1927.

"Golf" by Norman Wilkinson, England, ca. 1925.

"Malaga" by Forenado, Spain, 1927.

"La Ligne Electrique du Simplon" by C. Buzzi, Switzerland, 1927.

"Pontresina" Switzerland by Carl Moss, 1924.

"Pontresina" Switzerland by Herbert Matter, 1935.

It is not known whether Carl Moss's Switzerland travel posters inspired in any way the work of his countryman Herbert Matter. In any event, Matter's graphic work was influential in forming the look and feel of Architectural Record's "Plus" supplement in the late 1930s and John Entenza's Arts & Architecture magazine in the late 1940s.

"The Night Mail" by Sir William Orpen, England, 1924.

"Winter's Gloom" by E. McKnight Kauffer, 1927.

Barnsdall had a modernistic eye for the posters that she collected evidenced by her copy of E. McKnight Kauffer's cubist composition "Winter's Gloom" (see above). McKnight studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1912-13, just before Schindler's 1914 arrival, enabling him to witness the groundbreaking Armory Show but it is not known whether he (or Schindler) crossed paths with Barnsdall at this time, likely not. This particular poster also caught the eye of soon-to-be director of New York's new Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr. He first displayed his personal copy in Wellesley's 1928 "Modern European Posters and Contemporary Typography" exhibition where he was teaching the first ever American course in modern art. He also included Bauhaus posters by Herbert Bayer and travel posters by Cassandre in this show. He later exhibited the same Kauffer piece in his groundbreaking "Cubism and Abstract Art" show at MoMA in 1936 (see upper left below). (The Man in the Glass House, Philip Johnson: Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster, p. 49.).

"Cubism and Abstract Art", Museum of Modern Art, March 2-April 19, 1936.

Kauffer so impressed Barr that he was given his own show in 1937. Again "Winter's Gloom" made yet another impressive appearance (see catalogue cover below). (Author's note: Barr also produced numerous poster exhibitions at MoMA in the early 1930s.).

Catalogue for "Posters by E. McKnight Kauffer," Museum of Modern Art, February 10-March 7, 1937.

Kauffer wrote of the catalogue cover design,
"The cover design for the catalog is the most recent experiment I have made and it is an endeavour to dramatize shapes in space, to give an excitement to the mind with the use of non-naturalistic symbols and to suggest to the person who sees it a conflict of which he is a solitary witness. I am working more on these experiments, about which I shall write you later. . . ."
Aldous Huxley opined of Kauffer in the catalogue foreword,
"The aim is common to many of the most interesting and significant of contemporary artists. It is McKnight Kauffer's distinction that he was among the first, as he still remains among the best, of the interesting and significant contemporary artists to apply these principles to the design of advertisements."
"Posters by E. McKnight Kauffer," Museum of Modern Art, February 10-March 7, 1937.

Kauffer stated of himself in the catalogue autobiography,
"My success in England has been generally acknowledged, as the most recent distinction given to me has been by the Royal Society of Arts as Hon. D.I. I am a member of the Council for Art in Industry under the auspices of the Board of Trade and a member of the Advisory Council for the Victoria and Albert Museum and my work has been honoured by an Exhibition held at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (one man show)."
Installation photo of "Modern Architecture In England", Museum of Modern Art, February 10-March 7, 1937. Posters by E. McKnight Kauffer.

Catalogue for "Organic Design," cover by E. McKnight Kauffer, Museum of Modern Art, 1940.

Kauffer's cover for the important MoMA "Organic Design" exhibition of 1940 provided invaluable connections to the likes of prize-winning furniture designers and architects Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.

Program for second day of opening festivities, Barnsdall Art Park designed by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

"The Hollywood Bowlsheviks" by Xavier "de Bru" Cugat, Hollywood Bowl Association, 1927.

As the five-day California Art Club opening gala continued, Xavier Cugat headlined on September 1st (see above program for example). Barnsdall's choice of Cugat undoubtedly grew out of his performance at the then renowned nearby Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl was one of Barnsdall's pet charities, and was then sporting a brand new bandshell designed by none other than her erstwhile architect's son Lloyd Wright. It is not known whether Barnsdall ever visited Lloyd's nearby home and studio completed about the same time (see below).

Hollywood Bowl Bandshell, 1927, Lloyd Wright, architect. Photographer unknown.LAPL Photo Collection.

Lloyd Wright Studio and Residence, West Hollywood, Lloyd Wright architect, 1927. LAPL Photo Collection.

"Barnsdall Park - A City Cultural Center", Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1927, p. 6.

Schindler must have been justly proud to open the Los Angeles Times on September 4th to see his handiwork headlining the page (see above). The extent of the poster exhibition was illustrated by piecing together three side-by-side photographs. 

Cover for California Art Club-Opening Exhibition-Barnsdall Park, August 31-September 30, 1927.

It is not known whether Schindler also designed the above program for the annual Art Club exhibit, including the work of many of his friends, but it seems likely.

"Art Club Takes Over New Home," Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1927.

"Play Pays Homage to a Tree," Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1927.

The California Art Club grand opening gala weekend was just one of countless events to take place on Olive Hill over the Club's tenure over the next fifteen years. The Schindlers and Neutras and their circle of Hollywood and California Art Club artist and dancer friends took full advantage of all that Olive Hill, Frank Lloyd Wright and Aline Barnsdall had to offer. Barnsdall perhaps rewarded Schindler's Art Club efforts by dangling a commission for a house in Palos Verdes ("Translucent  House") which was never realized (see below).

Translucent House for Aline Barnsdall, Palos Verdes, R. M. Schindler, architect, 1927. 

Schindler and Lloyd Wright had a falling out around this time, likely over Schindler becoming the apparent architect of choice for Barnsdall and the Freemans. Schindler and Harriet Freeman had a lifelong affair which only helped facilitate the Lovell commissions. Lloyd appears to have gotten back into the good graces of Barnsdall around 1930-31, perhaps impressing her with his significant work at the Hollywood Bowl. Barnsdall commissioned Lloyd to design a series of billboards such as the one below. (Author's note: For much more on Lloyd Wright's involvement with the Hollywood Bowl, see my "R. M. Schindler, Edward Weston, Anna Zacsek, Lloyd Wright, Lawrence Tibbett,Reginald Pole, Beatrice Wood and Their Dramatic Circles".).

Barnsdall Park billboard designed by Lloyd Wright, 1931.