Look up! Studio Loja Saarinen Ceiling Murals

The Center for Collections and Research’s newest intervention in Saarinen House opens on Sunday, April 28: Studio Loja Saarinen: The Art and Architecture of Weaving, 1928-1942.

In researching the exhibition, Collections Fellow Kevin Adkisson has discovered many remnants of the Studio in the Archives, Art Museum Collections, and on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. One part of the Studio remains that you’re likely not familiar with: the weaving allegories by Katherine Sibley McEwen (1875-1957), one of the founders of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts and a friend of George G. Booth. Her eight allegories and border elements were painted directly onto the ceiling of the former Studio Loja Saarinen Weaving Room — now the studio of Elliott Earls, Artist-in-Residence and head of the 2D Design Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

CEC1424_Annie Margaret Frykohlm CAM 28-12 on wall

Studio Loja Saarinen Weaving Room, 1930. Bouquets by Anne Frykolm (left), Cranbrook Rug No. 1 by Maja Andersson Wirde (floor), furniture by Eliel Saarinen (center), weaving allegories by Katherine McEwen (ceiling). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

CCR_18_01

Ceiling murals designed and executed by Katherine McEwen in what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Each is an allegory of weaving. Photo by PD Rearick.

CCR_18_03

Winding thread on the bobbin – detail of ceiling murals by Katherine McEwen in what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Photo by PD Rearick.

CCR_18_04

Collecting the thread – detail of ceiling murals by Katherine McEwen in what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Photo by PD Rearick.

CCR_18_05stain removed

Harvesting cotton and flax (linen) – detail of ceiling murals by Katherine McEwen in what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Photo by PD Rearick.

CCR_18_02

Harvesting silkworms and shearing wool – detail of ceiling murals by Katherine McEwen in what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Photo by PD Rearick.

CCR_18_06

Detail of the decorative borders by Katherine McEwen along the ceiling of what was once Studio Loja Saarinen. Photo by PD Rearick.

McEwen executed other works at Cranbrook, including the magnificent frescoes at Christ Church and a witty history of education series in the lower level of the Cranbrook School for Boys Dining Hall.

This Sunday, April 28, 2019 from 1-5pm visitors will have the very rare opportunity to see the Studio Loja Saarinen murals as part of the Academy’s Open(Studio) event–just follow the signs to the 2D Department. At the same time the Center’s special Studio Loja Saarinen show will be opening in Saarinen House, incorporating six historic Studio Loja Saarinen rugs and tapestries new to the house, dozens of archival and new color photographs, and a handful of small personal accessories from Loja Saarinen. And, the loom is up and running and Cranbrook Kingswood students will be giving hands-on demonstrations.

If you can’t make it to the opening, the Studio Loja Saarinen exhibition may be viewed on both public and private tours of Saarinen House during the 2019 Tour Season, Friday, May 10, 2019 through Sunday, December 1, 2019.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Six Degrees of Separation, Again

Every Sunday night I look forward to watching “Who Do You Think You Are?” A show that combines historical research, genealogy, and archives all in one? Perfect for a research geek like me. This past Sunday, actor Tony Goldwyn was the featured celebrity seeking to uncover his roots. I never realized that his paternal grandfather is THE Samuel Goldwyn! And even more surprisingly is that his maternal grandfather is Sidney Coe Howard. I bolted upright in my chair when I heard that name as, of course, Howard has a Cranbrook connection!

Howard (1891-1939) was the American playwright and screenwriter best known as the posthumous winner of the 1939 Academy of Award for adaptation of the screen play for Gone with the Wind. However, 23 years earlier, Howard penned the script for the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC) production, The Cranbrook Masque. Commissioned by George Booth at the suggestion of director Sam Hume, Howard wrote the Masque as the dedication program for Booth’s new Greek Theatre at Cranbrook. Howard and Hume sought to utilize every part of the theatre in order to demonstrate its possibilities. Costumes were designed and made at Cranbrook by the costume department of the DSAC, led by Katherine McEwen, and were fitted to the actors onsite.

The Costume for Orpheus is part of Cranbrook's Cultural Properties collection.

The Costume for Orpheus is part of Cranbrook’s Cultural Properties collection.

The Cranbrook Masque tells the story of the conflict between romance and materialism, and was expressed through five episodes showing the development of drama throughout the ages – ancient Greece, medieval Europe, Elizabethan England, and 17th century Italy. Through research and travel in Europe, Howard was able to gather material to ensure the historical accuracy of both the scenes and the dialogue. A contemporary news critic wrote “the use of archaic words and the introduction of long-forgotten customs are said by experts to be flawless.” Howard also made use of the natural outdoor setting of the Greek Theatre for special effects. In the first episode, timed at sunset, Pan made his appearance silhouetted against the backdrop of the setting sun. As the light faded, a sophisticated artificial lighting system, designed by Hume, was gradually introduced.

Correspondence to Frederick Alexander

Correspondence to Frederick Alexander, music director of the Cranbrook Masque. Cranbrook Archives.

The performance ran for two consecutive nights in June 1916, and the theatre was filled to capacity with more than 500 guests. The Cranbrook Masque was the first public production of Sidney Coe Howard’s, yet he did not attend the performance. Though the Booths invited Howard to visit Cranbrook, he sailed for France in early June to serve as an ambulance driver for the duration of WWI.

  • Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Photo Friday: A Labor of Love

Christ Church Cranbrook Interior. Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, Cranbrook Archives.

CCCnave

Christ Church Cranbrook Nave. Cranbrook Historic Photograph Collection, Cranbrook Archives.

After a visit to Christ Church Cranbrook earlier this week, I knew it needed to be highlighted as today’s Photo Friday! George G. Booth conceived Christ Church to be the moral center of the new community which he was building at Cranbrook. The photos show a great overview of the expansiveness of the church and shed some light on the magnitude of the work involved in its design. Each of these elements adds to the overwhelming detail of George Booth’s vision and the care in the design of Christ Church Cranbrook.

The church is Booth’s testament to the Arts and Crafts movement. He carefully acquired and commissioned each work of art to add to the overall wonderment of the church and to pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives toward artistic and altruistic pursuits.  The works of art range from the sterling altar plate to stained glass windows, altar frontals, tilework, woodcarvings, paintings, sculptures, and metalwork, most from noted Arts and Crafts men and women.

These photographs, taken five years after the 1928 dedication of Christ Church Cranbrook show the interior of the church sanctuary and a detail view of the nave of the church. The large fresco flanking the high altar was designed and executed by Katherine McEwen, an old friend of Booth’s, and one of the founding members of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.  From the work of Katherine McEwen to Oscar Bach, Samuel Yellin, and Hildreth Meire, to name a few, Christ Church Cranbrook is an architectural gem which should be experienced in person!

Stefanie Dlugosz, Center for Collections and Research, Collections Fellow

 

Photo Friday: Alexandrine Behind the Wheel

Alexandrine McEwen in her Scripps-Booth, 1916.  Cranbrook Archives.

Alexandrine McEwen in front of Cranbrook House in her Scripps-Booth, 1916. Cranbrook Archives.

As the organization that is currently hosting the exhibition A Driving Force: Cranbrook and the Carit would make sense that we at the Center were drawn to this photo for its representation of a 1916 Scripps-Booth, the car designed by James Scripps Booth and produced by his automotive company. Instead, though, the woman behind the wheel is the real star of the image. Alexandrine McEwen and her sister, Katherine, were co-founders of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (DSAC) and friends of George Booth. Alexandrine was a bookplate artist, painted miniatures, and also authored many of the early plays for the DSAC. After living for decades in Detroit, she and Katherine relocated to Dragoon, Arizona where they ran a dude ranch.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist, and Shoshana Resnikoff, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

 

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: