Friday, October 26, 2012

Road Trip: Tiffany at First Presbyterian Church, Bath New York

Bath was definitely my favorite group of Tiffany on my recent road trip.  I’d visited Bath briefly over the summer, but since I was headed in that direction again, I decided to stop back in and take more pictures.  It’s definitely worth a second look. 
The church itself dates to 1877 and is the only extant church designed by architect Jacob Wrey Mould.  Mould was a great proponent of architectural polychromy (and yes, I am very excited to be able to whip out that term, which has lain dormant since graduate school!), where the structure of the building dictates the colored decoration.  His notable commissions include the original Metropolitan Museum of Art building, Belvedere Castle and other structures in Central Park.  His church in Bath has striped arches around the windows, an element which harkens back to Venetian architecture, one of Mould’s main influences. 
The interior of the church was remodeled by Tiffany Studios (maybe still going by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co. then?) between 1895 and 1897.  There are some pretty amazing elements to note:
The windows throughout are geometric as opposed to figural, which I rather like.  The round window at the east end of the church has an outer border with red turtleback tiles and what looks like crown glass discs in the four quadrants.  I should have brought binoculars to get a good close up view!  

The transept and aisle windows are geometric as well.  The pattern is small scale and reminds me a bit of Tiffany Leaf and Vine (or Acorn) lamps.  
The east wall has unusual panels of what look like red glass tiles and studded, gilt-metal borders.  I wonder if this is the original finish and what the gold-colored material is in between the bumpy parts?  More glass, or metal? 
There is an outstanding pair of leaded glass lanterns at the east end of the church.  Each measures 55 inches high (according to the sexton) and has a double row of red turtlebacks above leaded panels separated by chunky jewels of glass.  
The chancel rail and pulpit are made of carved mahogany with inset mosaic details.  
The narthex of the church also has a Tiffany chandelier made of twisted wire, but it is currently on view at MOBiA’s exhibition, Louis C Tiffany and the Art of Devotion in New York. 

Next Tiffany stop:  Wade Chapel in Cleveland!  

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vintage Panoramic Photos - Long and Lovely

Current obsession:  panoramic photos.
Some panoramic photos from my collection--the arrangement is a bit wonky because I keep adding to them!
The camera of the new iPhone 5 has a ‘panorama’ feature, but they are more than 100 years late to the party.  I’ve collected wide format photos for a while, but lately the quest for more has become a bit all-consuming.

Brooklyn Bridge, c. 1896, from the Library of Congress
These wide format photos, generally from the first half of the 20th century, depict everything from landscapes to baseball teams, bathing beauties, school portraits, dinner parties and any number of other gatherings.   Usually, they are big--sometimes called ‘yard-long’ photos--and though they were certainly made in other parts of the world, I like to think that they are particularly American in their attempt to capture the broad scope of the landscape and the people within it.
Top: Dogsledding on the Ziegler expedition to the North Pole, 1905  Bottom: The no-longer-extant Haleiwa Hotel, North shore of Oahu  Both from LOC.
First, the bad news about this blog post, and a cliche at that--the images I will put up of various panoramic photos really don’t do them justice.  They were printed in a large format for a reason.  The point of these large photos was to capture a large scene and allow your eye to slowly rove over the details.  Each face in the portrait or building in the city could be taken in and examined just as if you were there. 
Winter Bathing at Miami Beach, January 1921.  LOC.
A brief history:

Panoramas in the truest sense attempted to recreate an environment in 360 degrees.  Artists made the first efforts at large-scale paintings that depicted broad landscapes and battles. One such work is John Vanderlyn’s 1818 panorama of the Palace at Versailles, on view in the American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  With the advent of photography, depicting a sweeping landscape became possible by using multiple plates.  For instance, a series of daguerreotypes of Cincinnati was taken in 1848 and showed the skyline of the midwestern town through eight successive photographs.
No. 10 Cirkut camera.  The circular section at the top of the tripod rotates on a clockwork. 
Panoramic photography really took off with the advent of film and in 1905, the Cirkut camera.  The camera was patented by William J. Johnston of the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company, which was almost immediately purchased by a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak.  This tool for panoramic photography then became more widely available throughout the US and across the globe.
Central Photo Co. of Washington DC setting up a panoramic photo at the US Capitol.  The firm is still in business.  
The Cirkut camera changed the game by using a simple clockwork (like a wind-up toy) to rotate the camera at the same rate the film advanced, allowing for a longer, uninterrupted exposure.  The largest Cirkut camera could shoot negatives that were 16 inches high and the 18 foot length of film could be cut to any size (Photographic Apparatus for the Professional, c.1906, pp. 17-19).  Most photos I have are in the 2-3 foot length range, but some photos measured as long as five feet.
Land of Flowers dance, Florida, circa 1920.  LOC.
The best way I found to learn how a panoramic photo is made is to check out The Library of Congress website.  They have an amazing collection of panoramic photos, as well as videos that show how they were produced.  Check out the demonstration here.
Yale Varsity Crew and Substitutes, 1911.  LOC.
I have spent *hours* on the site--you can search their photos by subject, location and photographer.  I also recommend America by the Yard: Cirkut Camera Images from the Early Twentieth Century by Robert B. MacKay--it's a nice large format with lots of fold outs to give you a good sense of the images.
Detail from the Yale Crew photo
Group portraits are are my favorite type of panoramic photo.  I’m not exactly a ‘joiner’--group activities give me a bit of a twitch--but somehow the dynamics within these group portraits fascinate me.  I play The Breakfast Club game--who was the Princess, the Brain, the Jock?  Are they having fun at the gathering?  Was anyone misbehaving?  And the fashions from different eras are always fun to look at, too.  The shoes, the hair!
Tuckerton (NJ) High School class photo at Mount Vernon, 1926. From my personal collection.

Loving the men's fashions
Sullen teenager alert!  
One of the issues with panoramic photography is the distortion caused by the rotation of the camera--you can end up with that wonky fish-eye effect where straight lines appear drastically curved.  In group portraits, the trick is to arrange the people in the picture in a way that corrects the distortion.  Usually, the front row of people will be lined up in a curve that corresponds to the arc of the rotating camera.  On film, the people appear in straight lines--but when you look, you can see that there is often a pretty big gap between the people in the front row and the row behind them, especially at the ends.
Chi Psi fraternity boys at Williams College, 1963--a relatively late example.
I mainly buy group portraits taken at historic locations such as Mount Vernon or Niagara Falls.  I also like landscapes if they have something of particular interest to me (places I’ve been or would like to go, cute vignettes with people).  I like the military photos the least, because all I can think of is ‘how many of these young soldiers went off to war and died a horrible death?’  Not fun on my wall. 
Detail of photos from my collection--the beach scene at the lower right is Long Beach, California, circa 1920
On my wish list:  group portraits at Mount Rushmore, New York, Niagara Falls, Mount Vernon and other famous sites; beach or surfing scenes; and anything shot in Hawaii!

I’ll write a separate post about fun tricks found in panoramic photos…
From Decorology.
I sometimes have panoramic photos in my Etsy shop--come check them out here

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg except where noted

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Road Trip: Clematis Window by Tiffany Studios at the Dr. Sylvester Willard House, Auburn, NY

My last Tiffany stop in Auburn--the Dr. Sylvester Willard House and its lovely clematis window.  A Tiffany window in its original domestic setting is pretty tough to come by, so it was nice to see this one.  

Before he was memorialized at the chapel at Union Theological Seminary (see my post on that here), Dr. Sylvester Willard was a practicing doctor in Auburn.  Working from his home on East Genesee Street, Dr. Willard welcomed patients to his apothecary through a later side entrance (1852) to the grand Greek Revival mansion (1830s/1840s).  
Don't be like me--it only occurred to me to take images of the exterior of the house as I was leaving and sitting at the stop light... You can just see the rounded addition to the house at the far right and the Tiffany window is the one that is cut off...
The Tiffany window is at the center, with an entrance at the top of each staircase on either side.  
When Willard died in 1886, it is not clear how this side entrance was used by his surviving daughters, Georgina and Caroline.  Tiffany’s work on the Willard Memorial Chapel began in 1892 and though there are no surviving papers known regarding the commission of the clematis window, the staff at the museum suggests that the window dates to around 1890, before the Chapel, but this seems a bit early to me.  I might have guessed closer to 1900 or so?   
It's hard to see in this shot, but the top left corner of the top panel is pretty severely bowed, damage that was purportedly incurred during a fire in the house. 
Clematis was frequently seen in Tiffany’s works, especially in domestic windows.  
A large clematis skylight from the Harbel house in Akron, Ohio, c. 1915.   Sold at Christie's in 1998. 
A lovely Peony and Clematis window (1900-1910)  from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass
A window with trumpet creeper, clematis, hollyhock and nasturtium, c. 1905, commissioned for a house in Irvington, NY.  Now at the Corning Museum of Glass
Tiffany used clematis in lamp design, too--this one from Christie's, December 2008.  
The window at the Willard mansion needs a bit of restoration, but it’s great to see a Tiffany window in its original domestic setting.  
There are a few cracks and small losses--pretty typical for windows like this.   
The Willard house is now the Cayuga Museum & Case Research Lab. Learn more here.  

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

Monday, October 15, 2012

Road Trip: Tiffany Studios Landscape Window, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Auburn, NY

Auburn is rich Tiffany territory.  After visiting the Willard Memorial Chapel, I headed over to Westminster Presbyterian Church to view their lovely landscape window.
The window dates to 1910 and was given to the church by Mrs. William H. Seward in memory of her mother, Mrs. Margaret Rebecca Standart Watson.  The window is inscribed with an excerpt from the 23rd Psalm: ‘He leadeth me beside the still waters, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..’
Detail of the tree at the left--looks like it is plated with confetti glass behind?
The Celestial City is just visible beneath the rainbow
The window measures 12 feet high and is plated with up to four layers of glass in some spots (according to the the restorer who recently worked on the window).
There are many variations of this type of landscape window where the Tiffany vocabulary of flowers, trees, water and mountains is utilized.  The double rainbow is nice added touch and well executed--I wonder how exactly it is achieved?  Just plating, or is there something else going on?
Left, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Magnolia and Irises window, c. 1908; right, a landscape window sold at Christie's in December 2003.  Both of these are from mausoleums and much smaller than the Westminster window.
I was so taken with the window that I neglected to take wide shots that show its location within the church.  Really, it’s front and center, smack in front of you when you walk in, right behind the altar.  Apparently, there was a time parishioners wanted something a bit less soft and naturalistic to look at during services as the window was once surrounded by heavy curtains and a large cross was put up in front of it.  Tastes change, and now the window is again a much treasured part of the church decor.
For more on Westminster Presbyterian, click here

Next:  More Tiffany in Auburn.

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Road Trip: Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co.’s Willard Memorial Chapel 1892-1894

Chandelier and window from the Willard Chapel
I’ve worked a lot on Tiffany Studios in the past decade, and for the most part I have been prevented from discussing any of the pieces I come across by a code of extreme discretion.  I still can’t blab about my private clients and the pieces I handle for them, but I thought it might be fun to show some of the Tiffany I see that is out there in the world for all to enjoy.  I’m on the road a lot and I’m trying to make a more concerted effort to stop and see good stuff along the way.

Despite having lived in New York for almost 20 years, I seldom ventured much further north than Dutchess County (which is not that far).  So I had never been to Auburn, in central New York State, a bit west of Syracuse.  The town is notable for two institutions, Auburn Theological Seminary and Auburn Prison, both founded within a couple years of each other in the early 19th century.  William Seward--the US Secretary of State who negotiated the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia--lived in Auburn, as did Harriet Tubman, who helped free slaves via the Underground Railway.
Willard Memorial Chapel on the left
Auburn Theological Seminary was considered a progressive training ground for future members of the clergy.  During the 19th century, many men were educated here and went on to missionary work in the American West and across the world (including a number of whom went to convert the ‘savages’ in Hawaii). 

In the 1890s, the Seminary benefited from the gift of a chapel on the school grounds given by Georgina and Caroline Willard in memory of their father, Dr. Sylvester Willard.  The good doctor was both entrepreneurial and philanthropic and left his daughters with both the means and goodwill to remember him with a substantial structure.
View towards the pipe organ and lectern
Built between 1892 and 1894, the Willard Memorial Chapel was designed in a Romanesque style by architect Andrew Jackson Warner of Rochester, NY.   The interior was designed and executed by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co. (one of the many names of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s firm before it solidified into Tiffany Studios).  Today, it remains one of the few intact Tiffany interiors, having had relatively few alterations since it was built.
View to the back of the chapel, with the Christ Sustaining Peter window and Holzer relief panel below
The 1890s was a creative and fruitful period for Tiffany Studios.  One of the men responsible for this was Jacob Holzer, a designer at Tiffany Studios from 1890 to 1896.  Holzer worked mainly in mosaic, but had a hand in all forms of decorative embellishment.  His commission list is impressive and includes the mosaics in the Chicago Public Library and Marquette Building in Chicago, the Ayer House in Boston and Princeton’s Homeric Story frieze. 
On the left, the chapel for the Columbian Exposition, now at the Morse Museum; on the right the chandelier from the Church of the Covenant in Boston.
Stylistic similarities can be seen between Holzer’s work at the Willard Chapel and two of his major commissions at the time, the chapel for the 1893 Columbian Exposition (parts of which are now at the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida) and the Central Congregational Church (now Church of the Covenant) in Boston.  These works all have a vaguely exotic, Byzantine feel to them and rely on lush, small-scale ornament to convey richness and visual complexity.
One of the three center chandeliers
The enormous chandeliers at the Columbian Chapel and Church of the Covenant are obviously far grander than those at the Willard Chapel, but they all share a visual vocabulary.  This same circular chandelier form was used in several Tiffany religious commissions, including First Presbyterian Church in Binghamton, NY.
Side windows
The windows at Willard are both figural and geometric.  At the back of the chapel is a window of 'Christ Sustaining Peter on the Water' apparently after a painting by English artist Frederic Shields (though I have not seen the original).  Just beneath the window is a large allegorical relief panel signed by Jacob Holzer, with mosaic work in the background and frame.
Detail of the frame around the Holzer allegorical relief
Overall, the chapel felt a bit more austere than I expected, maybe because of the large amount of blank wall surface (is that white original?).  The dark ceiling is at least in part decorated with a stenciled pattern.  I wonder what this would look like if it were cleaned (or if it has already been cleaned)?
Detail of the ceiling
The 1930s saw the decline of the Seminary and it eventually ceased operations in Auburn.  The Willard Chapel is now the only remaining building on what was the Seminary campus and it is surrounded by residences and a nearby shopping center.

You can find info on visiting the Willard Memorial Chapel here.

Next time:  more Tiffany in Auburn.

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg