FRENCH FURNITURE FLORALIZED

FRENCH FURNITURE FLORALIZED

Typical chair of the Art Nouveau style

Last week we talked about Antonio Gaudi, Victor Horta  and others. We discussed the  designs they used and implemented based on the twines, florals and curves of nature. The double bench

Gaudi's Art Nouveau double bench

in the blog, and seen here below, was typical of the “Art Nouveau” style and is still being produced today. I mentioned that I sat in the bench in the lobby of the Barcelona Marriott. The seat is ample and comfortable. The back and arms have that parabolic curve that gives the Art Nouveau style its simplicity. There is a simplicity about the style. In this bench, the legs are, however, typically a colonial style, a popular shape, even today, perhaps mimicking the figure of a woman, that is, with some imagination. There is some kind of comfort in things that have soft curves and furniture is not exempt. It was not unusual to combine different styles in one piece of furniture in the 19th century.

The Art Nouveau style was born out of a love for beauty. The curves of the plant were seen in chair legs and chair backs. The flowing line, called the Belgian curve, which is the flat segment of an ellipse, was used for wall openings, furniture supports and furniture forms. After 1900 and the Paris Exposition, the parabolic curve took the place of the ellipse. The curve was used in woodwork, mirror frames, and furniture. The curve is specific to the style, so if you like parabolic curves, you will like this furniture. Although the lines are clean, even with some ornamentation, it has a definite line direction to the style. Unlike Victoriana that had many different lines and ornamentation on one piece of furniture.

Victoriana armchair

I always have fun making comparisons to Victoriana because the style is so pathetically massive and invasive and all made with the machine. Some of my earlier blogs addressed Victoriana. If you were rich, your “stuff” was made by machine, and the more ornamentation it had on one piece, then the richer you appeared. Victoriana tried to copy the Louis XV style, a French classic. But they missed, and instead produced this strange looking furniture.

This is how it goes through the history of furniture, the history of architecture, the history of all things. The pendulum swings back and forth. We try new, then we go back to the old, and end up with the classics.

So, if you compare the Victoriana chair above to the Art Nouveau style, which would you prefer?

Art Nouveau table

FLOWERS, SALAMANDERS & ART NOUVEAU

FLOWERS, SALAMANDERS & ART NOUVEAU

The style of Art Nouveau and the flower forms of the plant live on. But not

Gaudi double bench Casa Batilo

necessarily in styles of furniture. The linear floral ornamentation lives on in architecture. Specifically, the architecture of Antonio Gaudi. Last week we discussed the brilliance of this architect who built structures

Gaudi's forms on the Casa Batilo rooftop

in Barcelona that attract millions of visitors each year. His work was a major source in the use of the linear floral forms in all aspects of design. Have a look at last week’s blog on Gaudi.

The forms were promoted by Victor Horta in his van Eetvelde House (1895) in Belgium. There was a whole group of architects and designers who were responsible for developing Art Nouveau as a new style that had nothing to do with the past. It was a style that advocated art for art’s sake.

Victor Horta van Eetvelde House staircase

The design premise was based on the asymmetrical flowing lines of plant forms. Floral forms in iron are the essence of interior ornamentation. Typical use are rail designs, floor patterns, window divisions and column ornamentation in architecture and furniture. In all the forms, look for the pervasive S form. The style was used pervasively in the late 19th century to early 20th century. The style was decorative, it did not lend anything to structure. So it can be easily dispensed with. Besides, designs with moving forms can be tiring. They have vibrations and make quiet noise like bright colors. We seem to go back to the simplistic styles.

In Barcelona, the style is everywhere in keeping with Gaudi’s strong influence. The double bench above was in our Marriott Hotel.

Gaudi salamander Parc Guell's rooftop

Although the bench was not the original, still it was an excellent reproduction. It was thrilling to actually sit in one of Gaudi’s creations. And walk on his rooftops to see his humorous creations. Check out this salamander. Look for the S forms. Take another look at plants, flowers, mermaids. Where else does nature provide the S forms?

Gaudi Interior Casa Vicens

This interior has moorish influence. See if you can find the S forms? Can you visualize the colors?

CURLS AND FURLS OF THE 19TH CENTURY

CURLS AND FURLS OF THE 19TH CENTURY

Sagrada Familia Church, Barcelona, Spain

Antonio Gaudi died under the wheels of a tram and was to be buried in an unknown grave. Yet, he is known for his Barcelona Gaudi Architecture – Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló in Barcelona. He was an enthusiast of the nineteenth century popular style of Art Nouveau, a style celebrating art for art’s sake. A style that did not relate to any designs of the past. The style was an invention of a new kind of ornament based on the asymmetrical flowing lines of plant forms.  Gaudi impressed the architectural community with his wild, vehement and whimsical forms of the curls  and furls of the style. The stone and iron used in his work were bent and warped creating surfaces of great complexity that flow like molten lava. He used outlandish, original, colored mosaics and toyed with ideas in architecture, both interior and exterior, that bring visitors and tourists to Barcelona by the millions.

Unless you have been there, you cannot possibly imagine the overwhelming pomposity, grandeur, and fantasy of this church. I have traveled the world over, from the USA to England,  Portugal,  Mexico,  Spain,  Bangladesh,  Africa, and to other countries. I have seen churches, I have studied churches, I have painted churches . . .  and to clarify before you have a chance to verify, the churches I painted were on canvas. Never have I seen, explored, or experienced any like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. His work has been described as “melted butter.” The towers here, in the above image, with the rippling contours of the stone facade make it look as though Sagrada Familia is melting in the sun.

Façade

The holy figures of stone imbedded into the fascia are unbelievable. From afar, the details blur some. This image shows the details. The church began its life in 1882. From 1883 Gaudi worked on the architecture until his death. He left a legacy of information. The church, in the lower level, has models, architectural drawings, and yards and yards and yards of information to continue building to completion. And so it goes. There are always cranes on site. Always workers on site, always lines of onlookers on site. The church is open to the public everyday all year except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Death

Gaudí’s funeral (12 June 1926)

On 7 June 1926, Gaudí was taking his daily walk to the Sant Felip Neri church for his habitual prayer and confession. While walking along the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes between Girona and Bailén streets, he was struck by a passing tram and lost consciousness.[48] Assumed to be a beggar because of his lack of identity documents and shabby clothing, the unconscious Gaudí did not receive immediate aid. Eventually a police officer transported him in a taxi to the Santa Creu Hospital, where he received rudimentary care.[49] By the time that the chaplain of the Sagrada Família, Mosén Gil Parés, recognised him on the following day, Gaudí’s condition had deteriorated too severely to benefit from additional treatment. Gaudí died on 10 June 1926 at the age of 73 and was buried two days later. A large crowd gathered to bid farewell to him in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Família.

Mosaics section

Gaudi is dead, long live Gaudi.

Roof architecture at Casa Batllo

The towers of Sagrada Familia can be seen from almost everywhere in Barcelona.  Buildings . . .architecture, set the tone, the culture, for a town, a city, a country.  Architecture is a live, breathing, functioning sculpture.  You cannot hold it in your hand, but you can become part of it. You can love it, hate it, tolerate it, but like it or not, architecture sets the pace by which you live and survive.

Are you familiar with the architecture surrounding you? Are you aware that architecture is public art?

FIRST CLASS

FIRST CLASS

Harrods of London 1909

Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909. The trailing skirts and broad-brimmed hats of mid-decade are giving way to narrower dresses and hats with deep crowns. Men wear top hats with formal morning dress or bowlers with lounge suits.

As the sea closed over the Titanic, Lady Cosmo duff Gordon in Boat 1 remarked to her secretary Miss Francatelli, “There is  your beautiful nightdress gone.”

A lot more than Miss Francatelli’s nightgown vanished that April night. Even more than the largest liner in the world, her cargo, and the lives of 1502 people.

Never again would men fling a ship into an ice field, heedless of warnings, putting their whole trust in a few thousand tons of steel and rivets. From now on Atlantic liners took ice messages seriously, steered clear, or slowed down. Nobody believed in the  “unsinkable ship.”

Nor would icebergs any longer prowl the seas untended. After the Titanic sank, the American and British governments established the International Ice Patrol, and today Coast Guard cutters shepherd errant icebergs that drift toward the steamer lanes. The winter lane itself was shifted further south, as an extra precaution.

It was also the last time a liner put to sea without enough lifeboats. And it was the end of class distinction in filling the boats. Not all the women were off the boats, it was at the end when dozens of women suddenly appeared. The statistics suggest who they were-the Titanic’s casualty list included four of 143 First Class Women (three by choice) . . . 15 of 93 Second Class women . . . and 81 of 179 Third Class women.

Not to mention the children. All 29 First and Second Class children were saved, but only 23 out of 76 steerage children. Neither the chance to be chivalrous nor the fruits of chivalry seemed to go with a Third Class passage.

In covering the Titanic, few reporters bothered to ask the Third Class passengers anything. The New York Times was justly proud of the way it handled the disaster. Yet the famous issue covering the Carpathia’s arrival in New York contained only two interviews with Third Class pasengers. This apparently was par for the course-of 43 survivor accounts in the New York Herald, two again were steerage experiences.

The night was a magnificent confirmation of “Women and children first,” yet somehow the loss rate was higher for Third Class children than First Class men. It was a contrast which would never get by the social consciousness (or news sense) of today’s press.

At the opposite extreme, it was also the last time the special position of First Class was accepted without question. When the Titanic sailed, the New York Times listed the prominent passengers on the front page. After she sank, New New York American broke the news on April 16 with a lead devoted almost entirely to John Jacob Astor. At the end it mentioned that 1800 others were also lost.

There was a wonderful intimacy about this little world of the Edwardian rich. There was no flicker of surprise when they bumped into each other, whether at the Pyramids (a great favorite), the Cowes Regatta, or the springs at Baden-Baden. They seemed to get the same ideas at the same time, and one of these ideas was to make the maiden voyage of the largest ship in the world.

So the Titanic’s trip was more like a reunion than an ocean passage. All First Class were shoulder to shoulder friends with the Captain, Stewards and others as themselves. But the water was the same for all. The sea broke a man’s resistance. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees-well below freezing. To Second Officer Lightoller it felt like “A thousand knives” driven into his body. In water like this, lifebelts did no good.

How anyone survived is questionable. The Titanic marked the end of a general feeling of confidence. Until then men felt they had found the answer to a steady, orderly, civilized life. For 100 years the Western world had been at peace. Technology had steadily improved. The benefits of peace and industry seemed to be filtering satisfactorily through society. The Titanic woke them up. Never again would they be quite so sure of themselves. The “unsinkable ship”, went down taking with it the dream of man’s greatest engineering achievement.

How would you do on a sinking ship? What would you do to survive?

Credit to Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, ed. 1955, Henry Holt and Company, New York.

Historic Time Periods

Gilded Age America: 1870s to 1890s 
Progressive Era America: 1890s to 1920s
Belle Epoque Europe: 1880s to 1910s
Victorian Era: 1837-1901
Edwardian Era: 1901-1914
World War One: 1914-1918

Some interior design history coming . . .

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Titanic last dinner

Mrs. Anne Crain puzzled over the cheerful smell of coffee brewing as she lay in her cabin on the Cunarder Carpathia, bound from New York to the Mediterranean.  It was nearly 1:00 A.M. on the fourth night out, and by now Mrs. Crain knew the quiet little liner well enough to feel that any sign of activity after midnight was unusual, let alone coffee brewing.

Down the corridor Miss Ann Peterson lay awake in her bunk too.  She wondered why the lights were turned on all over the ship-normally the poky Carpathia was shut down by now.

Mr. Howard M. Chapin was more worried than puzzled.  He lay in the upper berth of his cabin on A Deck-his face just a few inches below the Boat Deck above.  Sometime after midnight a strange sound suddenly woke him up.  It was a man kneeling down on the deck directly over his head.  The day before, he had noticed a lifeboat tied to a cleat just about there; now he felt sure the man was unfastening the boat and something was wrong.

Nearby, Mrs. Louis M. Ogden awoke to a cold cabin and a speeding ship.  Hearing loud noises overhead, she too decided something must be wrong.  she shook her sleeping husband.  His diagnosis didn’t reassure her-the  noise was the crew breaking out the chocks from the lifeboats overhead.  He opened the stateroom door and saw a line of stewards carrying blankets and mattresses.  Not very reassuring either.

Here and there, all over the ship, the light sleepers listened restlessly to muffled commands, tramping feet, creaking davits.  Some wondered about the engines-they were pounding so much harder, so much faster than usual.  The mattresses jiggled wildly . . . the washstand tumblers rattled loudly in their brackets . . . the woodwork groaned with the strain.  A turn of the faucet produced only cold water-at twist on the heater knob brought no results-the engines seemed to be feeding on every ounce of steam.

Strangest of all was the bitter cold.  The Carpathia has left New York on April 11, bound for Gibraltar, Genoa, Naples, Trieste and Fiume.  Her 150 First Class passengers pre-Florida era; her 575 steerage passengers were mostly Italians and Slavs returning to their sunny Mediterranean.  All of them welcomed the balmy breeze of the Gulf Stream that Sunday afternoon.Toward five o’clock it grew so warm that Mr. Chapin shifted his deck chair to the shade.  Now there was an amazing change-the frigid blast that swept through every crack and seam felt like the Arctic.

On the bridge, Captain Arthur H. Rostron wondered whether he had overlooked anything.  He had been at sea for 27 years-with Cunard for 17- but this was only his second years a a cunard skipper and only his third month on the Carpathia.  The Titanic’s   call for help was his first real test.

When the CQD (morse code distress signal) arrived, Rostron had already turned in for the night.  Harold Cottam, the Carpathia’s operator, rushed the message to First Officer Dean on the bridge.  They both raced down the ladder, through the chart room, and burst into the Captain’s cabin.  Rostron-a stickler for discipline even when half-asleep-wondered what the ship was coming to, with people dashing in this way.  They were meant to knock.  But before he could reprimand them, Dean blurted the news.

Rostron bolted out of bed, ordered the ship turned, and then-after the order was given-double-checked Cottam:  “Are you sure it is the Titanic and requires immediate assistance?” “Yes, sir.” “You are absolutely certain?” “Quite certain.”  “all right, tell him we are coming along as fast as we can.”

Rostron then rushed into the chart room and worked out the Carpathia’s new course.  As he figured and scribbled, he saw the boatswain’s mate pass by, leading a party to scrub down the decks.  Rostron told him to forget the decks and prepare the boats for lowering.  The mate gaped.  Rostron reassured him, “It’s all right; we’re going to another vessel in distress.”

The iceberg, a pedigree

In a few moments the new course was set-North 52 West. The Carpathia was 58 miles away.  At 14 knots she would take four hours to get there.  Too long.

Many an iceberg has been identified as “the iceberg that sank the Titanic,” but this one has a better pedigree than most.  It was photographed near the scene on April 15.  The Chief Steward of the German ship Prinz Adelbert took the picture, not because of the Titanic-he hadn’t yet heard-but because a great scar of red paint ran along the berg’s base.  It suggested a recent collision with some ship.  White Star Vice President Philip A.S. Franklin was sufficiently impressed that he always refused to look at the picture. (Author’s collection)

This year is the centennial of the maiden voyage of the Titanic.  Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, with whom I am affiliated and am art director, is the impetus of this blog.  We are running an art show, the theme, “The Titanic.”  Since Lockwood is sponsoring the commemoration of its maiden voyage, I researched tales to tell.  Last week the blog was about a tenacious amazing survivor, Helen Churchill Candee, this week talks about the nearest ship CQD (SOS) call to come to the aid of the sinking ship. In my research, I found this story in a 1955 book “A Night to Remember,” by author Walter Lord and published by Henry Holt and Company, New York. It is taken from Chapter IX “We’re Going North Like Hell.”

What would you think if you were sailing in balmy waters, suddenly becoming frigid?

To be continued…

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