A "New and Native" Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene

Oct. 18, 2008Jan. 27, 2009
Boone Gallery

The Huntington, in partnership with the Gamble House, USC, presents the most comprehensive exhibition ever undertaken on the work of Arts and Crafts legends Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene—the first such exhibition to travel outside of California.

“A ‘New and Native’ Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene” is on view from Oct. 18 through Jan. 26, 2009, in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery at The Huntington. It then travels to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. (March 13– June 7, 2009), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (July 14–Oct. 18, 2009).

This ambitious exhibition presents a chronological survey of the Greenes’ lives and careers over a nearly 90-year period. Representative objects from 30 of the brothers’ commissions, including significant examples from the best-known period of their work between 1906 and 1911, explores important points in the evolution of their unique design vocabulary. In all, the show features approximately 140 objects from the collections of The Huntington, the Gamble House, and other private and institutional lenders. Many of the works on view have never before been seen by the public. Included are examples of beautifully inlaid furniture, artfully executed metalwork, luminous art glass windows and light fixtures, and rare architectural drawings and photographs.

Among the items on display are nearly 15 pieces of furniture from the Robert R. Blacker House (1909) in Pasadena, including the iconic mahogany entry-hall bench and delicately inlaid dining table. Other highlights of the exhibition include the spare and highly modern mahogany hall chair for the William T. Bolton House (1906) in Pasadena, the beautiful early art glass panel for the Jennie A. Reeve House (1904) in Long Beach, and the leaded-glass window for the Carrie Whitworth House (1918) in Altadena, which is an exceptional example of Henry Greene’s work in glass design.

Photographs, drawings, and descriptions of the Greenes’ major architectural works that include the Blacker House as well as the Gamble (1908), Robinson (1906), Tichenor (1905), and Culbertson (1913) houses provide points of departure for interpreting the objects on display. Archival images are complemented by a dedicated education room featuring a video presentation of selected examples of the Greenes’ houses as they appear today. This space also includes a timeline of the architects’ key projects, plus a hands-on display of building materials they used.

Major thematic influences on the Greenes’ work is explored, such as the roles of Japanese architecture, traditional wood joinery, and classical proportion in shaping their own design sensibilities. To this end, the exhibition re-creates an exterior covered corridor of the Arturo Bandini House designed in 1903 but demolished more than four decades ago.

“The Greene brothers created a new paradigm in the American Arts and Crafts movement,” says Edward R. Bosley, James N. Gamble Director of the Gamble House and a co-curator of the exhibition. “They inspired their clients to go the extra mile to create a rarefied stratum of architecture.”

As did their contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Henry Greene believed architecture to be no less than a design language for life, imbuing their houses and furnishings with an expressive sensitivity for geography, climate, landscape, and lifestyle.

“The Greenes were looking for ways to build in this environment that made sense to them,” says Gamble House curator Anne Mallek, who is co-curating the exhibition with Bosley. “This environment” was their new home of Pasadena, to which they came in 1893 after being raised in the Midwest and attending the Manual Training School in St. Louis and MIT in Boston. Newly founded, Pasadena was a sophisticated town that had become the state’s preeminent resort for tourists from the East. The brothers established their practice and soon were designing homes for wealthy clients, many of them transplants from the Midwest like the Greenes.

The impetus for this special exhibition is the centennial of the Gamble House, a National Historic Landmark in Pasadena and the only one of the Greenes’ works open to the public. The house is also unique in that it retains all of its original furnishings and fixtures designed by the architects. When the Gamble House opened to the public in 1966 (a gift from the family to the city of Pasadena in a joint agreement with USC’s School of Architecture), Charles and Henry’s work had largely been forgotten. But 1966 provided a pivotal moment for their legacy with the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act. Before then, a number of Greene & Greene buildings had been demolished. The act began to bear fruit in the 1970s as communities increasingly began to protect their architectural heritage.

The title of the exhibition was inspired by a 1952 special citation from the American Institute of Architects honoring the Greenes as “formulators of a new and native architecture.” Greene & Greene designs strongly influenced California’s architectural heritage, and their work continues to be of international significance as well, inspiring countless architects and designers around the world.

Major support for the exhibition comes from The Ahmanson Foundation, Ayrshire Foundation, The Henry Luce Foundation, Steve Martin, Steven and Kelly McLeod Family Foundation, Joseph D. Messler, Jr., Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Resnick Family Foundation, Laura and Carlton Seaver, Wells Fargo, Windgate Charitable Foundation, and Margaret Winslow. 

Additional support was provided by Levin & Associates, Toshie and Frank Mosher, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, Ann Peppers Foundation, Melvin R. Seiden-Janine Luke Exhibition Fund, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Elsie De Wolfe Foundation, and Avery Dennison.

Related Events at The Huntington

Arts and Crafts Marketplace
Oct. 18-19, noon-4:30 p.m., Friends’ Hall
A variety of vendors presents a selection of glass, pottery, prints, textiles, jewelry, and metalwork related to the Arts and Crafts movement. Free

Arts & Crafts Printing Workshop
Oct. 25, Nov. 1 and 8, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 
The botanical motifs found in the Arts and Crafts designs of William Morris and Charles and Henry Greene will lend inspiration to students in this printing workshop with artist Melissa Manfull. Supplies included. Huntington Members: $140. Non-Members: $155. Registration: 626-405-2128.

Film Screening: “Greene & Greene: The Art of Architecture”
Nov. 7, 1 & 3 p.m. , Friends’ Hall
The creative evolution of Charles and Henry Greene and their intensely artistic approach to architectural design are chronicled in this documentary by filmmaker Paul Bockhorst, with commentary by noted authorities Edward R. Bosley, Randell L. Makinson, Robert Judson Clark, and others. Free.

From Britain to Russia: An International View of the Arts and Crafts Movement 
Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Friends’ Hall
The Arts and Crafts movement encompassed everything from menus in Moscow to chic domestic architecture in the United States. Rosalind P. Blakesley, of the University of Cambridge, charts the movement’s evolution from the brainchild of some quirky British individuals to an artistic development of international renown. Free.

Conference: A “New and Native” Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene
Nov. 8, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Friends’ Hall
In conjunction with the exhibition, this conference brings together internationally noted historians and curators to explore context for, and influences on, the architecture and decorative arts of Greene and Greene. $10. Registration: [email protected] or 626-405-3432.

“Greene & Greene: An Arts and Crafts Conundrum”
Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m., Friends’ Hall
As part of its Robert R. Wark lecture series, The Huntington presents a lecture by Edward R. Bosley, James N. Gamble Director of The Gamble House and a co-curator of the exhibition. Free.

Merrymakers of Whoopee, Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys 
Nov. 20, 8 p.m., Friends’ Hall
Effervescent chanteuse Janet Klein performs rare tunes from the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s with inspired renditions of Tin Pan Alley, vaudeville, ragtime, and other gems. Registration includes admission to the exhibition before the performance. Huntington Members: $35. Non-Members: $45. Reservations: 626-405-2128.

Children’s Tile Making Workshop
Nov. 22, 9-11:30 a.m.
Join artist Melissa Manfull and create beautiful tiles inspired by the art and craft of Charles and Henry  Greene. Ages 7 and up, with one accompanying adult. Huntington Members: $20. Non-Members $25. Registration: 626-405-2128.

Curator Tour
Dec. 11, 4:30-5:30 p.m.  FILLED
Join exhibition curators for a private tour and learn about the art and architecture of Greene and Greene and why their work is recognized internationally as among the finest of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Huntington Members: $15. Non-Members: $20. Registration: 626-405-2128.

Related Exhibitions

Living Beautifully: Greene & Greene in Pasadena 
Aug. 16, 2008, through Jan. 4, 2009
Pasadena Museum of History, 470 West Walnut St. Pasadena, Calif., 626-577-1660, www.pasadenahistory.org
An exhibition of objects, materials, and photographs exploring the lives of Charles and Henry Greene and their families, as well as drafting tools, carving tools, and other artifacts of the partnership. The exhibition also features information about the Greenes’ premier craftsmen, John and Peter Hall.

Seeing Greene & Greene: Architecture in Photographs 
Sept. 28, 2008, through Jan. 4, 2009
Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 East Union St., Pasadena, Calif., 626-568-3665
An exhibition of photographs by 20th-century architectural and fine-art photographers of the work of Greene and Greene. On Nov. 15, a panel discussion, “Chasing Greene & Greene,” will highlight the role of photographers in reviving interest in the Greenes’ work.

The Dorothy Collins Brown Wing of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art 
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens 
A wing of The Huntington’s American art galleries is devoted to a permanent installation of the work of Charles and Henry Greene that highlights the evolution of the Greenes’ artistic genius with examples of their designs for furniture and decorative arts, including an entire dining room and staircase.

The Gamble House
4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, Calif., 626-793-3334 
A National Historic Landmark, The Gamble House was designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Co. and serves as an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts architecture and furnishings. Open for public tours. For information on The Gamble House, special tours, and a Web-based catalog of the exhibition, please visit gamblehouse.org.

Related Publication

A “New and Native” Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene 
(Merrell Publishers Ltd.) accompanies the exhibition with a foreword by architect Frank Gehry and essays addressing the Greenes’ architecture and designs. Available at The Huntington’s Bookstore & More and at major booksellers. $75.

Gallery Guide

stained glass gallery guide cover