Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Morris Graves: Mysticism & Asian Aesthetics


It was an assignment in an art class to report on a dead 20th century Northwest artist who was accomplished enough to have a body of work and have been known in their lifetime. That's how I came to find out about Morris Graves (1910-2001).

He was native Northwesterner (Fox Valley, Oregon) and a born artist. His parents had no idea what to do with the little artist. They were sure his fate was to be penniless.


Lacking guidance, Graves wasn't sure of his direction either, so at age 18 he joined the Merchant Marines. A voyage through the Orient would prove to be one of the most profound influences on his art.

In spite of being largely self taught, at age 23 he won first prize at the NW Annual Show held at the Seattle Art Museum. (By age 26, Morris had his first one-person show at that museum.)


 From 1935 to 1954, Seattle had an informal art community. The artists group included Graves, Mark Tobey (who influenced Pollock), Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. Together, these four artists heavily influenced each other, so that they were referred to as the "Northwest School of Masters." During this time, Life magazine placed the four on the cover of an issue with the title: "The Mystic Painters of the Northwest." 


They were called mystic painters because they all sought understanding of themselves and their relation to the cosmos including Eastern concepts of consciousness and creation. Graves studied and used Taoist, Buddhist and East Indian symbolism in his paintings.

Throughout his lifetime, Morris would produce art that was sparse and beautifully illuminated. This is where viewing his art provides so much more than a photo.  (Quite a few pieces of his art are in the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art located on the University of Oregon campus and the Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA)




At the end of this life, he requested a painting titled, "Triumph" be brought to him. He looked at it and saw not tulips, but angels rising to the heavens and so he, too, departed. To the end of life, Morris saw and created mystic symbolism.  



Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Muller Frères: From Art Nouveau to Art Deco

 Last week, the post was about Émile Gallé, an artist, designer and innovator in the time of Art Nouveau. He trained many who want to intern in the art of glass. Amongst these interns were the members of the Muller family.

Muller siblings were many, lead by Henri Muller, who left Gallé with 4 of his brothers to start a glass company of their own. In time, they were joined by a sister and 3 more brothers to make "Muller Frères" a family glass business.

At first, with the influence of their mentor, they designed Art Nouveau glass items. In time, with the beginning of the Art Deco era in the 1920 to 1930s, they created electric light sconces, desk lamps and overhead lighting along with vases and other furnishings. However, they're best remembered for their lamps and chandeliers.

With the start of WW1 and the death of a brother, the business was shut down. The siblings came back together after the war. The family team would go on to great success through the 1920s. Alas, the Great Depression would hit their business hard and the factory stopped production in 1933. 

One thing that's important in writing this blog is to try to give a sense of the artists' body of work.In addition their original Art Deco lighting designs, I've included a few of their gorgeous vases.    


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Émile Gallé: The Forgotten Art Nouveau Master



Art Nouveau was at its peak from 1890-1910. The style reigned in art, architecture, furniture and even clothing. It was a means of bringing nature, especially abstract versions of plants and floral, into sinuous and flowing motifs. One of the art forms that thrived during that time was glass as a medium. It lead to a resurgence of stained glass as well as appreciation for blown glass and molded glass.

There are some names known for the beauty and innovation of their glass works such as Lalique and Tiffany. Yet, there were others who created equally beautiful glass objects, but whose names have not continued into the 20th century and beyond. Among that group is Émile Gallé (1846-1904), This is in spite of his reputation as one of the most innovative Art Nouveau glass designers.  

Gallé's innovations included such techniques as glass marquetry and patinated glass (the latter technique he patented).

He also experimented with inorganic compounds and metals to create new colors - many adopted into common usage by other glass makers.


His glass works were considered to be the finest glassware on the market with their beautiful forms, rich color and inspired decoration. Today, if you are in Nancy, France, be sure to view the 400 pieces of his glass works and ceramics at the Musée de l'École de Nancy.




One last thing: Gallé's talent wasn't limited to glass, he also created beauty in ceramics and furniture. Perhaps topics for another time... Next week: His interns who became famous for Art Deco glass works.