Pipsan: The Lesser-Known (But No Less Impressive!) Saarinen Sibling

CRANBROOK SIGHTING: INSIDE THE VAULT
Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge, c. 1950
Pipsan Saarinen Swanson and J. Robert F. Swanson for Swanson and Associates
Iron, rope, and canvas
34 x 23 x 24 in. (86.4 x 58.4 x 61 cm)
Transfered from the Cranbrook Academy of Art

If it were up to me, every month would be Women’s History Month, but alas for the foreseeable future it is *officially* delegated to March in the United States, and today is our last chance to celebrate! How auspicious that March 31 also happens to be the birthday of Pipsan (born Eva Lisa) Saarinen Swanson, designer of furniture, interiors, fashion, and textiles, and younger sister of one of the most recognizable names in modern architecture, Eero Saarinen. Pipsan’s father Eliel was of course the architect of the Cranbrook Campus and President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1932-1946, but before being lured to Bloomfield Hills by Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, he was a visiting professor of architecture at the University of Michigan. One of his star students was Grand Rapids native J. Robert F. Swanson, who upon graduation founded the Swanson and Booth architectural firm at Cranbrook with his University of Michigan classmate Henry Scripps Booth, George’s son. It was here that Swanson was introduced to Pipsan, and immediately Cupid wielded his mighty arrow–they were married in 1926. After Swanson broke away to establish his own firm, Swanson and Associates, Pipsan was enlisted as an interior designer for the company, and the husband and wife team would continue their working and romantic partnership for the rest of their lives.

Pipsan Saarinen Swanson and J. Robert F. Swanson, undated. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

Cranbrook Art Museum holds in its collection a wonderful array of objects designed by the Swansons, as well as many costume, glass, and textile designs executed solely by Pipsan. Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow for the Center for Collections and Research (and frequent guest blogger on Cranbrook Sightings) has written a beautiful account of one such costume design on our sister blog, Cranbrook Kitchen Sink.

Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge, c. 1950. Swanson and Associates. Photo (c) Cranbrook Art Museum.

In addition to their architectural and interior designs, Swanson and Associates often designed furniture and textiles for regional manufacturers. In 1949, the firm was hired by Cincinatti furniture company Ficks Reed to develop a line of casual pieces for the home that could transition from indoor to outdoor use. The Swansons ultimately created a suite of twelve chairs, tables, and benches, as well as a chaise lounge and a daybed, for a line they titled “Sol-Air”–likely a play on the word “solar,” as other titles considered were “Sunair” and “Solunair.”

Promotional photograph for the Sol-Air furniture series. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

Sol-Air advertisement, June 1950. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

The furniture series was a hit with the design community, ultimately being selected for the 1950 inaugural (and now notorious) “Good Design” exhibition at the Chicago Merchandise Mart, co-sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This October 1950 press release from the MoMA outlines the reception of the exhibited works based on polls from different categories of the public, and Pipsan’s Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge came in second place among buyers–quite a propitious sign for the Ficks Reed wholesalers!

Sol-Air furniture featured in interior design editorial, photographed by Herbert Matter for House and Garden, July 1950. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

The weatherproof, bright persimmon chaise lounge radiated casual, youthful relaxation, and throughout the suite’s five years in production was consistently one of its best sellers. With spring finally (FINALLY) upon us, I’ll take reclining in one of these nautically-inspired stunners over curling up in a womb chair any day. Well done, Pipsan!

Shelley Selim
2013-2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

Happy Birthday, May Morris!

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: INSIDE THE VAULT
May Morris
Bed-Hangings (Two Curtains)
1916, or earlier
Embroidered wool on linen
Each panel: 76 ¾ x 27 inches
Gift of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth

May Morris, Bed Hangings, c. 1916. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum.

On the 152nd anniversary of her birth (editor’s note: plus one day, because this editor is on a research trip and didn’t have time to get to the blog yesterday!), all of us at Cranbrook Art Museum are excited to wish artist and designer May Morris a very happy birthday! Born March 25, 1862 in Bexley Heath, England, May Morris grew up in an artistic community fueled by the beliefs of her father William Morris, a founder of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Intellectually committed to her father’s movement, she learned needlecraft at the feet of her mother Jane, a Pre-Raphaelite model and muse for Morris and others.

As an adult May Morris advocated both for her father’s artistic movement and for women’s involvement in art through needlework. She traveled the United States for five months between 1909 and 1910, lecturing on the Arts and Crafts movement and women’s role in the arts. Exposed to the women’s rights movement growing in the United States in this period, Morris became a champion for trade unions and women’s arts guilds—a move that earned her the dislike of many Arts and Crafts leaders, including Gustav Stickley.

It was during this lecture tour that George Gough Booth first encountered Morris’s work. Ten years later Booth purchased these bed-hangings—designed by Morris and executed by Morris and fellow needleworker and teacher Mary Newill—from a 1920 Detroit Society of Arts Crafts exhibition featuring Morris’s work and that of other British Arts and Crafts artists. Designed in 1916, the bed-hangings were first exhibited at the Eleventh Arts and Crafts Exhibition in London in the same year and were published in The Studio: Year-Book of Decorative Art in 1917. George and Ellen Booth loved the bed-hangings, which they hung in Cranbrook House until 1955.

Shoshana Resnikoff
2012-2014 Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

References:

Anthea Callen, Women Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement, 1870-1914 (Pantheon Books: New York) 1979.

Ellen Dodington, “May Morris, Bed-Hangings (Two Curtains),” Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Cranbrook Art Museum: Bloomfield Hills, MI) 2004.

Natasha Thoreson, “The Reluctant Reformer: May Morris’ United States Lecture Tour of 1909-1910,” Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings (University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Lincoln, NE) 2012.

Happy Birthday Albert Herter!

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: CRANBROOK HOUSE
Albert Herter
The Great Crusade
1920
Cotton, wool, and silk tapestry
Manufactured by the Herter Looms, Inc., New York, New York
156 x 120 inches
Gift of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth

A day late but with no less affection, we here at the Cranbrook Art Museum wish a very happy birthday to Albert Herter, born on March 2, 1871. The son of Christian Herter, one half of New York’s famed Herter Brothers design and decorating firm, Albert went on to become a successful artist and decorator in his own right. Over his lengthy career he painted portraits of the Bouviers, executed many private and civic murals in the United States and Europe, opened and decorated an exclusive Montecito hotel for America’s elite, and in 1908 founded the Herter Looms weaving company.

Although Herter Looms manufactured a variety of textiles for home furnishings, it is perhaps best known for its output of revivalist tapestries, often designed by Albert. Below is an essay about Herter’s The Great Crusade tapestry, written by former Cranbrook Academy of Art director Gerhardt Knodel for the 2004 publication Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures. For even more about the tapestry’s design and execution, check out Robbie Terman’s post on our sister blog, Cranbrook Kitchen Sink.

Albert Herter, The Great Crusade, 1920

[Cranbrook founder] George Booth was inspired to mark the end of the World War I in 1918 with a commemorative tapestry designed in the European tradition. His pen and ink sketch was submitted to renowned designer Albert Herter in New York City, who developed Booth’s concept and oversaw the work’s production by the Herter Looms in 1920. The resulting tapestry is beautiful, unique, and dense with political symbolism.

Since the Middle Ages, tapestries functioned as a means to document and glorify the “progress” of civilization. The Great Crusade presents America, whose involvement in the battlefields brought the war to an end, as the savior of European culture. The tapestry depicts the great political and religious leaders of Europe’s cultural past standing on the ground (Henry VIII, Francis I, Joan of Arc, among others) welcoming the triumphant victor, General Pershing on horseback, leading his troops. A Renaissance-style angel of victory is suspended in the sky above the crowd, accompanied by American bi-planes, the first ever used in warfare. The tapestry is a “red-carpet” homage to the victors.

-Gerhardt Knodel
Essay from Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures, ed. Dora Apel (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004), 64.

Catherine Murphy’s Nighttime Self-Portrait

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: INSIDE THE VAULT
Catherine Murphy
Nighttime Self-Portrait
1985
Oil on canvas
16 ¾ x 16 1/8 inches
Gift of Rose M. Shuey, from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey
Image © Catherine Murphy

From this gusty tundra of unrelenting frigidity (-20 degrees with windchill today!), we here at Cranbrook Art Museum would like to extend our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations to Catherine Murphy, the 2013 winner of the Robert De Niro, Sr., Prize, awarded to one outstanding mid-career artist each year. Since the 1960s, Murphy’s representational paintings have been widely exhibited and prolifically produced, but the artist’s talent for nuanced channels of perception remains at times underappreciated.

Catherine Murphy, Nighttime Self-Portrait, 1985

Cranbrook Art Musum holds Murphy’s Nighttime Self-Portrait (1985) in its permanent collection, acquired as part of a generous gift of contemporary paintings and sculpture from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey in 2001. The Shueys were principally drawn to abstraction during their many decades of collecting, but the somber power of Murphy’s Nighttime so deeply enthralls, it is no wonder they made an exception for this piece. (And, when pressed, Rose Shuey told museum director Gregory Wittkopp that this painting was one of her personal favorites). Confronting the roles of observation and audience, Murphy’s own darkened countenance is captured within a window reflection, conflating the positions of both artist and viewer. Hidden behind a window mullion, a fracture in elevation between the porch and the front of the house subtly reveals the passing of time. Here Murphy challenges the immediacy of the captured image and highlights the minute variables in every mode of awareness.

Personally, I delight in Murphy’s work from the 1980s for its inquisitiveness of perspective and examination of the ordinary. With a quality reminiscent of Vilhelm Hammershøi’s haunting domestic vignettes, her glances up stairwells and through windows and doors are muted in tone and both meticulous and hazy, evoking the dreamy disquiet of a vivid memory. As Linda Nochlin has noted, Murphy’s paintings are “charged with a very contemporary awareness of the ambiguities of the domestic, of the ways, both dramatic and subtle, that the known shades into the mysterious, the personal into the objective, the cozy in to the uncanny.”

Bravo, Ms. Murphy! We are so thrilled for you, and look forward to many more years of enchanting artistic output.

Posted by Shelley Selim
2013–2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

References:
Diane Kirkpatrick, “Catherine Murphy,” in Three Decades of Contemporary Art: The Dr. John & Rose M. Shuey Collection, ed. Dora Apel (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2001), 66.

Valentine’s Day at Cranbrook

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: INSIDE THE VAULT
Shiro Ikegawa
Valentine’s Day at Cranbrook
Suite of eighteen prints
Photo-Lithography and serigraphy three-color separation relief
Photography and lithography by David W. Wharton and Michael D. Powe
Printed at Cranbrook Academy of Art
All photos of Valentine’s Day at Cranbrook (c) Estate of Shiro Ikegawa

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by taking a leisurely stroll around the Cranbrook campus in sub-zero temperatures, photographing ice formations and footprints in the snow? In 1977, artist Shiro Ikegawa (1933–2009) did just that, commemorating one of America’s most beloved and reviled holidays with a suite of eighteen photo-lithographs and silk-screened prints. Cranbrook Academy of Art’s printmaking department invited Ikegawa for a two week visit, during which time he led critiques and became an acting art director of sorts, supervising students as they executed his works on the lithographic press.

The three images below were published in a Birmingham-Bloomfield Eccentric article about Ikegawa’s visit. Photos by Barbara McClellan.

Ikegawa surveys the "Valentine's Day" prints

A prophetic reference to Cranbrook Art Museum’s current exhibition, My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process?

Czashka Ross remembers taking sunrise walks with Shiro, and making a “to-die-for chocolate sauce for ice cream for 40 for the studio dinner.”

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Ikegawa spent three hours out in the cold documenting scenes with his camera from around Cranbrook’s grounds. The portfolios he created with printmaking students David W. Wharton, Michael D. Powe, and Czashka Ross included prints of his photographs from that day, as well as a copy of a letter from printmaking artist-in-residence Connor Everts inviting him to visit, maps of Oakland county, and recurring representational drawings of fish, which persisted as important symbols for the artist throughout his career.

Valentine's Day at Cranbrook Portfolio

Valentine's Day at Cranbrook Title Page

Letter by Connor Everts, to Ikegawa inviting Ikegawa to Cranbrook as visiting artist, January 1977

Map of Southeastern Michigan pointing out Cranbrook, Metropolitan Airport and Arrival Time

Colophon for Valentine's Day at Cranbrook

Valentine's Day at Cranbrook, Dolly Varden or the Bull Trout

Various Scenes at Cranbrook

Color reproduction of La Petite Clef, by Mark di Suvero

Foot Steps on Snow -20 Degrees, Snow Pass

Ice Fishing

Color reproduction of Printmaking Studio

Drawing of Fish on Denim Fabric

Ikegawa and the students created the portfolios as a limited edition of fifty. With eighteen prints included in each, the project was extremely arduous. Wharton recalls transferring the images onto lithographic stone, applying the ink by hand, and printing each one individually. The colors in each tri-colored serigraph also had to be separated by hand. After several fourteen-hour days in the studio, a compact and perfectly packaged treasure emerged—the product of a true labor of love!

Posted by Shelley Selim
2013–2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

REFERENCES
Corinne Abatt, “A Commemorative Folio: Artist Visits Cranbrook and Leaves Behind a Gift,” Birmingham-Bloomfield Eccentric, February 24, 1977.

Interviews with David W. Wharton and Czashka Ross.