The designer of such landmarks as the Washington Square Arch,
the New York Herald and Tiffany Buildings, and the homes of
captains of American industry, Stanford White is a legendary figure
in the history of American architecture. Yet while the exteriors
and floor plans of his designs have been extensively studied and
written about, no book has fully examined the other aspect of his
career, which claimed at least half of his time and creativity.
Wayne Craven's work offers the first study of Stanford White as an
interior decorator and a dealer in antiques and the fine arts.
Craven also offers a vivid portrait of the sweeping social and
cultural changes taking place in the United States in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He places White's work as
an interior decorator within the context of the lives and society
of the nouveaux riches who built unprecedented fortunes during the
Industrial Revolution. Rejecting the dominant middle-class tastes
and values of the United States, the Whitneys, Vanderbilts, Astors,
Paynes, Mackays, and other wealthy New York families saw themselves
as the new aristocracy and desired the prestige and trappings
accorded to Old World nobility. Stanford White fulfilled their
hunger for aristocratic recognition by adorning their glamorous
Fifth Avenue mansions and Long Island estates with the sculptures,
stained-glass windows, coats of arms, and carved fireplaces of the
European past. Interior decorators such as White did more than just
buy single pieces for these families. They purchased entire rooms
from palazzos, chateaux, villas, nunneries, and country houses; had
them dismantled; and shipped -- both furnishings and architectural
elements -- to their American clients. Through Stanford White's
activities, Craven uncovers the mostly, but not always, legal
business of dealing in antiquities, as American money entered and
changed the European art market.
Based on the archives of the Avery Architectural Library of
Columbia University and the New-York Historical Society, this book
recovers a neglected yet significant part of White's career, which
lasted from the 1870s to his murder in 1906. White not only set the
bar for twentieth-century architecture but also defined the newly
emerging profession of interior design.
Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Art & Art History
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