“The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene,” the largest exhibition to date of the work designed by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, will run March 13 through June 7 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. More than 130 objects have been selected for the traveling exhibition — many of them from private collections that have never been viewed by the public before.
The exhibition, “A ‘New and Native’ Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene,” is on display at the Boone Gallery at The Huntington, a research and educational center in San Marino, Calif., through Jan. 26. The show was organized by officials from the Huntington and the Gamble House in Pasadena, Calif., which was constructed between 1907 and 1909 and is one of the Greenes’ best-known commissions.
“The interesting thing about the Greenes is that they were forgotten for so long,” says Nicholas Bell, curatorial associate for the Renwick. “They worked together pretty much up until about 1920 and then Charles went off to do his own thing and they stopped doing houses together. By the time the Depression hit, they were pretty much off the radar and remained that way until [years later] when the AIA [American Institute of Architects] recognized their work and the impact it had. And it really wasn’t until later that anybody started to really study them and try and figure out what was significant about their work.”
The architecture and decorative arts designed by Greene & Greene a century ago in California are now recognized internationally as among the finest of the American Arts & Crafts movement. The objects in the traveling exhibition represent a variety of media, including inlaid furniture crafted from exotic hardwoods, artfully executed stained glass and metalwork, as well as rare architectural drawings and photographs. The Greenes designed each set of furniture to go with a specific house; they never entered the world of furniture production. And now, 100 years later, there is a huge interest in their Arts and Crafts furniture.
“Trends are such a funny thing,” Bell says. “I can’t tell you specifically what happened there. I think certainly with the Greenes’ work, something that really speaks to people is the detail. You don’t have to be a professional woodworker, you don’t have to be a furniture scholar, to look at their work and realize it is exquisite, that it is really enjoyable — the inlays, the carvings, the attention to detail in terms of joinery, the ebony plugs they used. No matter how little you know about them, this stuff is all gorgeous to look at.
“It just seems to be a time when the appreciation has grown in general. That probably won’t continue into eternity, but if you’re an Arts and Crafts person, this is your highlight, this is your moment in the spotlight, this is the time when not only you get to enjoy [the work], but also the research and scholarship that’s being done right now. You’re getting exhibitions and publications that will help shore up the history for generations to come.”
The exhibition is also scheduled to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from July 14 to Oct. 18.
The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine, is presenting the exhibition, “In the Palm of Your Hand: Exquisite Gifts,” through Feb. 13 at its Messler Gallery. The exhibition of exquisite wooden objects was curated by wood artist Jacques Vesery, who hails from Damariscotta, Maine. It features small-scale work in wood by 23 furniture makers, wood turners and sculptors from around the world, including vessels, gift boxes, decorative bowls, carvings and turned sculptural objects. One of Vesery’s criteria was that no piece could exceed 6" in any dimension because “there is an added sense of beauty to an object that fits the palm of your hand.”
Participating artists include JM Syron, Bonnie Bishoff, Christian Burchard, Michael Cullen, Gorst duPlessis, Jean Francois and Monique Escoulen, Doug Finkel, Douglas Fisher, Louise Hibbert, Michael Hosaluk, Janel Jacobson, Ray Key, Mike Lee, Terry Martin, Johannes Michelsen, Michael Mocho, Binh Pho, Norm Satorius, Mark Sfirri, Fraser Smith, and Vesery and Hans Weissflog.
Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, 25 Mill St., Rockport, ME 04856. Tel: 207-594-5611. www.woodschool.org
Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Tel: 202-633-1000. www.americanart.si.edu
This article originally appeared int he February 2009 issue.