CRANBROOK LECTURE

Over the years, as President of the Academy (1977-95), I gave many lectures and presentations on Cranbrook throughout the USA and world. Lectures were given in UK, Finland, Sweden, Venezuela, Brazil and Japan. The lectures varied, as did the slides, but what follows is a summation of the basic presentation. RS 05/11/07.

Cranbrook Academy of Art has had a profound influence on art, architecture and design during the 20th century as recognized in the exhibition and publication “Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision 1925-50”. The exhibition was organized by the Detroit Institute of arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition paid tribute to the influence and achievements of Eliel Saarinen, his contemporaries and Academy artists, nationally and internationally.

The Academy of Art is part of Cranbrook Educational Community which is situated in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The Academy offers two years of distinctive graduate education in the visual arts. It is composed of nine major departments: architecture, ceramics, design, fiber, metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Members of the faculty, one to a department, are artists of repute who live and work year-round at Cranbrook. 140 graduate students from throughout the world sustain a continuity of purpose dynamism and excellence that has existed since 1932 when the Academy was founded.

The founders of Cranbrook were George and Ellen Scripps Booth, who in 1904 bought a farm to develop as a country estate. The Booths named the estate Cranbrook after a village in Kent, England; their ancestral home. Over the years, the family created a church, elementary schools, two secondary schools, an institute of science and an art academy and museum. When laying a cornerstone at Cranbrook, Booth stated that, “Cranbrook depends upon… thought, vision and ideals.

Eliel Saarinen, who was to become the architect of Cranbrook, represented the highest of those ideals and vision. In 1923, Eliel Saarinen came from his native Finland to America, after receiving the second prize in the Chicago Tribune Tower competition. He became a visiting professor at the University of Michigan where one of his students was Henry Booth, the son of Cranbrook's founder and an individual who eventually became intimately involved with the evolution of Cranbrook and the Academy. His father invited Eliel Saarinen to design plans for Cranbrook school, which opened in 1927.

As the architect of Cranbrook, Saarinen bridged tradition and modernism. In the words of Paul Goldberg of the New York Times, Cranbrook…”is now considered one of the masterworks of American architecture. Another critic Wolff von Eckardt wrote in the new Republic that Cranbrook is “one of the most enchanted and enchanting settings in America” and went on, “the dormitories, faculty houses, museum and workshops are earthy, rustic, direct and a delightful adventure of pathways, enclosed gardens, open malls and meadows and constant surprises. The place abounds inside and out with art and decoration… beautiful wrought ironwork, handsome lamps and benches… specially designed rugs and the wall hangings, furniture, light fixtures, ceramics and woodwork… All harmonize in one visual symphony.”

Most of the Cranbrook buildings, designed by Saarinen, were built between 1925 and 1932. Today, there is renewed recognition of the genius of Saarinen and his family: wife Loja, a weaver; son architect and designer, Eero; and fashion and interior designer, Pipsan. Working together on Cranbrook and other ventures, through collaboration and commitment, they achieved a rare sense of the integration of art and architecture.

Saarinen attracted an illustrious group of artists, craftsmen, designers and architects to work with him in an informally structured group, sharing ideas and talents. The outcome of this exceptional, interdisciplinary encounter yielded the idea of an ‘academy’ where the exchange between disciplines might enable teachers and students to expand more fully their range of aesthetic capabilities. Eliel Saarinen became the first president of the Academy founded in 1932.

In those early days, Carl Milles from Sweden created sculptures that adorn the Cranbrook campus. Other Scandinavians were “the mother of American ceramics”, Maija Grotell and Marianne Strengell, the influential weaver, whereas the painter, Zoltan Zepeshy came from Hungary and the sculptor Harry Bertoia from Italy. From the beginning the Academy was international in its inception and influence. The pursuit of excellence is evident in the work of Florence Knoll, Ray & Charles Eames, Edmund Bacon, Harry Weiss, Jack Lenor Larsen, Ralph Rapson, Neils Diffrient, Gretchen Bellinger, Fumiko Maki, Winifred Lutz, Tony Rosenthal, Duane Hanson and countless others who “..had a decisive influence on the look of twentieth century America”.

The work of many of these artists is evident in the Cranbrook Collection presented in the Museum. Unlike many institutions, the Academy has sought to remain small in size, allowing for a community of artists to work together as teacher and student. Despite its small size, or because of it, the Cranbrook’s influence is evident in art, design and architecture throughout the world.

Those are some of the basic facts on Cranbrook. Of course, each talk varied as to the audience as did the slides and quotes that were used.

QUOTES

“Art is not a thing apart, an ornament added to life. It is the outward expression of man’s struggle toward an ideal.” George G. Booth 1917

“The Academy of Art is to afford talented and highly trained students the opportunity of pursuing their studies in a favorable environment and under the leadership of artists of the highest standing.” 
George G. Booth, founder.

“Cranbrook Academy of Art is not an art school in the ordinary meaning. It is a working place for creative art.” 
Eliel Saarinen

“Behind all the designs at Cranbrook was the belief that every activity of daily life is an opportunity for ceremony and celebration, creativity and pleasure.” 
Martin Filler ‘The Teacher is Beauty’ House & Garden April 1982

“George Booth’s idea (Cranbrook) has immeasurably improved the human environment of our nation and the world…it has given American craftsmen an international preeminence in the world of art.” 
Lloyd Herman, Director, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

“Throughout its history, Cranbrook Academy of Art has been a unique institution…the educational philosophy…has always fostered an atmosphere conducive to individuality.” 
Dennis Barrie, Director, Archives of American Art

“There is a spirit of fertility, which through imaginative treatment and prophetic experiment will bring art forth to interpret itself and seed again. It will be further invigorated by the conviction that there is something for this day to create as its record, monument and inspiration to another generation.” 
George G. Booth

“Hopefully, we will all leave here realizing that the Cranbrook experience was planned. Now we are on are on our own. To experience the best means we have to give our best. This is really only the beginning.” 
Lynn Barnhouse, graduating student speaker, Commencement 1981.

DATES

George G Booth 1864-1949 
Eliel Saarinen 1873-1950 
Loja Saarinen 1879-1968 
Eero Saarinen 1910-1961 
Carl Milles 1875-1955 
Maija Grotell 1899-1973 
Charles Eames 1907-1978 
Harry Bertoia 1915-1978 
Zoltan Sepeshy 1898-1974

SLIDES: selection of basic slides (usually 60) includes: 
-Cranbrook founders, the Booths, and original home by Albert Kahn 
-Eliel Saarinen and family; their home in Finland, Hvittrask; Helsinki Rail Station 
-Cranbrook and Kingswood Schools: original drawings and photographs; slides 
-The Academy: arts and craft work shops; Eames in studio; Academy Way
-Saarinen House: historic photographs; restoration, slides of interior
-Cranbrook Art Museum 1938/42 Eliel & Eero Saarinen: drawings, aerial views
-The Cranbrook Collection: museum installation; work of distinguished alumnus 
-Museum exhibitions: artists in residence; contemporary artists; Yoko Ono 
-“Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision”: installation at DIA and Met, 1984 
-Sculpture in the grounds: Milles; Hall; Oppenheim; Aycock; Stackhouse 
-Alumnus: Duane Hanson; Winifred Lutz; James Surls 
-Student work: selection of work 
-Cranbrook: slides by graduate Ko Tanaka of the grounds and architecture.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“ELIEL SAARINEN” Albert Christ-Janer 
University of Chicago 1979 revised.

“DESIGN IN AMERICA: The Cranbrook Vision 1925-50”
Abrams publishers 1983 The Detroit Institute of Arts The Metropolitan Museum

“CRANBROOK DESIGN: The New Discourse”
Rizzoli publishers 1990

“ARCHITECTURE STUDIO: Cranbrook Academy of Art 1986 -1993” 
Rizzoli publishers 1994

“SAARINEN HOUSE AND GARDEN: A Total Work of Art” 
Abrams publishers 1995 
Academy of Art & Museum

REFERENCE

As I write, the internet has provided invaluable information; hopefully, through reminisces of mine, comes some knowledge. I have tried to give institutional insights into histories of the Corcoran and Cranbrook. Institutions tend to ignore their past history; but “to understand the past helps appreciate the present and influence the future”.

I think that if names or topics were given, the reader could access the various internet links and put together the story? That is why I have tried to make my writings personal. There is much more to read; the bibliography on Cranbrook is only a beginning. Throughout the text, other publications are mentioned, including those by Eliel Saarinen: “The City” and “Search for Form”. Cranbrook Press publications include “Milles at Cranbrook” (1961) and “The Saarinen Door” (1963). New publications are available: “A History of Cranbrook: A life without beauty is only half lived” (1999) and “Cranbrook Academy of Art: 100 Treasures” (2004). Information on these publications; gifts in the museum store; and much else can be gained from the Cranbrook website www.cranbrook.edu

On my bookshelves are books and catalogs on Cranbrook; on file are articles. The photographer, Balthazar Korab, has spent a lifetime photographing the architecture and grounds of Cranbrook. His book “Genius Loci Cranbrook” (Cranbrook Press 2005) is a collection of these photographs. In an introduction, Kevin Roche describes Korab as having a painter’s eye, the mind of an architect and a passion to excel. I recently came across a catalog for an exhibition that was presented in Millesgarden 1986: “10 American Sculptors - Carl Milles’ Students at Cranbrook”. The essay by Joan Marter gives fascinating insights into Milles; Joan also wrote on sculpture in ‘Design in America’. Other Cranbrook Museum catalogs, some of which have been mentioned here, are informative with essays and illustrations. At the time of ‘The Cranbrook Vision’ show, the Museum of Finnish Architecture presented an exhibition and publication “Saarinen in Finland” (1984); presenting the work of Eliel Saarinen. The books that include the work of Eliel and Eero Saarinen are numerous; other publications present work of Florence Knoll, Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia and others. Much is available for further reading.

All pervasive is the internet; click on any name or subject and there is endless information. Click on “Roy Slade” and there are 135,000 entries! Unfortunately, most are on the video “Evil Roy Slade”. This TV pilot on ‘the meanest cowboy in the West’ was so bad that it never became a TV series but is a cult movie! My name is lost in evil but my website is www.royslade.com .

.