Author: Sarah D. Coffin

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Showing the Way: A New Light on Old Skills
One of the most wonderful mixtures of new technology-electricity-with elegant hand-crafted materials, in this case glass and metalwork, is this table lamp. It shines forth with the strength of electricity but uses soda glass to create a glow more associated with a pre-electrified era. William Arthur Benson, who was trained as an architect, took up...
An Inspired Pot
This Jardinière was made of faïence, the French term for tin-glazed earthenware based on the name of a town in Italy-Faenza, with which its production is associated from the Middle ages and before. This example is from Moustiers, France, a town in the Alpine area in the southeast of France, where faïence has been made...
Remembering Vladimir Kagan
Cooper Hewitt mourns the loss of Vladimir Kagan, whose life-embracing style was like that of his furniture. Most examples contain the sensuous and organic forms that reflected his personality, he rephrased his work from the late 1940s to a large outburst of productivity in the 1960s and 70s to a revival of his popularity in...
Photograph of Zaha Hadid
In Memoriam
Cooper Hewitt mourns the loss of Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect and designer whose dynamically shaped, sculptural buildings and conceptual projects have given life to thought-provoking forms and discussions. Winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2004, she opened new terrain as a woman designing in all parts of the globe. From China to Baku, Rome...
Sidewall (Paris, France), 1920–50; Manufactured by Robert Caillard for Nancy McClelland
The Empire Strikes Back
This swishy trompe l’oeil wallpaper is currently on view in the Cooper Hewitt’s interactive immersion room, which is a wonderful place to visit on a dreary February afternoon. Block printed in shades of grey and yellow, this grisaille drapery pattern was produced by French manufacturer, Robert Caillard, and distributed in the United States by the...
Birdhouse Model of the Carlyle Hotel
A Model for Singing
Why does this trompe l’oeil architectural model that is also a bird house have anything to do with night clubs? It was a wonderful present to Bobby Short in honor of his many years crooning at the Café Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel. It combines the artistic talent of Richard Haas, an unknown model maker,...
geometric foliate patterns in green and blue
Tiles of Old Revisited
Decorative tiles from many parts of the Middle East and Asia became very desirable collectibles starting in the 1870s when the enthusiasm for Islamic design pervaded much of the aesthetic movement decorative arts. While the Western purchaser of this tile from the Ottoman Empire is unknown, Lockwood de Forest and Frederic Church were among the...
A Glittering Design by Lockwood de Forest
This brass foil decoration in what we know as a paisley form represents an example of the designs created by Lockwood de Forest, the foremost exponent of Indian design in America during the last quarter of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. De Forest went to India in 1881 on his honeymoon to see first-hand...
Black cast iron radiator (b) in the form of a podium surmounted by an arch forming a niche for a standing draped figure (a) of a woman- the goddess Hebe- holding a Greek drinking goblet in either hand (d,e). A composite entablature is surmounted by a Doric cornice crowned by a semi-circular tympanum. The podium base is decorated with bas-reliefs of columns alternating with Greek vases surrounded by drapery at the lower level and repeated scene of a griffin and man pouring liquid into a bowl in the upper level. The arch itself is decorated with bas-reliefs of rosettes and scrolls on two supporting pilasters with fluted capitals. The tympanum has a bas-relief of an eagle clutching a staff from which springs ribbons bearing "Stratton" and Seymour". Stars decorate tympanum, following the semi-circular curve. Radiator stands on four detachable scrolled legs (f/i). The fender (c) is comprised of grille work formed by scrolls, acanthus leaves and rosettes. Flat circular flue key (j) with stylized foliate handle fits on pipe behind tympanum.
The Warmth of the Hostess Coming From the Radiator
The whole idea that a radiator could be as large or as decorative as this one seems extraordinary to most twenty-first century viewers. However, if one thinks about it, Joris Laarman created the Heatwave radiator in 2007, formed of rococo-like scrolls in a newer medium, poly-concrete, to decorate a wall. To correctly appreciate the context...