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John F. Pile

(b Resistencia, June 1943).

American architect, industrial designer and museum curator of Argentine birth. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree in architecture from Princeton University, NJ, and then taught at Princeton, at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany. From 1969 to 1976 he was Curator of Design for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. In 1972 he produced the exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape and a related book for MOMA. The exhibition offered historical background and a presentation of contemporary Italian avant-garde work and theory. His architectural works include the Lucille Halsell Conservatory at San Antonio, TX (1987); Banque Bruxelles Lambert offices in Milan (1981), Lausanne (1983) and New York (1984); and offices for the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company in New York (1986), for which he won the International Interior Design Award. An innovative designer, Ambasz sought to reinterpret the poetic aspects of Modernism and the relationship between architecture and the landscape. As an industrial designer, he developed furniture, lighting, a diesel engine, and packaging and graphic designs. His work has won many honours and awards....


Kathleen James-Chakraborty

After the closure in 1933 of the Bauhaus in Berlin, its staff and students dispersed. Many found their way to the USA, where they became highly influential teachers as well as artists and architects. The pedagogical methods developed at the school, particularly in the preliminary course, became commonplace in all levels of art education, as the former centrality in America of life drawing to instruction in the visual arts was now challenged by experimentation with abstract principles of composition and the qualities of individual materials.

Josef and Anni Albers family were the first Bauhäusler to immigrate to the USA. They arrived in 1933 and quickly took up positions at Black Mountain College, NC. In 1950 Josef became chair of the department of design at Yale University, New Haven, CT, from which he retired in 1958. His increasingly rigorous investigations into geometry and colour culminated in a series of paintings entitled ...


Monica Bohm-Duchen

(b Haag, Austria, April 5, 1900; d Santa Barbara, CA, Sept 30, 1985).

American painter, designer, photographer and typographer, of Austrian birth. After serving in the Austrian army (1917–18), Bayer studied architecture under Professor Schmidthammer in Linz in 1919 and in 1920 worked with the architect Emanuel Margold in Darmstadt. From 1921 to 1923 he attended the Bauhaus in Weimar, studying mural painting (with Vasily Kandinsky) and typography; it was at this time that he created the Universal alphabet, consisting only of lowercase letters. In 1925 he returned to the Bauhaus, then in Dessau, as a teacher of advertising, layout and typography, remaining there until 1928. For the next ten years he was based in Berlin as a commercial artist: he worked as art manager of Vogue (1929–30) and as director of the Dorland advertising agency. Shortly after his first one-man exhibitions at the Galerie Povolotski, Paris, and at the Kunstlerbund März, Linz (both 1929), he created photomontages of a Surrealist nature, such as ...


Arthur J. Pulos

(b Adrian, MI, April 27, 1893; d New York, May 9, 1958).

American designer and writer. He studied at the Cleveland School of Art, OH, and the Art Institute of Chicago, and by 1914 he had established a reputation as an illustrator, making portraits of operatic luminaries for the New York Times. After producing plays in Los Angeles (1917), he joined the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1918) and became a leading stage designer; he invented the high-wattage spotlight and developed modern theatrical productions that blended the play, its lighting, its performers, and their costumes into a cohesive whole. He gained international attention for his stage set (1921; unexecuted) for Dante’s Divine Comedy, which revolutionized theatrical and operatic productions; it was conceived as a single, massive set with lighting coming first from below, signifying Hades, and then, as the play progressed, from high above, signifying Paradise. This led Max Reinhardt, the distinguished German producer, to commission him to design the settings for a production of ...


Hugh Davies

(b San Lorenzo, nr Reggio di Calabria, March 10, 1915; d Barto, PA, Nov 6, 1978).

American sculptor and furniture designer of Italian birth. After settling in the USA in 1930, he studied at the Society of Arts and Crafts, Detroit (1936), and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI (1937–9), where he taught metalworking and produced abstract silver jewellery and colour monoprints. In 1943 he moved to California to assist in the development of the first of a series of chairs designed by Charles O. Eames. His first sculptures date from the late 1940s. In 1950 he established himself in Bally, PA, where he designed the Bertoia chair (1952), several forms of which were marketed by Knoll International. His furniture is characterized by the use of moulded and welded wire; in the case of the Bertoia chair, the chromium-plated steel wire is reshaped by the weight of the sitter. Bertoia also worked on small sculptures, directly forged or welded bronzes. The first of his many large architectural sculptures was a screen commissioned in ...


Margot Gayle and Carol Gayle

(b Catskill, NY, March 14, 1800; d New York, April 13, 1874).

American inventor, engineer, designer and manufacturer. He trained as a watchmaker’s apprentice in Catskill, NY, worked as an engraver in Savannah, GA and again in Catskill. About 1830 he moved to New York City to promote his inventions. He secured many patents for various devices, including clocks, an eversharp pencil, a dry gas meter and a meter for measuring fluids. His most remunerative invention was a widely useful grinding mill (first patented 1832), which provided steady income throughout his life. During years spent in England (1836–40) he was granted an English patent for a postage device and won £100 in a competition with his proposal for a pre-paid postal system. He also observed the extensive use of iron in the construction of British factories, bridges and large buildings. After a trip to Italy, he conceived the idea of erecting prefabricated multi-storey structures with cast-iron exterior walls that reproduced Classical and Renaissance architectural styles. Returning to New York in ...


Anna Rowland


(b Pécs, May 21, 1902; d New York, July 1, 1981).

American furniture designer and architect of Hungarian birth. In 1920 he took up a scholarship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, but he left almost immediately to find a job in an architect’s office. A few weeks later he enrolled at the Bauhaus at Weimar on the recommendation of the Hungarian architect Fred Forbat (1897–1972). Breuer soon became an outstanding student in the carpentry workshop, which he led in its endeavours to find radically innovative forms for modern furniture. In practice, this meant rejecting traditional forms, which were considered symbolic of bourgeois life. The results of these experiments were initially as idiosyncratic as those of other workshops at Weimar, including the adoption of non-Western forms, for example the African chair (1921; see Rowland, 1990, p. 66) and an aggressively castellated style inspired by Constructivism.

Breuer was impressed by De Stijl, whose founder Theo van Doesburg made his presence felt in Weimar in ...


Sherban Cantacuzino


(b Tokyo, Dec 17, 1895; d Vancouver, June 17, 1958).

English architect and designer of Canadian descent. The son of Canadian missionaries, he studied engineering at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and moved to London as a student in 1922. He became a journalist, frequented artistic circles and by 1927 had begun to design. Most of his executed designs date from the 1930s, the era of the MARS Group, of which he was a founder-member, and other manifestations of the rise of the English Modern Movement, in which he played a leading part. Although much of Coates’s work as an interior designer has been destroyed, his major architectural works survive.

Coates originally projected a pair of linked houses, influenced by Le Corbusier, for Lawn Road Flats (1932–4), Hampstead, London, but the block of flats he designed was as frank and original an expression of functional requirements as any building of the Modern Movement. The four-storey block was built in monolithic reinforced concrete and consisted of 22 flats designed in accordance with the proceedings of the CIAM II in Frankfurt in ...


Kirk Marlow


(b Cramond, nr. Edinburgh, Jul 22, 1900; d Ottawa, Jul 5, 1994).

Canadian painter, draftsman, teacher, museum director, and writer of Scottish birth. In 1912 he emigrated to Winnipeg, where he was apprenticed in the commercial art studio of Fred Brigden (1871–1956). He also attended the Winnipeg School of Art (1916–1918) and continued to work at Brigden’s until 1922. In that year he studied at the Art Students League, New York, and in 1925 he moved to Toronto, working until 1929 for the Toronto branch of Brigden’s and then for the commercial design firm Rapid, Grip & Batten. While in Toronto he became friends with several members of the Group of Seven. In 1931, with Will Ogilvie (1901–1989) and Harold Ayres (1894–?1977), he formed his own commercial studio. The muted colors, schematic compositions, and smooth surfaces of his paintings from the late 1920s show evidence of his design background. In his best-known painting, Tadoussac...


revised by Margaret Barlow

(b Blue Earth, MN, Nov 23, 1894; d Vero Beach, FL, April 20, 1989).

American interior and industrial designer. Deskey gained a degree in architecture and studied painting before working in advertising. From 1922 to 1924 he was head of the art department at Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA. In 1921 and 1925 he made trips to Paris, where he attended the Ecole de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie Colarossi, before returning to New York in 1926 as a champion of modern art and design. In 1926–7 he created the city’s first modern window displays for the Franklin Simon and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores. In 1927 he was joined by the designer Philip Vollmer, and the partnership became Deskey–Vollmer, Inc. (to c. 1929). Deskey expanded into designing interiors, furniture, lamps, and textiles, becoming a pioneer of the Style moderne (as Art Deco was known in America). His earliest model for the interior of an apartment was shown at the American Designers’ Gallery, New York, in ...


Penny Sparke and Gordon Campbell

(b New York, March 2, 1904; d South Pasadena, CA, Oct 5, 1972).

American industrial designer and writer. Dreyfuss was a member of the generation of American consultant designers—which also included Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Loewy, and Walter Dorwin Teague—who emerged in the 1920s from both theatrical and commercial backgrounds and who, in the 1930s and beyond, applied their visualizing skills to a wide range of industrially manufactured goods.

Dreyfuss came from a Brooklyn-based family that supplied theatrical materials, and he moved naturally to the world of theatre as a designer of sets; he was apprenticed to Bel Geddes until 1924. Three years later he was asked by the department store Macy’s to work as a consultant, but his real breakthrough came when he won a ‘phone of the future’ competition in 1929, the year in which he set up his own design office in New York. His design creatively combined the receiver and transmitter in a single handset, thereby establishing a new format for the object which was to remain in place for decades. Dreyfuss worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories for many years, creating, among others, his Princess telephone in ...


Aaris Sherin

(b Pittsburgh, PA, 1912).

American graphic designer, illustrator and painter. A student of Alexey Brodovitch, she graduated from the Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Arts and went off to assist Brodovitch as instructor at the Design Laboratory (1935–8). She was art director for Mademoiselle Magazine (1944), Harper’s Bazaar (1940, 1946), Seventeen and House & Garden (both 1949). Her freelance credits included Fortune, House & Garden, Life, Look, Seventeen, Town & Country and Vogue magazines. A successful designer and art director, the early part of her career was spent as a commercial artist. Later she turned primarily to illustration and fine art; areas where she completed the bulk of her life’s work. Today she is known for her small paintings, which are widely collected.

Falconer’s paintings are small landscapes and still-lifes that provide intimate vignettes of somewhat pedestrian subjects. The work has commonalities with folk-art, Surrealism and realism without falling into any one genre. She always approached her subject head on, depicting the commonplace in scenes including spice jars, flowers, boats, building facades and interiors. Her rendition of three pansies is given equal attention as her depiction of the more visually complex river boat houses in New Orleans. Regardless of content, she gives personality to her subjects with precision and a combination of softness and detail that reminds one of early American primitivism, without seeming either stiff or rigid. She designed six stamps for the US Postal Service including the Rose Stamp booklet (...


Eliza A. Butler

(b Philadelphia, PA, Aug 28, 1916; d New York, March 2, 2001).

American photographer. Faurer studied design at the School of Commercial Art and Lettering in Philadelphia in the late 1930s and subsequently worked as a civilian photographic technician for the United States Army Signal Corps during World War II. He was hired by Lillian Bassman for a photography position at Junior Bazaar magazine where he met and began a close friendship with American photographer Robert Frank. Faurer moved to New York permanently in 1947 and attended Alexey Brodovitch’s Design Laboratory sporadically between 1947 and 1951. Splitting his time between New York and Europe, he continued to work for Harper’s Bazaar through to the 1960s and early 1970s. His work was also featured in the magazines Flair, Glamour, Look, Seventeen, and Vogue.

Faurer’s editorial work was prolific and well received; however, it was his independent art photography for which he became best known. In the 1950s and 1960s he exhibited in a handful of New York galleries and received important exposure from the Museum of Modern Art. Influenced by ...


David Burnett

(b Winnipeg, March 17, 1890; d Winnipeg, Aug 5, 1956).

Canadian painter. He attended evening classes at A. S. Kezthelyi’s Art School in Winnipeg (1909) and studied at the Art Students League, New York (1921–2). He worked as a commercial artist in Winnipeg from 1922 to 1924 before joining the Winnipeg School of Art in 1924; he became its principal in 1929 and held that position until 1949, although he stopped teaching in 1947. In 1932 he was invited to become a member of the Group of Seven and in the following year, when the group officially disbanded, he became a founder-member of the Canadian Group of Painters.

FitzGerald’s work, ranging across landscape, still-life and figure painting and drawing, is characterized by a precise depiction of space, light and volume, as in Doc Snyder’s House (1931) or From an Upstairs Window, Winter (1948; Ottawa, N.G.). His meticulous working procedure and self-critical perfectionism led him to produce only a small number of paintings, his work being most widely known through watercolours and drawings, some of them executed in a delicate variant of pointillism, for example ...


Gordon Campbell

(b Vienna, Oct 14, 1886; d Los Angeles, 1958).

American furniture designer, born in Austria. He emigrated to the USA in 1914 and worked first in New York and later in Los Angeles. His most famous work is his ‘skyscraper’ furniture, which first appeared in 1926; many pieces were maple, and inlaid with Bakelite (e.g. skyscraper bookcase, 1927; New York, Met.). Frankl later specialized in metal furniture and in Art Deco furniture decorated with black lacquers and gold and silver leaf....


Gilbert Herbert

(Adolf Georg)

(b Berlin, May 18, 1883; d Boston, MA, July 5, 1969).

American architect, industrial designer and teacher of German birth. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of the Modern Movement, whose contribution lay as much in his work as theoretician and teacher as it did in his innovative architecture. The important buildings and projects in Gropius’s career—the early factories, the Bauhaus complex at Dessau (1925–6), the Totaltheater project for Berlin, the housing estates and prefabricated dwellings—were all more than immediate answers to specific problems. Rather, they were a series of researches in which he sought prototypical solutions that would offer universal applicability. They were also didactic in purpose—concrete demonstrations, manifestos, of his theories and beliefs. His theories sought to integrate the individual and society, art and industry, form and function and the part with the whole. He left Germany for England in 1934; three years later he emigrated to the USA, where he continued to teach, write and design for the rest of his life....


Ellen Paul Denker

(b Helsinki, Aug 19, 1899; d 1973).

American potter and teacher of Finnish birth. She studied at the School of Industrial Art in Helsinki and then under Alfred William Finch (1854–1930), a Belgian potter working in Helsinki, for six years. She arrived in the USA in 1927 and studied with Charles Fergus Binns at Alfred University, Alfred, NY. She taught in several institutions including the Henry Street Settlement House, New York City, and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, before being invited in 1938 to teach at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, one of the foremost art schools in America. At Cranbrook Grotell’s work developed from low-fired figurative pots to simplified geometric forms in stoneware and porcelain. She experimented with glazes and glaze effects, especially those using ash, copper, chrome and iron; Albany slip (dark brown) and Bristol glaze (thick and white) were among her favourites. Grotell was in charge of the ceramic department at Cranbrook until she retired in ...


David Burnett

(b Montreal, Oct 3, 1882; d Kleinburg, Ont., April 5, 1974).

Canadian painter. He worked as a commercial artist in Montreal (1895–1906) and Chicago (1906–7) and attended evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1906. Determined to become a painter, he went to Paris in 1907 and studied at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens. He returned to Montreal in 1909 but in 1913 moved to Toronto, where he became associated with other painters who later banded together as the Group of Seven, notably J. E. H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, and Fred Varley. One of the first large paintings in which he established the terms of his approach to the open Canadian landscape, Terre Sauvage (1913; Ottawa, N.G.; for illustration see Group of Seven), was painted in the studio of a future member of the group, Lawren S. Harris. He shared a studio with Tom Thomson from January 1914 and in October 1914...


Leland M. Roth and Gordon Campbell


(b Vienna, Sept 22, 1890; d New York, Dec 27, 1965).

American architect, stage designer, furniture designer and writer of Austrian birth. In 1920 he worked with Adolf Loos in Vienna. He was also in contact with the artists associated with De Stijl and began experimenting with innovative theatre designs. In 1924 he produced the Endless Theatre design. The ‘Endless’ was a double-curved shell of reinforced concrete that could enclose any irregularly traditional divisions into floor, wall, and ceiling but offered the inhabitant an open interior that could be modified at will. For the theatre he adapted the ‘Endless’ by devising a double-spiral stage interconnected by ramps and rings of spectator seats. Kiesler believed that the Endless Theatre, without proscenium or curtain, projecting out into the audience, with perpetually moving walls bathed in light of ever changing colour, would promote greater interaction between actors and audience.

For the celebrated Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925...


Gordon Campbell and Jane Shadel Spillman

(b 1910; (d 1987).

American glassmaker. He worked in the glass industry, where he invented the fibre used for the insulating tiles that cover the Columbia space shuttle. In 1965 he left the industry and established a studio in Grand Rapids, OH, where he made blown-glass pieces, many of them with extraordinary colour effects made possible by his knowledge of glass chemistry. He was, together with ...