A Mathews mural is in limbo

October 15, 2017 § 1 Comment

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The center panel includes Apollo and the muses, plus Hygeia, goddess of health.

ARTHUR MATHEWS CREATED his three-panel mural Health and the Arts in 1912 for what is now the Health Sciences Library in San Francisco. It has hung there for more than a century. Now the library has gone digital, disposed of its books and put its classical home in Pacific Heights on the market, leaving the fate of the mural uncertain.

The mural was commissioned for the reading room of the library’s classical home, designed by architect Albert Pissis. Mathews at the time was perhaps California’s most important artist, and one who exerted considerable influence over the education of a generation of early California artists and the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Other murals by Mathews include a series of 12 panels tracing the history of California in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Sacramento.

A spokesman for the library said “it is too early to tell” about the fate of the mural and that it “depends on a buyer’s intended use for the building.” The Beaux Arts building is being marketed as a “one-of-a-kind development opportunity.”

“Although the murals could be removed, it would be a costly conservation process that would make them even more difficult to sell,” said Harvey Jones, the longtime curator who built the Oakland Museum’s expansive collection of work by Arthur Mathews and his wife, the equally talented artist Lucia Mathews. “It seems unlikely that a new owner will be able to utilize the murals in a new configuration of the spaces. Their artistic appeal is dubious to contemporary business sensibilities.”

Jones, author of The Art of Arthur & Lucia Mathews, added: “I wish there were some reasonable possibilities for optimism here.”

MORE: “Medical library is on the block

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Maybeck, meet Frank Lloyd Wright

December 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Bazett House, 1939, Frank Lloyd Wright Archive

IN 1939, after seeing his Hanna House at Stanford, Sidney and Louise Bazett retained legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new house for them nearby in Hillsborough, south of San Francisco.

When construction began the next year, the Bazetts agreed to Wright’s request that one of his apprentices, Blaine Drake, come to the site during construction to supervise and make sure Wright’s intentions were being carried out — with the apprentice to be housed and fed by the Bazetts.

Even during construction, the house was already attracting attention, and another legendary architect stopped by to take a look. As the roofs were being finished, Blaine Drake reported to Wright: “Bernard Maybeck, the architect, was over to see the house — he was both puzzled and intrigued.”

— From Frank Lloyd Wright and San Francisco by Paul V. Turner

Cradle of Arts & Crafts

September 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

A TOUR OF the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco, birthplace of the Arts & Crafts movement in the United States.

MORE: “The Arts & Crafts movement started here

Continuing the Arts & Crafts tradition

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Photograph of Audel Davis's first lamp by Melati Citrawireja

Photograph of Audel Davis’s first lamp by Melati Citrawireja

By MELATI CITRAWIREJA
Berkeleyside

Audel Davis and his wife, Lynne, live in a home tucked down a shady street off University Avenue in Berkeley. Apart from a few pesky crows that terrorize their coi fish by day, they have created a lush and quiet sanctuary, greatly influenced by the philosophy and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement — a concept that took flight and reached its peak in the 1890s as a reaction to the age of mass production. It emphasized traditional craftsmanship as a way to put integrity and skill back into the design and manufacturing process.

Davis is a Bay Area coppersmith, widely known for his Arts and Crafts style lamps that have his own added twist.

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Lessons in stained glass

January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Putting finishing touches on the Swedenborgian's St. Christopher window

Putting finishing touches on the Swedenborgian Church’s St. Christopher window

FIRST PERSON | DOUGLAS G. STINSON

Like many people, I had been active in church life from childhood into early adolescence. Then, confronting what my teenaged mind saw as cowardice and hypocrisy within my church, I swore off religion.

In college I became aware of the writings of the 18th century scientist and Christian mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg and, as a scientist, was drawn to his insistence that the teachings of faith and reason must conform. But I had no interest in being part of any organized religion.

Until I walked into the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church.

I was awestruck by the building’s humble strength and simple beauty. Everything breathed a spiritual essence. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

By 2012, the condition of the stained glass windows that had graced the Swedenborgian church at the corner of Lyon and Washington Streets for more than 100 years had deteriorated. We learned that if action were not taken, the beautiful windows — an integral part of the National Historic Landmark — could be lost forever.

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One that got away

November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Frank Lloyd Wright's design for 830 El Camino del Mar in San Francisco.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for 830 El Camino del Mar in San Francisco.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT designed no homes built in San Francisco — only the V.C. Morris Gift Shop on Maiden Lane, thought by some to be a warm-up for his circular design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

It turns out, however, that Wright also designed a home for the Morrises in Sea Cliff, overlooking the Golden Gate. It was never built. But drawings show what might have been.

Read more: “A Frank Lloyd Wright house in Sea Cliff

Still teaching its lessons

October 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Photograph of the Swedenborgian Church by Laurie Passey

The Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco is a National Historic Landmark.

By TED BOSLEY

My earliest memories of the Swedenborgian Church are from about 1957. I would have been three years old. I remember the welcoming fire behind the hearth and the home-like atmosphere of the sanctuary. And there were the welcoming people, too: Rev. Othmar Tobisch and Mrs. Tobisch, and Jane Sugden — “Miss Jane,” as we called her — who taught my sister Kathy and me to sing. I recall especially the sound and feel of the rush-bottomed chairs that my little backside swam around in.

Our father died in 1959, so most of our childhood memories of the church are connected with our mother, Phyllis Bosley. The church became our home away from home. Kathy and I were there four or five times every week for one reason or another: children’s choir practice, adult choir practice, Thursday night supper or to help Miss Jane with a project.

I don’t recall exactly when I became interested in the church building as a potent physical object, but I do remember why. Sitting at the back of the church waiting for a wedding to conclude so I could blow out the candles and sweep up the rice (Mr. Tobisch paid 75 cents per wedding), I picked up a copy of the little pamphlet written in 1945 on the 50th anniversary of the first service. It described historic features of the church, practically all of which — and this is what captured my complete attention — remained decades later exactly as they were described. It seemed incredible that a place might be so loved as to be left unmolested for so long.

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