Two new history books make the same plea: credit a female artist
When you think of an American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright probably comes to mind. When it comes to Julia Morgan, awareness is uncertain. (More on her in a moment).
It’s understandable that you think of Wright. After all, his conception of Waterfallvacation home in rural PA, was crowned “the best building of the 20th century” by connoisseurs – American Institute of Architects.
It doesn’t matter that the four concrete slabs protruding from a cascade so picturesquely saggy that they were in danger of collapsing as soon as they were erected in 1936.
Obviously, the AIA didn’t care about sags, let alone leaks. the modern Art Museumwhen he exhibited magnificent photographs of the weekend getaway in 1938. Time magazine also ran the photographs.
Waterfall takes a pretty picture, no question about that. But the museum and the magazine had an obligation to mention the flaws. Architecture is about function as well as form.
I fault lazy journalism to overlook American scientist magazine’s report on how Wright ignored advice from engineers. They said the load tests for the protruding slabs exceeded safety margins.
Yet while Wright is a household name, fellow American architect Morgan is less well known, if at all. This, although she also designed a landmark – Hearst Castlethe publishing mogul’s 1,000 square foot mansion Guillaume Randolph Hearst in San Simeon, California.
Morgan work with Hearst for nearly 30 years to create his dream home filled with artwork and antiques from his extensive collection.
Even Hearst’s indoor pool – decorated after a ancient roman bathis filled with art, including statues of Roman gods and goddesses.
Hearst Castle is in the news in two ways. First, after a 2 years restorationthe mansion opens to the public on May 11.
In the past, a million or more have visited this monument. It is normal that the architect who designed it is known.
This brings me to the second reason why Hearst Castle is making headlines. A new Book, “Julia Morgan: an intimate biography of the pioneering architect” by Victoria Kastner.”
Kastnerworking as a historian Hearst Castlewas able to unearth material never before published, such as drawings, diaries and letters.
There is a lot to know here.
Morgan, died in 1957, boasts many firsts. Until his arrival, no woman was admitted to study architecture at School of Fine Arts in Paris.
She was also the first woman to win a public works diploma of the University of California at Berkeleyand she was the first licensed female architect in California.
Maybe it’s not that surprising Morgan is not as famous as Wright. A recent study by the art historian Katy Hessel asked 2,000 Britons to name just three female artists. Only 30% could do it.
You’d think most people could at least name the three biggies – Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Mary Cassatt. Or at least British artists, Barbara Hepworth and Tracy Emin.
hessel conducted the survey to advance his next book “The history of art without men.” I don’t see why we have to leave the men out of the story as long as the women are part of the narrative.
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