The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene
May 7, 2009
In the early years of the twentieth century, brothers Charles and Henry Greene created some of the most original and important architecture in the country. After the second world war, they were nearly forgotten. But why? For starters, out of approximately 140 houses designed by the brothers, sixty-six have been demolished, while another fourteen were substantially altered. About sixty homes were left standing (literally) to represent their body of work.
The Greenes worked primarily in California, with the city of Pasadena claiming a good many of the best examples, including what may be their most famous, The Gamble House. California gave the Cincinnati-born brothers sunlight, air, and freedom. The Greenes in turn, reinterpreted tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement to provide their California clients with signature features to appreciate the area's climate and views: low-pitched roofs with broad overhangs, verandas, central courtyards, and pergolas. In addition, the Greenes often provided interiors—furniture, lighting, and stained-glass windows—as well as garden design. No detail was too small in creating the total Greene and Greene aesthetic.
Charles was also interested in Japanese temple design, and the Greenes' homes have a distinctive East-meets-West sensibility. In fact, the Gamble House was referred to as "A Chalet in the Japanese Style." In their work you can see the joinery and bracketed beams of Japanese furniture, as well as classic motifs such as cranes, cherry blossoms, and iris.
The best part is that it all works. And lucky us in Washington, D.C. The exhibition at American Art's Renwick Gallery, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the building of Gamble House (1907–1909), allows East Coasters to get as close as possible to the Greenes' drawings, furniture, and other objects. Just staring at one of their beautiful architectural renderings will stir your imagination and make you dream of California in a whole new way.
Check out the online exhibition as well.
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