Sunday, August 12, 2007
Post-Richardson Architectural Sculpture
When HH Richardson died in 1886 at the even then young age of of 48, his influence was already spreading across America, and it would continue to do so for another decade and a half. What is not always appreciated is he also originated a style of architectural sculpture that can still be found from coast to coast.
It is my working hypotheses (which I check when ever and where ever it is possible - so feel free to venture an opinion) that much of the carving was done by itinerant carvers, many of them recent immigrants from Italy, Germany and the British Isles. These carvers followed the style as it moved West, while behind them, in the East, a new style emerged from the 1893 Columbian Exposition that made their carving techniques "old-fashioned", the kiss-of-death in America, even then.
Texas in particular fell to the charm of Richardson's big, brassy, brawling, bawdy building genre and a series of county courthouse (of which Texas has more than 250) were designed, notably by architect James Riely Gordon that contain a profusion of ornamentation. But it was not just large public buildings that were so ornamented. Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota's most fashionable address sported a number of Richardsonian mansions, several with note worthy sculpture on them, as did the much small town of Cortland, New York. But enough of this. It is now time to take a break and for you to go out and take a closer look at the nearest Richardsonian architectural sculpture. If you live in the Ukraine it might be a long way, so you best get started.