Greene and Greene at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

While we wait for the fall exhibition season to begin, now is a good time to catch the  traveling exhibition A “New and Native” Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene, which is in its final weeks at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (through October 18). Organized by the Gamble House and the Huntington Library to mark the centennial of Charles and Henry Greene’s most acclaimed period (roughly 1907 to 1910), A “New and Native” Beauty tells the story of twenty-five of the architectural firm’s commissions including their “ultimate bungalow houses.” Featuring approximately 120 objects from furniture, metalwork, and stained glass to architectural drawings and archival photographs the exhibition brings to life the unified environments the firm created. At the MFA, visitors will also be able to see a special section devoted to the brothers’ study of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the influence of the museum’s own collections of Japanese art and arts and crafts design on their work.

One striking example in the exhibition is a library table made for the living room of the Charles Millard Pratt house in Ojai, California. Pratt, a member of the Standard Oil Company, and a native of Brooklyn, commissioned Greene and Greene to build the winter house for his family in 1908 and by 1911 had moved in. The furnishings for the living room, which also included a rocking chair, armchair, and drop front desk, were not designed until 1912. The octagonal table features a “fiddle-back” mahogany surface that was sectioned and arranged according to the Greenes’ specifications. The opposing directions of the wood’s grain became a major element in the decorative scheme of the room.  Similarly, the intricate, silver-inlay wave motif on the table’s drawer handle, which echoes the grain of the mahogany, was repeated in wavelike perforations in the lower stretchers and throughout the living room. For the commission, the Greenes collaborated with John and Peter Hall, a furniture maker and contractor respectively who were responsible for the superb craftsmanship that realized their designs.

For those unable to visit the exhibition there are a number on online resources for learning more about Greene and Greene architecture. The Gamble House website includes the firm’s digital archives, which contains searchable photographs and documents pertaining to each commission, including the Pratt house; the site has also launched an online version of A “New and Native” Beauty. Supplementing these sources is the Maynard Parker digital archive at the Huntington Library which was recently featured by The Magazine ANTIQUES online and includes photographs of major houses by Greene and Greene that Parker shot for House Beautiful in 1947. Take a look to get a view of the Pratt library table in situ.

Image: Living room table for the Charles M. Pratt House, designed by Greene and Greene, made by Peter and John Hall, 1912. Private collection; courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.