Monday, November 5, 2012

MoMA-Fornasetti-Telescope (5-11 November)

On this date in design…

Museum of Modern Art, New York City, opens to the public 7 November 1929 
Piero Fornasetti, Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver, birthday 10 November 1913 
Telescope, patented by Alvan Clark, 11 November 1851

“The Daring Ladies”: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Lillie P. Bliss & Mary Quinn Sullivan opened the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan nine days after the Great Crash of Wall Street.  One might say that due to the enormous fortunes of their husbands that event had little effect on their ambitions.  However, from a quite modest rented space on corner of 5th & 57th they brought to the American public European Modernism.   Today, it continues to display some of the most significant modernist paintings including “Les Demoiselles d’Avigonon” & “The Starry Night”.   
Architect Philip Johnson was initially asked to design a sculpture garden in honor of Abby by her sons and as a result he arguably became the museum’s most important contributor, board member and defender of “The Ladies’” vision into the future. 

One of the most photographed stars of her era, operatic soprano Lina Cavaleri was often referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world.  It is only natural that Piero Fornasetti would come across an image of her and be forever inspired.  Fornasetti’s signature style not only centered around her enigmatic face & near perfect hourglass figure but was also influenced by Neo-Classicism & Surrealism.  Often his legendary accessories for the home and fashion would combine illusionism, architectural perspectives and motifs such as stylized fish or flowers.  There are over 300 pieces Fornasetti originally designed.  Today his son now continues to design in his father’s tradition, maintaining the studio.  Before Fornasetti’s “Teme e Variazioni” series was so popular, he was kicked out of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan for insubordination.  Continuing to paint, it was one of his inspired painted scarves that caught the attention of Gio Ponti.  Thus began their lengthy collaboration in design.  Not only did the two combine their design efforts in physical form but Ponti regularly utilized Fornasetti’s paintings for the cover of Domus.

Alvan Clark originally made his living as a portrait painter & engraver but it was his eldest son, George, who exposed him to telescope making while a student at Andover.  As a result, Clark went on to a second career manufacturing some of the world’s largest and most successful refracting telescopes.  Currently, the world’s largest still in operation is one of Clark’s at the Yerkes Observatory, the University of Chicago.   
At 40” it was amazingly produced in what several observers referred to as crude and inferior practices in comparison to what was being manufactured in Europe.  It was Clark’s skill & supervision of the entire process which is attributed to the overwhelming success of his pieces.  Such precision lead to his younger son, Alvan Graham Clark, to discover the dim companion to Sirus (the “dog” star, not the satellite radio company).  The contribution Clark offered the world is honored by two separate extraterrestrial sites: craters bearing his name on both the Moon and Mars.  

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