“You may be sure that any decoration is futile… when it does not remind you of something beyond itself, of something of which it is but a visible symbol.”
William Morris, in “Some Hints on Pattern Designing,” 1881
Metalwork played an integral role in the Greenes’ work from their earliest commissions. As their clients’ expectations increased, however, the quality of both the design and execution of architectural elements, hardware, and decorative furnishings in metal evolved. The range of their metalwork extended from initial designs for gates, structural strap work, and downspouts to exterior and interior lanterns, fireplace furniture, door hardware, and decorative inlay. They employed an equally broad range of materials, including iron, copper, brass, bronze, steel, silver, lead, and nickel, in forms that were cast, wrought, hammered, plated, patinated, and inlaid.
The Greenes were designing andirons as early as 1906 for the Robinson house, but it was not until they received the Blacker, Gamble, and Thorsen commissions that they ventured to design firescreens, tools, repoussé copper fireplace hoods, and fenders along with andirons. Each fireplace, in these larger commissions often possessing a wide border of decorative tile work, became a semiautonomous set piece within a room. The attention lavished on pierced details in the Thorsen living- and dining-room firescreens transformed them into works of art, on a par with any of the art-glass lanterns or inlaid mahogany furniture. The screens were composed of both cast and wrought elements fused together and took months for the Los Angeles Art Metal Co. to complete. Produced in 1914 along with their respective andirons, they represent some of the most sophisticated and artistic works in metal designed by Greene and Greene. For the purpose of this exhibition, these objects have been removed from their functional context so that the details of their craftsmanship can be more closely studied.
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