Architectural Ornament in Human Forms
The style of the representations of human beings we see most often on 19th century buildings in American cities was based on prototypes from the Classical age of ancient Greece and Rome. The 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels in Paris broadened this frame of reference with its exhibits of decorative elements from around the world. Exotic vocabularies of ornament found through archaeological discoveries such as Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt in 1925 and the contemporary excavations in Mesoamerica that revealed the Mayan art forms, were widely published. Egyptian and Mayan reliefs and paintings rendered their subjects in more linear, less naturalistic styles, and these influenced fashion as well as pictorial and sculptural styles.
The muscular woman raising her arm to allow a miniature steam engine to pass underneath it is rendered in the Art Deco style used in the design of the 1930 Pacific Stock Exchange Club by Miller and Pfleuger. The emblematic use of transportation and other man-made energy systems was also a sign of modern times. Humankind’s dedication to unleashing nature’s energy was often portrayed by rendering people as embodiments of energy. The figures flanking the entrance shown below merge with the radiating lines of force that they strain to harness of release.
The female figures shown below are located above the colonnade of Bernard Maybeck’s Palace of Fine Arts, which he designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Instead of facing outward, Maybeck’s women turn their backs on the world and appear to be brooding into coffin-like planters that never contained plants, although that was his intention. By his own account, Maybeck thought that the fine arts had a melancholy tone so he designed the women and the monumental urns to create a pensive mood.
The text is divided into the following chapters: