We had a researcher this week who used a couple of boxes from the papers of Rice architecture professor Anderson Todd. In one of those boxes I found two sheets of slides that Todd apparently took on a 1957 tour of new modern houses in Houston. They are delicious–beautiful people in interesting buildings, all photographed in gorgeous, saturated kodachrome. I know I’ve got a bunch of modern architecture fans out there who read this so I’ll show you a few. Nothing is identified so if you know what something is, tell me.
Bonus: She is so perfectly glamorous.
The KPRC building is wonderful. A few more photos and a bit of history.
The old KPRC studio was built around a Quonset hut. I spent numerous hours there, since my dad worked for KPRC from its very beginning until he retired, over 40 years later.
I noticed that big expanse of corrugated roofing and wondered if that was an artistic choice or just an oversized Quonset hut. I bet that had interesting acoustics.
This is the Contemporary Arts Museum’s famous modern house tour in April, 1957. The first house is architect William Jenkins’ own house at 10911 Willowisp. Other houses were the Robert Straus house by Lloyd and Morgan at 53 Briar Hollow Lane, the Solomon house at 3615 S. Braeswood by Brooks and Brooks, the DeMoustier house at 603 Little John Lane by Bolton and Barnstone, and the Kamin house at 4111 Drummond.
4111 Drummond is by Lars Bang and has been beautifully restored by architect and Houston Mod president Steven Curry, FAIA.
Thanks, Marty! That explains why the people are so utterly fabulous!
The Straus’ “Dancer” was also shown on page 166 of the April 29, 1957, edition of LIFE Magazine: https://books.google.com/books?id=PEkEAAAAMBAJ&q=Straus
It’s in a multi-page article (“Turnout for Art in Texas”) about the activities centered on the American Federation of Arts convention in Houston. The city was “for a few days … deluged by 1,400 art lovers from all over the country. … After feting the visitors in Houston’s art-filled museums and homes, they organized an airlift for a quick tour of museums and private collections in three other Texas cities” (San Antonio, Fort Worth & Dallas).
I wonder if the Contemporary Art Museum’s house tour that Marty mentioned above was organized for this group.
I found this article when it was included in the bibliography on the Marcello Mascherini website: http://www.marcellomascherini.it/bibliografia-scelta?lang=en
This citation doesn’t say “Dancer” (or the Italian translations: “Ballerina” or “Danzatore”) … but rather “reproduced Ritmi, 1955, cat. 426” (The English translation of “Ritmi” is “Rhythms.”)
Additional info I’ve found searching the web:
>> The “Ritmi” sculpture shown on this marcellomascherini.it website (http://www.marcellomascherini.it/opere-scelte-scultura?lang=en) seems incomplete, compared with “Dancer”. (You can see it in the “Fifties” section, 2nd row, 4th from the left.) “Ritmi” has no head, arms or feet … and only one leg is visible below the dress’ hem.
>> The website “Marcello Mascherini’s Women” (http://www.italianways.com/marcello-mascherinis-women/) mentions that “in 1943, Mascherini said that in the past he had been deeply struck by some Etruscan bronze statuettes: in his work, he obviously fleshed out that first inspiration mixing it with the influence of his friend and fellow sculptor Arturo Martini.”
The webpage includes two photos of “The Dancer” among several of his other “ancient, yet very modern, women” sculptures.
>> It appears that there are at least two biographies of Mascherini, both written in Italian:
One written by poet Alfonso Gatto was published in 1969 (https://www.ebay.it/itm/lx-01-MASCHERINI-di-Alfonso-Gatto-AllInsegna-del-Pesce-dOro-1969-Ed-num/253507137604?hash=item3b0633f044:g:KpsAAOSwQ19asTmu).
One written by Roberto Curci was published in 2005 (https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/civilissimo-barbaro-marcello-mascherini-scultore/libro/9788842213697).
Might one of these biographies include information on Dancer/Ritmi … or the Straus patronage? Perhaps someone fluent in Italian who has access to these biographies (or other books about or mentioning Mascherini) can find out.
Ooops. I thought I was posting this in the reply thread about the statue. Must have pressed the wrong “Reply”. Mea culpa.
Page 171 of that issue of Life has a photo of “Cellist” by David Parsons.
Also somewhat related to this 1957 tour, I found this quote in the 2002 memoir, “The Passionate Collector: Eighty Years in the World of Art,” written by the famous financier and modern art enthusiast Roy Neuberger (https://vdocuments.site/the-passionate-collector-eighty-years-in-the-world-of-art.html):
> > >
After World War II, collecting spread all over the country. It was no longer an Eastern establishment thing. While I was president of the American Federation of Arts, I went twice to Texas, in 1957 to Houston and in 1963 to Dallas-Fort Worth, where I got to know two Texas collectors. Culturally, Houston was extremely backward in 1957. The AFA meeting marked the emergence of a new cultural interest, making the city a livelier place. One truly cultivated Texan was Ima Hogg, the daughter of a Texas governor. You’ve heard the old jokes about Ima Hogg and her sister Ura. There was no Ura Hogg, but Ima Hogg was a real and very sophisticated person. Her home, filled with art, including a fine Picasso, was an oasis in the city of Houston. The other oasis was Robert Straus, not the Democratic political leader but a man whose family went into the saddlery business right after the Civil War. It grew into a large company. Straus came to see me in New York in 1943 and we became friends. Straus originally collected porcelains and oriental art. After visiting me, he switched to contemporary art and became a large collector. Much of the collection was in his home, an estate right in the middle of Houston where he lived with his wife and five children. He and his family greatly enhanced my stay in Houston. He sold the home after the children were grown. His son, who stops by my office to this day, was highly critical of his father for the move. The son had advised keeping the house and its grounds as a real estate investment. It was good advice.
< < <
The first is 10911 Willowisp by William R Jenkins, UH Dean of Architecture. It’s in a tiney little jewel of a cul-de-sac near me.
Unfortunately, it backs up to Willow Waterhole Bayou, which flooded during Harvey. This is the same bayou that enter Brays Bayou by United Orthodox Synagogue. I have not gone over there since the hurricane, but I would bet money this one got water in it.
Yep. Willow Waterhole hammered the Willowisp mods, including other houses by Jenkins.
On the subject of cul-de-sacs, decades ago when my late wife and I were house hunting we came across a cul-de-sac named Tree Frog. The foliage was so dense it was almost jungle-like. That name has always stuck with me. Wouldn’t it be cool to say “I live on Tree Frog!”
I’ve always loved riding my bike into Tree Frog. Unfortunately that also backs up to a bayou. I know the neighborhoods around it got significant flooding and I doubt Tree Froq was spared.
The other house is the DeMoustier house, according to Ben Hill.
What does anybody know about the sculpture?
That photo is probably from the Straus house. Note the railing/bench detail and the pine trees, and compare it with what is visible here. The Straus’s were noted for their modern art and sculpture collection. http://houstonmod.net/bldg_detail.asp?id=224&by=lost&ss=2
I think it’s the ballerina statue in front of Jones Hall.
I think we’re both right. “The Dancer is a cast bronze sculpture of a young female dancer that stands nearly 7.5 feet tall in front of Jones Hall. The smooth, bronze texture of the sculpture’s surface and the pleated folds of her dress make The Dancer appear to flow gracefully. This abstract representation of a dancer fits in its location nicely, as it sits centrally in the theater district, which is the home of the Houston Ballet. The sculpture was created by Marcello Mascherini, an Italian sculptor, in the early 1950s and donated to the City of Houston in 1955 by Mr. and Mrs. Robert D. Straus.” http://www.houstonfirsttheaters.com/Jones-Hall/Visitor-Information/Civic-Art
However, I think Houston First got the date slightly wrong if it was at the Straus house in 1957. Or it could be another cast of the sculpture.
I searched for “Marcello Mascherini the dancer”, and this says it was installed at Jones Hall in 1975. https://www.ebay.com/itm/1975-Press-Photo-Marcello-Mascherinis-sculpture-Dancer-installed-in-Houston/372227388684?_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIM.MBE%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D49923%26meid%3D718fd204b3024fbebdcd783174373203%26pid%3D100623%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D6%26sd%3D352285932928%26itm%3D372227388684&_trksid=p2047675.c100623.m-1
That “HistoricImages” section of eBay has another, earlier Houston Chronicle photo that shows “The Dancer” before it was donated to the City, in a garden atop the same pedestal shown in the 1957 photo in the original post: https://www.ebay.com/itm/1975-Press-Photo-Mascherini-bronze-statue-in-garden-in-Houston-Texas-/372254816341
The cutline affixed to the back of this photo says “Proposed Straus Gift to the City / Mascherini Bronze May Go to Jones Hall”
The markings on the photos’s back seem to indicate that it was published on Wednesday, April 16, 1975, on page 2 of section 3.
Someone with access to the Houston Chronicle archives (I do not, and its online “archives” only goes back to 1985) might want to look up this page to see if there’s any more information there about the “Proposed Straus Gift” and “The Dancer”.
Yes, this is correct. There was general excitement in April 1975 about the Mascherini gift by the Straus family. However, there is no new information in the Chronicle archives beyond confirming what has already been posted, and the notice that the Municipal Art Commission had already accepted the sculpture. (the Oldenburg “Geometric Mouse” sculpture by the Downtown Public Library was also the subject of discussion at this time.)
Does it seem, then, that “The Dancer” was donated in 1975 … or in 1955, as cited in an earlier reply? It the former, perhaps 1955 was a typo that has been propagated via Internet copying?
I expect that the statue was donated in 1955 and it took twenty years to find the right place to display it. In the meantime, the donors were glad to store it in their garden.
I can’t thank you enough for those photos, especially the ones on Willowisp. The house was also in Better Homes and Gardens Oct. 1957, but it’s so cool to see it on the day of the tour. This made my week! – Jason Smith 10920 Willowisp.
Melissa, do you have more of this ilk? Some of us are very excited by these photos.
I sure do. I’m out of town until Wednesday, will post more then!
Two wonderful examples of modern style homes are in Old Braeswood: 2337 Bluebonnet (1937 by Wirtz and Calhoun) and 2307 Bluebonnet (1957 by Barnstone and Gordon). The latter appeared on the cover of House and Garden, Jan 1958. Both are in perfect condition. Several other modern gems are in Old Braeswood, as
detailed by Stephen Fox’s 1988 book “Braeswood”.
Pingback: Modern Homes Tour, 1957: Part 2 | Rice History Corner
Dear All, thanks a lot for the precious details on the Dancer. I can also help you to rebuild the sculpture history: it was created by Marcello Mascherini in 1955, titled Rythms and shown at the VII Quadriennale Nazionale d’Arte di Roma (22 Nov 1955 – 30 Apr 1956). Meanwhile Mascherini did create two different fragments of the Dancer (one without head and arms; another with one leg only). However, I am not sure how the Dancer came to USA to Robert Straus’ house (see Life magazine of April 1957). I would say that World House Galleries in New York were promoting Italian artists including Mascherini at that time, but I have no evidence of their involvement in the sale to Mr. Straus. Then, Jones Hall was donated to Houston in 1966, meanwhile Straus’ house was sold and later on demolished. So, I think it is believable that Straus’ family donated the sculpture to decorate Jones Hall entrance in 1975. I will appreciate to share any further information about Mascherini. Best wishes.
ARCHIVIO MARCELLO MASCHERINI