Book Review: Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light

Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light
David Mathias
ISBN 978-1-4403-0299-2 $35.00 (Amazon)
Popular Woodworking Books 2010

Rarely do we get an opportunity to look at the details in the furniture and architecture of Charles and Henry Greene from the perspective of a hobbyist woodworker. David Mathias has given us that perspective. Mathias in Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light transports his readers to an era in America where the creation of objects crafted by hand played a major role in society, particularly in the lives of wealthy clients and their chosen designers.

Allowing for an intimate look into the exquisite furniture and interior woodwork details designed by the Greene Brothers, Mathias examines their work and places the brothers within the broader context of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement which emerges out of the English Gothic Revival placed emphasis on hand crafted ornamentation and details, which in turn, as its leaders championed, would create a moral and social change in the world.

The potential of good design in creating a better world (for those who could actually afford the expensive furniture and objects created by hand, because in this sense, the Arts and Crafts Movement was a complete failure) was the driving philosophy behind the Arts and Crafts Movement.

It was this philosophy that drove the work of architects Charles Greene and Henry Greene in Pasadena, California. Influenced by the work of Gustav Stickley and other designers and trends of the time including Japanese design, as well as the works of the critic John Ruskin and the artist William Morris, the furniture created by the Greene Brothers was designed to stand the test of time. Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light is beautifully illustrated with photographs and architectural drawings, highlighting some of the most breathtaking details in the furniture. The lighting, stained glass, as well as interior and exterior architectural woodwork by Greene and Greene is also discussed in this monograph.

In 2009, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted the exhibition “A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene and Greene” which celebrated the artistic triumphs behind some of the most iconic houses designed by these two architects. The exhibition proved to be an exhilarating journey into the native beauty found in the works of Charles and Henry Greene and was a tremendous success in Boston (at least, I saw the exhibition eight times)! In his first book, David Mathias allows for a more intimate journey into the poems of wood and light “written” in the furniture and architectural woodwork of Charles and Henry Greene.

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1 Comment

  1. “Poems of Wood & Light is beautifully illustrated with photographs and architectural drawings, highlighting some of the most breathtaking details in the furniture.” I like that part. :)

    Thank you for the review, Anulfo. I appreciate you sharing my book with your readers.

    David

    Reply

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