How about a little twist on a design critique? It’s been a pleasure for me and I hope for you the last few weeks sharing thoughts and comments on previous design critiques. I thought it might be fun to occasionally toss up some images from the work of a past master and generate some discussion. Obviously this is a bit different than commenting on your peers. It might be a good exercise to look closely at a masterwork and tell us what you see. What do you think the designer was thinking? Is there something new you failed to notice before? Is there something you might want to file away and in your design library? With that in mind, here’s the first masterwork I’d like to present for your comments, a cabinet by Greene and Greene.
A little background and my initial comment. This impressive cabinet is currently on display in the Cleveland Museum of Art and is described as a secretary designed by Charles Sumner Greene and built by Peter Hall in 1911. The primary wood is mahogany which in itself was a bit surprising to me. One thing that struck me as exceedingly well executed is the subtle use of ornament to emphasize the form. Note the small patches of inlay at each corner of the upper and lower case. It re-enforced the idea to me that ornament (carving, inlay, marquetry, gilding) is at its best when it plays a supporting role and highlights the underlying form. Sorry about the photo quality, museum setting photos can be difficult.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this impressive work.
George R. Walker