Visionists Featured by MIT School of Architecture and Planning

Check out the article on their new Medium page:

The Visionists: Boston’s turn-of-the-century Bohemians

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The Parish of All Saints, Ashmont

The Parish of All Saints, Ashmont in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, built 1891-1892 was the first church designed by Ralph Adams Cram, a collaboration with fellow Visionist Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, who was working for Cram’s firm and later became a partner.  The picture above by Consigli is from the parish’s website,which includes information on the church’s history and architecture, as well as more gorgeous pictures of the interior.

Above: Rendering by Goodhue of the planned building.  Below: Photo by Paul Weber of the exterior.  Both courtesy of Cram & Ferguson archives.

Above: Sculpture in the upper part of the reredos (screen behind the altar), reminiscent of Goodhue’s designs for Visionist publications.  From the parish website.

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924) was an architect and designer originally from Connecticut who spent a formative part of his career in Boston.  His architectural projects included the Los Angeles Central Library, campus buildings at Yale, West Point, and other universities, Saint Thomas Church and the Church of the Intercession in New York, and the Nebraska State Capital.  However his most familiar legacy may be the Cheltenham typeface that he co-designed, now used for headlines by The New York Times.

Goodhue began his architectural career in New York with an apprenticeship at the firm of James Renwick, Jr., who designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  In 1890 Goodhue won a competition to design a cathedral in Dallas, Texas.  Looking to complete the project as part of a younger firm, he chose the newly-formed Cram & Ferguson in Boston.

He and Ralph Adams Cram became collaborators and friends.  Cram later wrote “his pen-and-ink renderings were the wonder and the admiration of the whole profession, while he had a creative imagination, exquisite in the beauty of its manifestations, sometimes elflike in its fantasy, that actually left one breathless.  His personality was as baffling to any powers of description as was his artistic facility  Exuberantly enthusiastic, with an abounding and fantastic sense of humour, he flung gaiety and abandon widely around whenever he was in the temper to do so.”

Goodhue and Cram were core members of the Visionists, and Goodhue contributed designs to several of their publications, including the cover art for the Knight Errant journal.  During this period he also worked as a designer for other small presses.  In 1896 he co-designed the Cheltenham font (initially known as “Boston Old Style”) with Ingalls Kimball, director of the Cheltenham Press in New York.  (A native of W. Newton, MA, Kimball also co-founded Stone & Kimball press in Boston.)

Goodhue was a partner in Cram, Wentworth, & Goodhue (later Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson) from 1891 until 1914.  He collaborated on the neo-Gothic churches that made a name for the firm in New England, as well as the project that brought them national recognition– the master plan and key campus buildings for the US Military Academy at West Point.  After moving on to his own firm in 1914, he explored other styes including Spanish Colonial Revival and Romanesque.

Architectural sculptor Lee Lawrie worked with Cram, Wentworth & Goodhue and continued to collaborate with Goodhue through his life.  Lawrie is probably best known for the statue of Atlas in Rockefeller Center opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  He also designed a Gothic tomb for Goodhue within the Church of the Intercession.

Sources:

Wikipedia

My Life in Architecture by Ralph Adams Cram

The Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram and His Office by Ethan Anthony

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Above: Portrait of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue by fellow Visionist F. Holland Day. 1892.  Platinum print in the Library of Congress.

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Above Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (left) and Ralph Adams Cram (center) in their architectural office at 1 Park Sq., Boston, with a client (and a dog).  Courtesy of Cram & Ferguson archives.

Below: Sculpture of Goodhue by long-time collaborator Lee Lawrie.  Photo by Wikimedia user Einar Einarsson Kvaran.

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Against an epoch

Men against an epoch; is it not that after all? One by one in this last night, the beautiful things have disappeared, until at last, in a world grown old and ugly, men, forced to find some excuse for the peculiarity of their environment, have discredited even beauty itself, finding it childish, unworthy, and unscientific: not only beauty in Art, but beauty in thought and motive, beauty in life and death, until the word has become but a memory and a reproach. This is the condition that demands the new chivalry. The fight against Paynims and dragons was the work of a carpet knight compared with this ; yet in this fact is there any cause for discouragement? God forbid! But whatever the issue, the Quest lies clear in sight, and he would be craven knight indeed, who would shrink from this new ‘siege perilous.’

From the editors’ introduction to the first issue of the journal The Knight Errant, published by Elsevir Press, 1892.

According to Ralph Adams Cram’s autobiography, the editors included Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Francis Watts Lee, F. Holland Day, Herbert Copeland, and Cram.  “Paynims” means “pagans” in the medieval European sense. Text from Archive.org/JSTOR Early Journal Content.

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Above: “The Knight Errant” by British Pre-Raphelite painter John Everett Millais, 1870.  Oil painting at the Tate Britain.  The Pre-Raphaelites were favorites of the Visionists.

Ralph Adams Cram

Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) was an architect and writer based in Boston.  He is best known for his churches and public buildings, which include the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and key buildings on the campuses of West Point, Princeton U., Rice U., U. of Southern California, and others, and both bridges between Plymouth, MA and Cape Cod.  The Berkeley Building (aka The Old John Hancock) in Boston’s Back Bay was designed by his firm shortly after his death and pays tribute to the style he established. He also served as Head of the Architecture Department at MIT.

Cram grew up in New Hampshire and moved to Boston to pursue architecture, landing a job at a firm with the help of family friends.  He also worked briefly as an art critic for a local newspaper.  After winning a small amount of money in an architecture contest, he traveled to Europe with a close friend.  This trip had a major impact on him– it inspired his lifelong interest in pre-Renaissance art and architecture, and during his visit to Rome he was inspired to convert to Anglo-Catholicism (ie the Church of England, now better know in the US as Episcopalianism).

One of Cram’s heroes was pre-Raphaelite art critic John Ruskin, who advocated a neo-Gothic approach to architecture, applying medieval principles to modern applications.  Cram championed this style in the US, a reaction to the neo-Classical styles he felt had been overused and cheapened here.

In the 1890s Cram was a key figure in Boston’s bohemian scene and a member of the Visionists.  During this time he wrote two books he later described as “indiscretions,” both published by fellow Visionists Copeland and Day.  Black Spirits and White is a book of ghost stories inspired by his travels in Europe.  The Decadent is a dialogue between two Visionist-like characters, one who advocates Christian Socialism and another who argues that Western civilization is in a period of decline (”decadence”) and advocates inaction.

Cram founded an architecture firm in 1889 with partner Charles Francis Wentworth.  Visual artist and architect Bertram Goodhue moved to Boston to work for the firm as a draftsman and later became a partner.  He also became a member of the Visionists.  Both Cram and Goodhue had strong visions of their own, and Goodhue eventually moved on.  In 1913 the firm changed its name to Cram and Ferguson.

In 1916, Cram masterminded an elaborate pageant titled “The Masque of Power” to celebrate MIT’s move from Boston’s Back Back to its current home in Cambridge.  He recruited about 1700 participants in costume and a professional choreographer, and cast himself as Merlin.

Recommended further reading:

My Life in Architecture by Ralph Adams Cram (out of print but check your library)

The Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram and his Firm by Ethan Anthony

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Above: Portrait of Ralph Adams Cram by F. Holland Day about 1890.  Print in the Library of Congress.

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Above: Ralph Adams Cram on the cover of Time magazine, 1926.

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Above: Ralph Adams Cram dressed as Merlin for “The Masque of Power” pageant celebrating MIT’s move to Cambridge, 1916.  From the MIT Museum.

If you are familiar with MIT you may be familiar with this image which hangs in the “Infinite Corridor” as part of a display commemorating the move.