Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Art and Caricature of Frank Furness

Although Frank Furness is a household name to most Philadelphians, one of the most creative architects of the Victorian Era may also be one of the most underappreciated. Only vaguely adhering to the rigorous design requirements of his time, his deserved recognition is often lost in the history books, often with only a brief mention.

Like most architects of the latter half of the 19th Century, Frank Furness designed more than just his buildings. He pared his work with furniture, crafted woodwork and masonry specific to his buildings and clients.

To the post-war era public, the previous art and architecture movements were a garish homage to the excessive decadence that led to the Great Depression.

Urban planners spent the 1950s razing countless Victorian examples, and Frank Furness's projects took a particularly harsh hit.

Over a century later, Furness and others are finally getting the recognition they never received, even in their lifetimes. A recent wave of renewed interest has provided a place for rogue architects like Frank Furness, Willis Hale, William Decker, and others lost to the academic definition of their time.

The Barra Foundation is currently sponsoring an exhibition on Frank Furness at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Face & Form: The Art and Caricature of Frank Furness. The exhibition, which runs until January 11th, showcases Furness's talent as more than an architect, but also an artist. The architect's sketchbooks, preserved by his ancestors, are on display for the first time ever.

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