Category Archives: Modernist

Bookends Reflect Art of Their Times

Whenever possible, we  like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style and the popular fashion in which they were created.  We do this in order to create the perception that bookends  are objects of art, not simply collectibles. Of course, all bookends are art work, created by artists, so there is no doubt here.  If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, not disappear  like mere collectibles, such as beanie babies did a few years ago.

For many bookends, the artist worked in a recognizable art style, such as Art Deco or Art Nouveau.  For other bookends, the art style is not obvious, but the artist may have chosen subject material which is iconic for an art style that was popular during its design.  For example, bookends displaying Dante and Beatrice we would classify as Victorian art style because their story of unrequited love was universally appreciated by the Victorian mind.

Dante and Beatrice: 7 inches, electroformed bronze. Armor Bronze, circa 1920.


Romeo and Juliet:  Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.  

Romeo and Juliet: 7 inches, gray metal, celluloid. JB Hirsch foundry, circa 1920.


Altar of Love:  Sentimentality and domesticity were deeply felt in Victorian times.  In this bookend scene  a couple vows enduring love before a mystic flame while the loyal family dog watches and cherubim represent angels. 

Altar of Love: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Pompeian Bronze foundry, circa 1925.


Hoops and Balls:  Geometric figures were prominent in American Art Deco in the nineteen thirties.  A number of purely geometric bookends were produced at that time, as were these.

Hoops and Balls: 5.25 inches, copper and brass. Chase Co., design of Walter Von Nessen. circa 1936.


Nude on Fluted Pedestal:   A streamlined girl we know to be a flapper because of her bobbed hairdo and deemphasized breasts, sits on a fluted column.  Skyscraper setbacks are seen on the building wall behind her.  Streamlining, flappers, skyscrapers with setbacks, and fluted columns are all iconic of the nineteen twenties.

Nude on Fluted Pedestal: 7 inches, gray metal. NuArt, Inc., Circa 1930.


Butterfly Girl:  Beautiful women with wings nearly always mean the art form of Art Nouveau.  In addition to this image the bookends show whiplash markings on the wings, markings associated with Art Nouveau.

Butterfly Girl: 6 inches, grey metal. Circa 1923.


Mucha Maiden:  Alphonse Mucha,  a Czech artist, is closely associated with the art style of Art Nouveau.  He is famous for posters which featured beautiful women with whiplash curls.   This bookend woman’s appearance is dominated by curls and so reminds us of “Mucha” women.

Mucha Maiden: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Circa 1919.


Man & Woman:  This pair of bookends features a man and a woman for beauty’s sake. There is no moral,  political or other reason for the presentation so we judge it to be of the Aesthetic art style.

Man & Woman: 7.75 inches, solid bronze. Gorham Co., signed R. Aitken. Circa 1915.


Parrot on Book:  The Aesthetic art style gave us beautiful bookends with no story attached.  This subject of parrot  on book fits the art style.

Parrot on Book: 6 inches, grey metal. AMW (American Art Works, Ronson). Circa 1927


Roycroft Flower:  The Arts and Crafts art style promoted handmade art objects made by artisans who were also the artists.  These Arts and Crafts style bookends were made in the Roycroft workshops from sheet copper by cutting, bending, and hammering.

Roycroft Flower: 3 inches, copper. Circa 1934.


Indian Potter:  This Indian brave is fashioning pots from clay, meeting standards for the Arts and Crafts style.  Indian crafts and art were displayed prominently in the era of ARTS and CRAFTS. 

Indian Potter: 4.5 inches, Iron. Circa 1925.


MId-Century Modern Art Style:  from roughly 1946 to the present. This style is more of a collection of certain objects produced by certain artists than a coherent art style.  For example, Scandinavian teak objects like these bookends were in demand during these times.

Scandinavian Abstract: 7 inches, teak. Circa 1974.


Free Form:   Early Mid-Century objects were rounded forms, notable for the absence of angles, and referred to as Fifties Collectibles.  These bookends were created by Ben Seibel, a successful sculptor with his own foundry.

Free Form: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Ben Seibel, Circa 1960.


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Art Deco Revere Double Scroll Bookends

Double Scroll Bookends: Painted wood and steel.  Height 5 inches, Foundry:  Revere Copper and Brass Co.  Fred D. Farr designer. 1935.

Art Deco, Clean, Modern, Geometric are all styles trending in home decor. These Double Scroll Bookends designed by Fred D. Farr for the Revere Copper and Brass Company illustrate high-style American Art Deco from 1935 by their geometric appearance, bright paint, and shining metal.  They belong in any room with Art Deco decor and in any collection of Art Deco bookends.

In recent forays to modernism and antique venues The Bookend Collector has noticed an up-tick in the number of Art Deco Scroll Bookends for sale. These spring-loaded, rolled steel, scroll bookends are iconic examples of a period of Art Deco design in American manufacturing. Check out examples found in museum exhibits by clicking on the following links.

Scroll Bookend in the David Owsley Museum of Art Collection, Ball State University.

Expanding Bookend in the Cooper Hewitt, Product Design and Decorative Arts Department, Collection.

Here are 2 further examples of  Revere Scroll Bookends from our book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion.


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BEEP! BEEP! Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner Bookends


Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

The first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous, featuring Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote  was released in 1949 and featured the famous tunnel through the mountain scene.  Coyote wishes to capture and eat Roadrunner, as usual, so he paints an entrance to a non-existing tunnel on a mountainside and expects Roadrunner to knock himself unconcious when he runs into the false entrance.  To Coyote’s frustration, Roadrunner passes through the entrance and runs down the tunnel.  Coyote tries to follow Roadrunner through the tunnel entrance and the tunnel, but he smashes himself on the painted entrance.  The tunnel sequence starts at 3:31 of the  7 minute video.

The embedded Merrie Melodies cartoon is from the dailymotion website.

The bookends are marked Made in China and clearly reproduce the cartoon.  All previous Chinese-made bookends we have seen have carried American nineteen-twenties or thirties realistic bookend subjects.  Here the Chinese maker is appreciating and replicating zany American humor.  Perhaps this presages a new wave of novel Chinese bookends.

These bookends are very substantial – large, heavy, and with eleven accurately-applied colors with paints that are not affected by water, detergent, or wax.  AND ….. it is clear that anyone of a certain age that sees them covets them.




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Bookends as Works of Art

Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style in which they were created. We do this in order to create the perception that bookends are objects of art, not simply collectibles.  Of course, all bookends are art work, sculptures created by artists, so there is no doubt here.  If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, and not slip into obscurity along with collectibles such as beanie babies, cookie jars, and telephone pole insulators.

Our 2012 book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, is devoted to promoting bookends as an art form.  Check out some of our favorite bookend works of art in this slideshow:

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Shovel Bookends by Ben Seibel

Shovel Bookends (the commercial name):  painted grey metal.  Height 5.5 inches.  Design attributed to Ben Seibel.

Shovel Bookends (common name):  painted grey metal.  Height 5.5 inches.  Design attributed to Ben Seibel.

So-called Midcentury Modern bookends were produced from about 1950 through 1980.  Those from the1950s can be identified because they were very curvaceous and frequently  lacked sharp angles entirely.  See our August, 2013 post on Mid-Century Bookends.  The Shovel bookends shown above are probably post 1950s, perhaps from the 1960s.  A JenFred Desk set with similar bookends can be viewed at the website A Ben Seibel Design.


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Chase Co. Colonial Bookends

Colonial Bookends: Brass.  Height 6 inches.  Inscription:  Chase shopmark of a centaur and the word Chase.  1933.  The brass is finished in Chase’s English Bronze.

Colonial Bookends: Brass.  Height 6 inches.  Inscription:  Chase shopmark of a centaur and the word Chase.  1933.  The brass is finished in Chase’s English Bronze.

These bookends are listed in the 1933 Chase Brass & Copper Co. catalogue as Colonial bookends.  The relationship of these bookends to our colonial era is not clear to us.  But, their modernist art style is certainly clear.

The Modernist style originated in Germany in the beginning of the twentieth century.  It was not an immediate success outside of Germany, but it matched the growing industrialization of the West, and it persisted and grew, eventually becoming an important component of Art Deco in the United States in the nineteen twenties and thirties.

An object of Modernist design was simple, decorative, and functional, and was assembled from machine-made parts.These bookends, produced by the Chase Brass & Copper company are a good illustration of the Modernist style.  Each bookend is assembled from two pieces of brass sheeting, and held together by three small machine screws. The three small buttons visible are the nuts for the screws.  This is masterful industrial design.  Both pieces are clearly formed by machine, the assembly of the pieces is simple and strong, and the finished products are decorative and function perfectly as bookends.

Products formed by machine, and with little hand labor, were increasingly favored in America during the nineteen twenties and thirties as the industrialization of America proceeded.  The Modernist style was clearly appropriate, and influenced the production of many objects during our Art Deco period, sometimes called the machine age.

Centaur Logo of Chase Brass & Copper Co.  Adopted in 1928.

Centaur Logo of Chase Brass & Copper Co. Adopted in 1928.

The Chase Brass & Copper Company-Specialty Division was formed in 1930, an offshoot of the Waterbury Manufacturing Company of Connecticut which began in the nineteenth century.  The division functioned for about 12 years and gave us copper, brass and chromed household objects of exceptional industrial design.  Today these Chase pieces are avidly collected as decorative Art Deco objects.  Because of collector demand, Chase bookends are relatively expensive and hold their value well.

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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Art Deco, Art Styles, Modernist


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Blenko Glass Bookends

As mid-century modern design becomes ever more popular, BLENKO glass bookends are popping up frequently in antique shops.  BLENKO items are well known to glass collectors, as expressed in this Modernism Magazine article, but have not received much attention from bookend collectors.  Here we have two representative pairs of BLENKO bookends, both of them solid and heavy.

Photo of Blenko Abstract Pyramid Bookends

Abstract pyramids:  Cast glass.  Height 4.5 inches. BLENKO glass Company.  Black by reflected light, but green by transmitted light.  A BLENKO factory label is glued to one bookend.  Designed by Wayne Husted or Joel Myers (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1963, catalog # 6319. A picture of these bookends can be found in the 1965 Blenko catalog.

BLENKO Glass TeePee Bookends

Abstract teepees:  Cast glass. Height 6 inches.  BLENKO Glass Company.  Designed by Don Shepherd (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1970.

The BLENKO Glass Company, established in 1893 and continuing to produce glassware today, is located in Milton, West Virginia. BLENKO bookends appear frequently on internet auctions and sales.  A person could make an attractive collection of BLENKO’s colorful bookends. A good resource for dating bookends are the catalogs on the BLENKO Project website.  Below is a screen shot of the 1969 Catalog, pg. 13 from that website.

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog.  Screen-capture from

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog. Screen-capture from

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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Animals, Modernist


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