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Tag Archives: Modernist

Deco Eagle Bookend

Spread Eagle Bookends:  Solid bronze. Height 4 inches. circa 1930

 

The dominant Art Deco motif in nineteen thirties America was streamline, and all manner of objects were given streamlined exteriors to look modern.  To look modern was to look cool in thirties America.  Along side the streamlining, there was a geometric motif, which began earlier, in the twenties.  Objects were made in geometric shapes or covered with geometric figures.

The eagle Bookends shown here are composed of triangles, rectangles and trapezoids, all geometric angled figures.  Very deco. Angled features were called zigzag deco.

Not all geometric objects were were zigzag.  Some were composed of curving geometric figures, like the bookends shown here entitled Rings and Balls, made up in this instance almost entirely of spheres and circular rings.

Copper or brass?   Height 5.25  inches. Inscription:  Shopmark of Chase Inc.   Attributed to Walter Von Nessen.  circa 1936.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Animals, Art Deco, Streamline

 

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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 www.blenkoproject.org

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog. Screen-capture from http://www.blenkoproject.org

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Animals, Modernist

 

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WPA Moderne Bookends

As part of the “New Deal”, the President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration created the Works Progress Administration or WPA (1935 -1943), which supported tens of thousands of American artists and resulted in more than 20,000 murals and sculptures that decorated public buildings and public space.  There was, somehow, enough interaction among these artists to adopt a contemporary style or to generate a novel recognizable style, now called American or WPA Moderne, within the Art Deco creations of the day.    Presented here are two pairs of bookends that belong in this very interesting genre.

 

Gray metal, Height: 7.5 inches, Inscription: A. Abbot Schy 47.BE.2.16.  American Moderne, circa 1940.

American Beauty: Gray metal, Height: 7.5 inches, Inscription: A. Abbot Schy 47.BE.2.16. American Moderne, circa 1940.

American Beauty:  We see the head and shoulders of a lady on a base.  American/WPA Moderne is recognized by her face, which is semiclassical in appearance, and her hairline, which appears as a zigzag lightening bolt which suggests action.  The base is covered with a geometrical design of arcs of circles, and there is an overall appearance of shiny metal, both of which are not definitive American Moderne, but are characteristically nineteen thirties Art deco.

Chalkware, Height: 6.5 inches.  Inscription:  D-1935. American Moderne, circa 1935.

WPA Beauty: Chalkware, Height: 6.5 inches.  Inscription:  D-1935. American Moderne, circa 1935.

WPA Beauty: This lady is recognized as American Moderne in style by her face, her hair and her base.  Her face is semiclassical.  In American Moderne figures, the hair is sometimes shown streaming behind the head to suggest action and motion.  Here within the confines of the bookends, the hair is shown streaming behind the head.  The surfaces of the bookends gleam.  The edges of the base form action lines.  Action lines and a gleaming surface are not limited to the American Moderne style, but they are characteristic for nineteen thirties Art Deco.

Click here for a further example of American/WPA Moderne in our June 1, 2012 post entitled Monumental Moderne.

The George Stanley Fountain entitled “Muse of Music, Dance, Drama” at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl is an excellent example of WPA Moderne.  This “60SecondHistory – the Hollywood Bowl Fountain” by the Los Angeles County Parks shows the WPA Moderne from a number of angles.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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Howard Pierce Bookends

Photo of Howard Pierce Bookends

Each bookend is 7.25 inches tall , 4.25 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep, made of heavy porcelain, Pierce’s name is cast into the bottom of the base.

This is a pair of bookends produced by the noted California artist and ceramicist Howard Pierce (1912 – 1994).  Most of Pierce’s sculptures are familiar as brown and tan birds and mammals. His raccoons and quail are highly collected.  These midcentury modern bookends show Pierce’s whimsical side which is usually seen only in private collections.  An exotic human face colored dark chocolate is topped by a brown speckled tan asymmetric bobbed hair style.

Howard Pierce is remembered by the Joshua Tree, California community where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Click here to read an article from the Twenty-Nine Palms Historical Society on Howard Pierce.

 

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