One of the most rewarding parts of our jobs here are Abraham Lincoln Book Shop is the opportunity to find the right homes for the objects that come through the shop. What’s even more rewarding is learning what happens to these objects after they leave our hands.
Today’s Chicago Tribune brings us news that one of our favorite and most rewarding placements will bring joy to even more people!
While de-camping from our Chicago Ave. shop a two winters ago, we had the opportunity to place a Lincoln bust created my modernist Alphonso Iannelli. Iannelli was a student of Gutzon Borglum and has strong Chicago roots.
From 1912 to 1915, Iannelli designed posters for the vaudeville acts appearing at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. There he met Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1914, Wright convinced him to come to Chicago to work on the Midway Gardens. Iannelli is the man behind the still-popular Sprites. He designed many of the structures at the Century of Progress Chicago World’s Fair, too.
Later he opened studio with his wife, Margaret in Park Ridge IL. Together, they expanded into commercial design, advertising, product design and architectural interiors. Local venues, including his studio, and two theaters designed by him still stand today. Visitors to Chicago can see his work at the Adler Planetarium; as well as the carving at One Prudential Plaza, on Randolph St.
Alfonso and Margaret were the subject of a well-attended, months-long Messengers of Modernism exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2013. Our own M. Sylvia Castle, a fan of modernism and Chicago’s role in bringing it to the world, attended the exhibit. Iannelli’s Park Ridge studio was acquired by the Kalo Foundation in 2001. It is now part of The Kalo Arts and Crafts Community House, a well-respected center for silversmithing and other disciplines of The Arts & Crafts movement.
Visiting the exhibit sparked her interest in The Kalo Foundation in Park Ridge, IL. Imagine her surprise when when she saw this membership brochure.
She had been walking past the bust used on the brochure every, single day for years! Daniel Weinberg, the shop’s owner had acquired it from a long-shuttered gallery in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.
Sylvia’s regular habit of attending First Fridays, a monthly mass gallery opening the shop’s old neighborhood acquainted her with David Jameson, a dealer in modernist and architectural drawings. Jameson was also an expert in the works of Iannelli. He is the author of Alfonso Iannelli: Modern By Design. It was with David’s help that we confirmed that the Lincoln bust that had for years, welcomed visitors to the book shop, was indeed a modernist treasure.
As we started to pack and ready things for moving out of the old shop it became obvious that the best thing we could do is place as many things as we possibly could. The stress on these objects-the packing, the storing expense and environment, the unpacking-can damage them. We had spoken to the Kalo Foundation previously about the Lincoln bust; but they are a small operation with a limited budget. The move gave us all an opportunity to finally send Mr. Lincoln home to Kalo.
That brings us to today’s news. Thanks to Judy Barclay and the Paris-Chicago Sister City Committee the Iannelli bust is being replicated. The replica travelling to Paris! We are thrilled to play a small role in this success!
In his interpretation of Lincoln, Iannelli has a much different opinion of Lincoln than many of his predecessors and peers. Of the Lincoln art of the day, Iannelli said “I wish they appreciated the depth and the bigness, the loftiness of the character of Lincoln. If they did, how could they put up a building like this to commemorate him?” He was no fan of the Greco-Roman ideal that so dominated public monuments of the day.
Iannelli’s sculpture captures Lincoln as a human and not the godlike image so popular of that era. In a time dominated by formal, Romanesque renderings of Lincoln, this has an evocative, hand-wrought quality seldom seen in the early 20th Century. It is Lincoln at his informal, yet deeply serious and ponderous best. It is the very early modernist, Iannelli, deeply considering and responding to the very modern (for his era) Abraham Lincoln.
Modernism’s objective was to be a great equalizer—to bring beauty and design to the masses. The goal of Emancipation was equality—bringing freedom to the masses. Dying almost a century apart, the two men shared a mission.
Bon Voyage, Monsieur Iannelli!
Learn More about the Paris replica in the Chicago Tribune.