A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Art Deco Commercial Architecture: Montgomery Ward’s Mid-Size Department Stores and Child's Restaurant Exhibit

Have a great summer. We'll be back with a new article about the Childs Restaurants and polychrome terra cotta on September 1.

 Art Deco Commercial Architecture: Montgomery Ward’s Mid-Size Department Stores


“Piggly-Wiggly, A & P, Kress, Woolworths, Montgomery Ward, and many other stores once made the difference between a backwater town and one whose star was ascending. ...While relics of most of the old chain stores were long ago stuccoed over or obliterated, Kress stores[, for example,] are still easily recognizable by their distinctive nameplates[...,]”(1) and Montgomery Ward stores by their distinctive “Spirit of Progress” terra cotta murals.

Until 1928 Montgomery Ward operated solely as a retail catalog sales outlet. However, by 1926 Montgomery Ward could no longer only sustain itself through retail catalog sales, and the company made a decision to expand into direct retail sales. Montgomery Ward either bought or rented buildings, or built stores in many small cities and towns throughout the country. Those buildings that were bought, rented or built were usually designed or remodeled according to architectural plans created by in-house Montgomery Ward architects. In fact, I believe that Montgomery Ward had architectural plans for a specific type of store, with variations, that were given to local architects to complete. This type of architectural pattern usage--albeit for one commercial enterprise--itself--could be considered the commercial side to Montgomery Wards’ popular sales of residential architectural plans.



 7 Canal Street, Westerly, Rhode Island is a three-story brick and terra cotta building with three bays on the ground and top floors, and four brick pilasters rising to the roof line. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee)

I was originally drawn to the Montgomery Ward retail stores when I was in Westerly, Rhode Island a few years ago with my wife. We drove through the downtown area and I sighted a tile mural on one of the buildings.



Detail of the building at 7 Canal Street, Westerly, Rhode Island with its Montgomery Ward logo. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee)


At the time I saw this building, it was in the process of becoming an arts center. I took photos and only later discovered that the building was built as a Montgomery Ward retail store in 1928. While searching for information about the building and the mural, I discovered that there was a twin to this building in New London, Connecticut. And then, I found references and photos to many more, similar buildings throughout the United States.



123 Bank Street, New London, Connecticut is a three-story, terra cotta clad building, also with three bays at the top floor and four terra cotta pilasters rising to terra cotta finials. Two green terra cotta tile panels are on either side of the “Spirit of Progress” mural. (Photo by Jim Steinhart © 2013 courtesy of TravelPhotoBase.com)




753 S. Main Street, Del Rio, Texas. This store was built in 1929 by Max Stool. “Max’s most lasting impact on Del Rio was his success at bringing national chain stores and significant downtown architecture to Del Rio. On the 700 block of South Main Street, alongside his own store, Max Stool made it possible for four of the country’s largest companies to establish their local storefronts: Woolworth, Kress, Montgomery Ward, and J.C. Penney.” (http://vvchc.net/marker/Stool%20narrative.html; Photo credit: Google Maps)


An article about the building at 753 South Main Street, Del Rio, Texas gives us more information about the construction of these stores. It “was opened as part of the Ward company’s transition from a strictly mail order business to one that sold product out of storefronts. The mail order company started in 1872; founder Aaron Montgomery Ward went into [the] storefront business ‘reluctantly’ in 1926. Having made that decision, Ward targeted his stores at communities of 10,000 to 15,000. During 1928 the company built 208 stores and in 1929 built 288. ...The Great Depression followed the stock market crash of 1929, and Ward opened only 49 stores in 1930. After this time most new Ward stores were opened in much larger cities while stores in smaller markets were subject to closure from the 1930s through the 1970s.”(2)




The former Montgomery Ward store and attached office building at 3 Monument Square, Lewistown, Pennsylvania. This building was remodeled in 1984, but the bands of green terra cotta tile panels on the store building still exist, as do the “Spirit of Progress” mural and the two vertical decorative terra cotta murals on either side of the “Spirit”. (Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User: Pubdog (Public Domain).)


The Lewistown, Pennsylvania Montgomery Ward building is described in the National Register of Historic Places: “The [former Montgomery Ward] building [on Monument Square] is a fine, intact example of the restrained Art Deco style used by a number of chain stores in the 1920s and 1930s. ...Some of the Art Deco architectural details [of this Lewistown, Pennsylvania Montgomery Ward store (1928--extensively remodeled in 1984)] include two-story bay windows and pilasters, bands of glazed terra cotta panels and a female figure holding a torch. This image was a standard Montgomery Ward logo known as the 'Spirit of Progress.' An identical panel is located on the former Montgomery Ward building in Stroudsburg, PA. The original drawings for the Lewistown store indicate the panel was made by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company expressly for Montgomery Ward.”(3) The architects for this building were G. Frank Witman and John B. Royer of York, Pennsylvania.(4) As I mentioned above, architects like these local architects may have been given Montgomery Ward's in-house architectural plans and commissioned to either build or remodel the building to fit those specifications.

Many of the Montgomery Ward stores of this era (1928-1932) had a number of architectural elements in common. They were usually constructed using brick and/or terra cotta. They were two to three stories in height with an enlarged top floor. They were usually three bays wide with vertical brick or terra cotta pilasters ending in finials or another ornamental element. All had terra cotta tile panels, usually near the roof line and/or under the top floor window bays. Most, if not all, originally had a terra cotta mural of the “Spirit of Progress” high on the facade. You knew a Montgomery Ward building by this logo. 


How did this “Spirit of Progress” logo come about, though?



Augustus St. Gaudens’ Diana I in the foundry. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Diana_1st_Version.jpg)


Montgomery Ward’s terra cotta “Spirit of Progress” is actually the third iteration of the original. The first, “Diana, Goddess of the Hunt[,] was commissioned by New York’s Madison Square Garden’s architect, Stanford White[,...as] a weather vane for the famous hall [in 1891]. He asked his friend, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to design it.



The bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville (L), La Giralda, with its weathervane, “Faith” (R). (Photo credits: (L)By Ingo Mehling - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37545220; (R)Kate’s Travel Tips blog, August 22, 2015; https://katestraveltips.com/2015/08/22/the-golden-triangle-of-andalucia-seville-cordoba-granada/


“The tower at [Madison Square Garden] was modeled after La Giralda, the Bell Tower in Granada, Spain which also sported a weather vane called Faith. Diana was fabricated at the W. H. Mullins shop in Salem, Ohio, she was 18 feet tall and weighed 1,800 pounds, yet she was perfectly balanced and could move gracefully with a light wind.”(5) This statue was found to be too large for Madison Square Garden, and a second, smaller Diana was made for the Garden. Diana I then found its way to the top of the dome of the Agriculture Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1892.



A replica of Diana II, the Madison Square Garden-Tower Diana, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Photo credit: By Postdlf from w, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2675510)


Diana I and Diana II each found a new home. After Madison Square Garden was demolished in 1925, Diana II was placed in storage until 1932 when it was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and placed on its dome. “Executives from Montgomery Ward toured the Agriculture Building [at the Chicago World's Fair,...] bought [Diana I] and had it stored in the Columbian Museum (Fine Arts Building, now the Museum of Science & Industry) until their Tower Headquarters was built in 1899 [in Chicago]. It is uncertain whether Diana was sent back to Mullins and was refurbished or if a new statue was made from a new design.” In 1900 Diana I was installed on the top of the Montgomery Ward Tower and given the name “Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce”.



The Montgomery Ward Tower with Diana I. (PPC courtesy of cardcow.com)


In 1899, “[a]rchitects for the new Ward Tower, Richard E. Schmidt and Hugh Garden envisioned a statue-weather vane on top of their new structure. Schmidt hired John Massey Rhind a Scottish sculptor to design the final statue. [However,...]Rhind [may] only [have] designed alterations to transform [...the original] Diana, [and] therefore he would not have been [given credit as] the sole creator of [the Spirit of] Progress.” Montgomery Ward only stayed in the Tower building until 1908, but the statue remained. Diana I was dismantled in 1947 along with the tower when the tower was deemed unsafe.(6) 



The final Spirit of Progress statue on the top of the new Montgomery Ward tower. (Cropped from a photo by Steve Brown & John Verkleir - https://www.flickr.com/photos/proxyindian/7160867125/in/photolist-ah61Bz-9ZRwKT-cc9yAS-bUMjji-ebeyxc, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32105107


In 1928 Montgomery Ward expanded its Administration building at 619 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago by adding a new four-story tower, and the company president, George B. Everitt wanted a statue on the new tower. He “commissioned an artist to design one[... . In] September, 1929 The [new] Spirit of Progress[, a new figure in flowing, knee-length gown with the a torch in her right hand and a caduceus in her left hand,] was placed atop the white stuccoed Art Deco tower. ...For years the identity of the artist was unknown, making the story of [the latest] Spirit’s origin as much [...of] a mystery as that of [the original Tower's] Progress. [According to reports from his relatives,] it is probable that Spirit was the work of sculpture-architect Joseph Conradi. ...Later reports[, however, including] captions for photographs taken in 1929 by the foundry, American Bronze Company,...list the artist as George Mulligan, son of sculptor Charles James Mulligan (1866–1916).”(7) The full story is still not known.



Four ex-Montgomery Ward buildings--(clockwise from UL) Souix City, IA, McMinnville, OR, Muscatine, IA and Lewiston, ME. The Muscatine, IA store (LR) has retained much of its original Montgomery Ward facade.(8)

There seem to be at least two types of Spirit of Progress terra cotta panels. Those in Westerly, Rhode Island, Lewistown, Pennsylvania and New London, Connecticut, among others are made of curved-cut terra cotta tiles and the Spirit figures have white, flowing gowns. Those murals in Beeville, Laredo and Del Rio, Texas, among others, are made with square terra cotta tiles, and the Spirit figures have orange, flowing gowns. There are also differences in the figures and the globe-objects at the bottom of the panels. The differences in the panels could mean that either the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company made two different “Spirit” designs, or two different companies were commissioned to make the panels.



Beeville, Texas “Spirit of Progress” (Photo credit: Texas Escapes, http://www.texasescapes.com/SouthTexasTowns/BeevilleTx/BeevilleTexas.htm



Hillsboro, Tesas “Spirit of Progress” (Photo courtesy Stephen Michaels, April 2008 via http://www.texasescapes.com/TOWNS/Hillsboro/Hillsboro.htm)


*****

I would like to thank Rhode Island preservationist Dory Ann Skemp for her help contacting others in Rhode Island preservation circles; also, thanks to the online magazine, Texas Escapes, for the use of photos, and to Jim Steinhart at Travel Photo Base World Image Collection for the use of his photo.


*****

Endnotes:
1. Johnny Stucco, “How to Explore a Small Town”; http://www.texasescapes.com/TOWNS/How-to-Explore-a-Small-Town.htm
2. Doug Braudaway, “Montgomery Ward Building, 753 South Main Street, Del Rio, Texas 78840”, p. 2; http://vvchc.net/histproj/Montgomery%20Ward%20Building.pdf.
3. http://www.monumentsquarecenter.com/history. html; Forest K. Fisher, "Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce: The Montgomery Ward Building on Monument Square”, Mifflin County Historic Society, September 2013, pp. 1, 3. A search for information about these drawings, as well as other information linking the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company to these murals, was unsuccessful.
4. National Register of Historic Places Register Nomination Form, Montgomery Ward Building, 3-7 W. Market Street, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, July 18, 1984, p. 3.
5. “The Spirit of Progress Story”; https://chicagology.com/goldenage/goldenage015/spiritofprogress/comment-page-1/#comment-240547, p. 2.
6. Ibid., pp. 2, 3, 4, 5.
7. Ibid., pp. 6, 7, 8.
8. Souix City, Lewiston and Muscatine photos from Google Maps; McMinnville photo from “Historic Mac - Montgomery Ward Building” (http://www.historicmac.com/montgomery-ward-building).


*****

New Exhibit: Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building


"The Coney Island History Project's special exhibition for the 2017 season, opening on Memorial Day Weekend, is "Neptune Revisited: Terra Cotta Relics from the Childs Building, Last of Coney Island's Boardwalk Palaces." A selection of original polychrome pieces from the Childs Restaurant Building will be on display along with archival photographs, ephemera, and an illustrated timeline of the history of the building and its restoration.

"Childs Restaurant Building on the Coney Island Boardwalk has a remarkable history that spans nearly a century. Completed in 1924, and originally the flagship location for the Childs Restaurant chain, the building has served as a candy factory, a book warehouse, and a roller rink. The fireproof building also acted as a firebreak during the disastrous fire of 1932, stopping the flames and saving the amusement area from destruction. Childs survived years of isolation at the westernmost fringe of Coney Island's amusement zone as everything else around it closed down and was demolished.

"The landmark building's colorful, nautical-themed terra-cotta façade, marble columns, and multi-arched entranceway, have charmed and mystified Boardwalk visitors for nearly a century. One of the most striking images on the building is a medallion of King Neptune with gold crown and trident, rising from the sea, dripping with seaweed, and gazing out as if serving as guardian of the Boardwalk. The Childs Building, now connected to the adjacent Ford Amphitheater, recently underwent a magnificent, multi-million dollar restoration and has once again reopened as a restaurant. Last May, prior to the opening of the Amphitheater, Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson made a short film about the building's history and future, which may be viewed here.

"The building's restoration included replication and replacement of the beautiful but seriously damaged terra-cotta decorations that covered the facade. Hundreds of replications were lovingly hand-painted and hand finished by the Boston Valley Terra-Cotta Company in Buffalo, New York. Visitors to the Coney Island History Project can now get an up-close view of many of the original polychrome terra-cotta pieces that were removed, including the King Neptune medallion and a medallion showing an image of the Boardwalk and building that was hidden away for decades on an interior wall of the restaurant.

"The Coney Island History Project exhibition center is open free of charge on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. We're located on West 12th Street at the entrance to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, just a few steps off the Boardwalk.

"View historic artifacts, photographs, maps, ephemera and films of Coney Island's colorful past. Visitors are invited to take free souvenir photos with the iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops and Coney Island's only original Steeplechase horse, from the legendary ride that gave Steeplechase Park its name. Among the rare treasures on display is Coney Island's oldest surviving artifact from the dawn of the 'World's Playground.' The 1823 Toll House sign dates back to the days when the toll for a horse and rider to 'the Island' was 5 cents!"

*****

LINKS TO MY PAST BLOG ARTICLES



"Tessellations: Islamic Tile Patterns and M.C. Escher"
read more...

"Grant's Tomb, the Community and the Gaudi-esque benches of Pedro Silva" AND A request for help
read more...

"A Factory As It Might Be" and the 2016 Ortner Preservation Awards
read more... 


The Atlantic Terra Cotta Company and the Beginnings of Polychrome Terra Cotta Use
read more...

Bits and Pieces: The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and following up on the James N. Gamble House and the Charles Volkmar Overmantle Mural

Art Deco Buildings and Their Lobbies: the Chrysler Building, the Film Center Building and the Kent Garage/Sofia Brothers Storage Warehouse

ARCHITECTURAL MURALS OF LUMEN MARTIN WINTER and a REPORT ON THE EMPIRE STATE DAIRY BUILDING

The Heart of the Park: Bethesda Terrace and its suspended Minton Tile ceiling

A Landmarks hearing was held on July 19, 2016...

Two Restorations: The City Hall Subway Station and the Tweed Courthouse

Egyptian, Moorish and Middle Eastern Ornamentation Used In Art Deco Terra Cotta in New York City, and Empire State Dairy Update
Wall Murals in Brooklyn: A Mini Survey

Inside Prospect Park: The park's Rustic, Classical and other Internal Architecture

Herman Carl Mueller in Titusville and Trenton, New Jersey; A Charles Volkmar Discovery in Clifton, New Jersey

A Book Review and New Discoveries and Updates-II: Jean Nisan, Ceramic Tile Artist

Polychrome Terra Cotta Buildings in Newark, New Jersey

New Discoveries-I: The Tiled House of Jere T. Smith

Introducing the Stained and Dalle de Verre Glass Art of Robert Pinart

Bits and Pieces: Polychrome Terra Cotta- and Tile-Clad Buildings

Socialist and Labor Architecture and Iconography in New York City

Bits and Pieces: Two Mosaics--Hamden, CT and Manchester, NH

The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom Complex in Harlem: Another Tunisian Tile Installation Headed for Demolition

Clement J. Barnhorn and the Rookwood Pottery

The Woolworth Building

The Mosaic Art of Hildreth Meière

Lost Tile Installations: The Tunisian Tiles of the Chemla Family

The Grueby Children's Murals on East 104th Street

The Experimental Lustre Tiles of Rafael Guastavino, Jr.

Bits and Pieces: Two "E"s--Eltinge and Elks; and more about Jean Nison

The Ceramic Tiles and Murals of Jean Nison

Pleasant Days in Short Hills: A Rookwood Wonderland

Architectural Ceramics in the Queen City

Isaac Broome: Innovation and Design in the Tile Industry after the Centennial Exhibition

"Immigration on the Lower East Side": A Public Arts Mural Created by Richard Haas

Movie Palaces-Part 2: The Loews 175th Street Theatre

Béton-Coignet in New York: The New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company

Michelin House, London

Movie Palaces, Part 1: Loew's Valencia Theatre

An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part II

The Tiles of Fonthill Castle

An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part I

Tiled Facades in Madrid

Nineteenth Century Brooklyn Potteries

Ernest Batchelder in Manhattan

Leon Victor Solon: Color, Ceramics and Architecture

Architectural Art Tiles in Reading, Pennsylvania

Charles Lamb and Charles Volkmar

Kansas City Architecture - II

Kansas City Architecture - I

Westchester County--Atwood and Grueby

Modern Houses in New Caanan, Connecticut

PPG Place, Pittsburgh

Aluminum City Terrace, New Kensington, Pennsylvania

Newark's WPA Tile Murals: “Fine Art is an Important Part of Everyday Life”

Public Art Programs in New York City: The CETA Tile Murals at Clark Street

Concrete and Tiles-I: Moyer, Mercer, Murosa

The Café Savarin and the Rookwood Pottery; Chocolate Shoppe Rebounds

Architectural Ceramics of Henry Varnum Poor

Herman Carl Mueller and the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle

Meet Me at the Astor

The Mikvah Under 5 Allen Street; "Historic Hall" Apartments Revisited

London Post-3

Some Moravian Tile Sites in New York

London Post-2

London Post-1

Brooklyn's International Tile Company

Subway Tiles-Part III, the Squire Vickers Era

Subway Tiles-Part II, Heins and LaFarge

Subway Tiles--Part I, Guastavino tiles

Trent in New York-Part III, Historic Hall Apartment House

American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part II, Artists' Tiles

Trent in New York-Part II, a Dey Street Restaurant

American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part I, Tile Showrooms

Trent in New York-Part I, The Bronx Theatre

Fred Dana Marsh's Tiles

*****


About this blog:

This is a non-commercial, educational blog. Content is compiled/written by Michael Padwee and all opinions expressed herein are my own, or quoted, and are offered without intending to harm any person or company.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Tessellations: Islamic Tile Patterns and M.C. Escher and The Moyer House

Tessellations: Islamic Tile Patterns and M. C. Escher(1)

                “Number is the tune to which all things move, 
             and as it were make music; it is in the pulses 
             of the blood no less than in the starred curtain 
             of the sky. It is a necessary concomitant alike 
             of the sharp bargain, the chemical experiment, 
             and the fine frenzy of the poet. Music is number 
             made audible; architecture is number made 
             visible; nature geometrizes not alone in her 
             crystals, but in her most intricate arabesques.”(2)



An early 8th century, repeating tile tessellation from the Umayyad Palace of Khirbat al-Mafjar near Jericho, Palestine. (AramcoWorld, Volume 66, Number 6, November/December 2015, Special Insert)


There is a similarity of patterned design across many Islamic arts and crafts and throughout all Islamic historic periods and across geographic regions. These patterns are found in ceramic tile and pottery designs, 




A tiled Mihrab from Karamanoglu, c. 1432. (From the Tiled Kiosk--Çinili Köşk--Topkapi Palace, Istanbul; Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2011)

wood and stone carvings,



Wood carving with an 8-pointed star rosette pattern, door of a Moroccan Mosque in Fez. (Photo credit: Chris Boundyhttps://www.travelblog.org/Photos/3581213)

architecture and painting, 



Mahmut Paşa Mausoleum, Istanbul, Turkey, built by Atik Sinan in 1474 using First Period Iznik tiles. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2011)


and textiles, among others. 



"Star Ushak" Carpet, late 15th century. Woven in the Ushak region of western Turkey, "Star Ushak" carpets were made for regional consumption and for export throughout Europe. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, Gift of Joseph V. McMullan, 1958, Accession number 58.63; http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/58.63/


“Islamic art comprises geometric prints and tessellations which connect to form infinitely repetitive designs. They are beautiful in their simplicity, creating shapes and patterns that simultaneously satisfy and intrigue the eye of the observer. They invite the observer to contemplate the nature of the relationship between beauty and geometry[... .]”(3)




Detail of a tile panel with a repeating vegetal pattern in the Rüstem Paşa Camii (Rustem Pasha Mosque) in Istanbul built in 1560 by the architect Mimar Sinan. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2011)


Muslim intellectuals believe that "this relationship between beauty and geometry is an expression of the fundamental truths of Tawhid  and Mizan, without committing Shirk  (idolatry – the unforgivable sin). Tawhid, the ultimate unity of all things, emanating from the Oneness of God, is depicted in the patterns which tessellate into infinity. The fact that these tessellating designs are found to be so pleasing to the eye is evocative of 
the order and balance of the universe, expressed through the laws of geometry. For the Islamic artists, beauty and truth come together in geometric designs to express the perfection of God.”(4) Thus, the preference for geometry is directly related to the religious essence of Islamic culture. Such forms convey an aura of spirituality, but with no symbolic significance that attacks the beliefs of Islam. They also believe that symmetry (5) evokes a transcendent beauty by being able to stimulate and free the intellect.(6)


“There is a certain disregard for scale in Islamic art that derives from this perception. Similar kinds of patterning, for instance, might be found on a huge tile panel or on a bijou ornament. This is because decorative effects, in an Islamic context, are never mere embellishments, but always refer to other, idealised states of being. In this view, scale is almost irrelevant. For similar reasons Islamic ornemanistes (7) usually opted for a-centric arrangements in patterning, avoiding obvious focal points – a preference that resonates with the Islamic perception of the Absolute as an influence that is not ‘centred’ in a divine manifestation (as in Christianity), but whose presence is an even and pervasive force throughout the Creation.”(8)




A simple periodic tile panel made from hexagonal Canakkale tiles surrounded by hexagonal interlocking rosettes and rectangular border tiles. (From the Tiled Kiosk--Turkish: Çinili Köşk--is a pavilion set within the outer walls of Topkapı Palace, Istanbul; Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2011)


There are many types of ornamentation that we generally recognize as “Islamic” patterns, yet “the whole range of Islamic patterns represents an amalgam of many different styles, some simply adapted and absorbed from classical sources and from various cultures with which Islam came into contact during its early expansion.”(9) In his article, “Islamic Star Patterns”, A. J. Lee states that “in their simplest form all Islamic geometrical patterns are examples of periodic tilings (or tessellations) of the two dimensional plane, consisting of polygonal areas (10) or cells of various shapes abutting on neighboring cells at lines termed the edges of the tiling, and with three or more cells meeting at points termed the verticies, or nodes, of the tilings.”(11) 

In 1905 Islamic scholar E. H. Hankin wrote of his research into the creation of Islamic tile patterns, and of the serendipitous discovery of a four-century-old working drawing of an arabesque pattern in a palace of the Mogul Emperor Akbar that led him to his conclusions. Hankin describes four classes of elementary patterns used in Islamic tilings: 


a) the space to be decorated is divided into squares where the dividing lines are at right angles, such as a chess board, and parts of these squares help form the pattern;



”An elaborate variation of the ‘swastika’ motif derived from the elementary square grid.” (David Wade, Pattern in Islamic Art, 1976; # PIA 015 accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/6/pattern-islamic-art/pia015)


b)  the lines that divide the space to be decorated are drawn at 60 degree angles forming equilateral triangles. The overall patterns are hexagonal in shape and can form 6-sided stars; 



Some of the many patterns using a basic hexagonal motif. (David Wade, Pattern in Islamic Art, 1976; # PIA 023 accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/6/pattern-islamic-art/pia023)


c)  the third type of patterns is derived from octagons; the complicated octagonal patterns usually have octagons of two sizes and can also form 8-pointed stars; 



The octagon and some of its variations. (David Wade, Pattern in Islamic Art, 1976; # PIA 034 accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/6/pattern-islamic-art/pia034


and d) arabesques are the fourth class of patterns and occur when the dividing pattern lines run in more than four directions.(12)



An interlacing arabesque pattern with its construction diagram. (David Wade, Pattern in Islamic Art, 1976; # PIA 0100 and PIA 079 accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/6/pattern-islamic-art/pia100 and http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/6/pattern-islamic-art/pia079)



In all Islamic tile patterns, “[the] artist simply uses the full but confined surface of the material in the chosen technique in a particular mathematical structure, thus creating a balanced and often rhythmic image consisting of human, floral or abstract figures in a seamless, pattern-like design. The repetition of this pattern offers a sense of tranquillity, movement or even infinity... .”(13)

A.J. Lee uses star patterns to illustrate geometric patterns in the formation of Islamic tessellations.



Drawings of star patterns (clockwise from UL): two early rectilinear star patterns; a colinear link between two 9-pointed stars; a parallel link between two 10-pointed stars; an eighth century pattern with curvilinear 8-pointed stars; 12-pointed stars on a grid of squares; and 12-pointed stars on a triangular grid. (A.J. Lee, “Islamic Star Patterns”, Muqarnas, Vol. 4, 1987, pp. 182-197; http://www.jstor.org/stable/1523103)




Detail of a tessellated 8-pointed star tile pattern with interlacing band decorations. (Garden path in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain; Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2006)




Section of a 15th century tiled pavement from Seville. (Museu de Cerámica i de les Arts Decoratives, Barcelona, Spain; Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2006)


“[...The] most typically ‘Islamic’ of all star motifs...is the geometrical rosette... .





12- and 6-rayed geometrical rosettes and a 6-rayed rosette seen as a discrete motif.  “The prototype for the general n-rayed rosette almost certainly consisted of a 6-pointed star surrounded by six regular hexagons... . [...The] prototypical 6-rayed rosette seems to have been used for the first time as a distinct motif on the Arab-Ata mausoleum (978) at Tim, in Uzbekistan... .” (A.J. Lee, “Islamic Star Patterns”, Muqarnas, Vol. 4, 1987, pp. 188, 183; http://www.jstor.org/stable/1523103)





Мавзолей Араб-Ата в селении Тим (the Arab-Ata Mausoleum), Tim, Uzbekistan. (Photo credit: TripAdvisor)


Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) and his wife, Jetta, visited the Alhambra in Granada, Spain in 1922, and again in 1936. On these trips Escher saw Islamic-patterned tile installations first hand, and he was inspired by the patterns he saw. “[Escher] was fascinated by the effect of colour on the visual perspective, causing some motifs to seem infinite–an effect partly caused by symmetry
[see endnote 5]. Despite his efforts in the...years [following 1922], Escher failed to understand the principles behind tessellation. Only between 1937 and 1942 [did] he succeed..in doing so, after he had visited the Alhambra for [the] second time... .”(14)




Tessellations, arabesques and calligraphy on a wall of the Myrtle Court in the Alhambra. (Photo credit: By Jebulon - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11234546) “In the Alhambra (14th C), Spain..., geometric pattern is perfectly integrated with biomorphic design (arabesque) and calligraphy. These are the three distinct, but complementary, disciplines that comprise Islamic art. They form a three-fold hierarchy in which geometry is seen as foundational. This is often signified by its use on the floors or lower parts of walls, as shown in the image above.” (Richard Henry, “Geometry – The Language of Symmetry in Islamic Art”, Art of Islamic Pattern, p. 3; http://artofislamicpattern.com/resources/educational-posters/)



“Escher...was fascinated by every kind of tessellation—regular and irregular—and took special delight in what he called ‘metamorphoses,’ in which the shapes changed and interacted with each other, and sometimes even broke free of the plane itself."(15) Escher was very successful at depicting the real world in a 2-dimensional plane as well as at translating the principles of regular division onto a number of 3-dimensional objects such as spheres, columns, and cubes. Also, some of his prints combine both 2 and 3-dimensional images.(16)



Tiled panel in the Queen’s Chamber in the Alhambra. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2006)





Tile installations, the King’s Chamber in the Alhambra. (Photo credit: Michael Padwee, 2006)

Escher experimented with simple repetition of a plane and mirror images to create his own tessellations. "In many of Escher’s tessellations, there is a clear reference to the geometric shapes and principles used in the Islamic art that he saw during his visit [to the Alhambra]. In particular, Escher’s circular tessellations reflect the Islamic principle of eternity, as..., in theory the pattern can [be] repeated infinitely as the circle expands.”(17)




Detail of tessellated, glazed ceramic tiles forming colorful geometric patterns in the Alhambra. (Photo credit: By Dmharvey - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1980257)




A starfish tessellation by M.C. Escher.(17) (Photo from Pinterest via http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/meganhoopesmyers/502/virtualtour/akvtour.html)




For Escher, “the infinite regular repetition of the tiles in the hyperbolic plane, growing rapidly smaller towards the edge of the circle, [...] allow[ed] him to represent infinity on a two-dimensional plane.” (Hyperbolic tessellation (18): Circle Limit III, 1959; Photo Credit: By Fair Use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7516812) The process of creating hyperbolic drawings by hand was extremely difficult and tiresome for Escher (19) much more so than creating Euclidian tilings. Escher did not have the help of computers, which would have greatly aided him at the time.(20)


Islamic tile patterns were created using geometric grids, and "Escher mastered his skills on geometric grids and used them as the basis for his sketches, later improving them with additional designs, mainly animals such as birds, lions, and reptiles."(21) The following set of drawings illustrates how Escher could modify the geometric grids found in Islamic art to form one type of tessellation:


The tessellation pattern is created by cutting portions of the pattern as in (b) and (d), and mounting them to the correct locations of the pattern considering the rotations and reflections as in (c) and (e). Finally, the pattern is rendered in tile as illustrated in (f). (21)



Another of Escher's tessellations, Metamorphosis II, illustrates the unity of living things, something that informed many of Escher's images. "In many of Escher’s tessellations, not only the patterns, but also the entire scene is inspired by the circle and eternity as in Islamic art. ...In his 'Metamorphosis II,' it is also interesting to see that a closed cycle is formed when the two vertical ends of the picture are joined together."(22)



"Metamorphosis II", Woodcut, 1940, 7.6 in × 153.3 in. (By Official M.C. Escher website., Fair use; http://www.mcescher.com/gallery/switzerland-belgium/metamorphosis-ii/) "[...The] concept of this piece is to morph one image into a tessellated pattern and then slowly alter that pattern eventually to become a new image. The process begins left to right with the word metamorphose (the Dutch form of the word metamorphosis) in a black rectangle, followed by several smaller metamorphose rectangles forming a grid pattern. This grid then becomes a black and white checkered pattern, which then becomes tessellations of reptiles, a honeycomb, insects, fish, birds and a pattern of three-dimensional blocks with red tops. These blocks then become the architecture of the Italian coastal town of Atrani (see Atrani, Coast of Amalfi). In this image Atrani is linked by a bridge to a tower in the water, which is actually a rook piece from a chess set. There are other chess pieces in the water and the water becomes a chess board. The chess board leads to a checkered wall, which then returns to the word metamorphose."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamorphosis_II)



With the help of his study of Islamic art and tessellation patterns, Escher created "exquisite and mind boggling pictures...drawn from the mathematical world of symmetry, topology, transformational geometry, and regular divisions of the plane. [...They] exhibit a rich and artistic talent unrivaled by most. Furthermore, respected scientists have realized that his works are simple illustrations of sophisticated theories[,...some in the field of algebra and higher mathematics, and] Escher has also inspired scientists in their academic studies."(23)


          "There is a beauty in discovery. There is mathematics 
          in music, a kinship of science and poetry in the descrip-
          tion of nature, and exquisite form in a molecule. 
          Attempts to place different disciplines in different camps 
          are revealed as artificial in the face of the unity of 
          knowledge. All literate men are sustained by the 
          philosopher, the historian, the political analyst, the
          economist, the scientist, the poet, the artisan and the
          musician." (Glenn T. Seaborg, scientist, Nobel Laureate) 


NOTES:

1. I am not a mathematician, but my discussion today necessarily deals with mathematical concepts. I apologize in advance for any lack of explanatory ability on my part in the use of those concepts. For a database of Islamic tile patterns along with explanations, please see http://patterninislamicart.com/about. Also, for a brief explanations of the different types of tessellations, see "Tessellation: The Geometry of Tiles, Honeycombs and M.C. Escher" by Robert Coolman, http://www.livescience.com/50027-tessellation-tiling.html.

2. Claude Bragdon, “Ornament from Mathematics Part I: The World Order” in  Architecture and Democracy, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1918, p. 78.

3. “Escher meets Islamic Art”; https://alevelreblog.wordpress.com/ 2013/09/17/escher-meets-islamic-art/.

4. Ibid.

5. “One way to describe symmetry is to say that it is harmony or beauty of form that results from balanced proportions. More technically, symmetry is a correspondence between different parts of an object. For a geometric object, symmetry is a correspondence between pairs of points that are equally positioned about a point, line or plane.” (http://mathstat.slu.edu/escher/index.php/ Introduction_to_Symmetry)

6. A Google translation from the Portuguese of http://chocoladesign.com/padronagens-na-cultura-islamica.

7. An ornemanist ( sometimes called an "ornamental") is an artist or craftsman who conceives or performs ornamentation, ornaments . We meet ornamentalists in architecture , sculpture , cabinetmaking , typography ... (A Google translation of https://fr.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Ornemaniste)

8. David Wade, “The Evolution of Style”; http://patterninislamicart. com/background-notes/the-evolution-of-style.

9. A.J. Lee, “Islamic Star Patterns”, Muqarnas, Vol. 4, 1987,         p. 182; http://www.jstor.org/stable/1523103.

10.  From: http://mathstat.slu.edu/escher/index.php/ Fundamental_Concepts.  “A polygon in the plane is a closed figure made by joining line segments. The segments may not cross, and each segment must connect to exactly one other segment at each endpoint.






The left figure is not closed, and the figures in the middle are not made of line segments. The figure on the right is not a polygon, since its sides intersect each other.

Vertex

A vertex of a polygon is a point where two sides come together.



A fundamental characteristic of any polygon is the number of sides it possesses, which is the same as its number of angles."

11. A. J. Lee, p. 183.

12.  E. H. Hankin, M.A., “On Some Discoveries of the Methods of Design Employed in Mohammedan Art”, Journal of the Society of Arts, March 17, 1905, pp. 461-465; accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/3/methods-design.  

13. Aya Johanna Dani Ëlle Durst Britt, “Optical Illusion as a Bridge to Infinity: Escher Meets Islamic Art”, Al.Arte, July 25, 2013, p. 4; http://www.alartemag.be/en/en-art/optical-illusion-as-a-bridge-to-infinity-escher-meets-islamic-art/.

14. Aya Johanna Dani Ëlle Durst Britt, p. 5.

15. E. H. Hankin, M.A., “On Some Discoveries of the Methods of Design Employed in Mohammedan Art”, Journal of the Society of Arts, March 17, 1905, pp. 461-465; accessed at http://patterninislamicart.com/drawings-diagrams-analyses/3/ methods-design.

16. Faith Gelgi, "The Influence of Islamic Art on M.C. Escher", Fountain MagazineIssue 76 / July - August 2010; http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/The-Influence-of-Islamic-Art-on-MC-Escher.

17. Hankin, Op. Cit. 

18. Part of an article defining and illustrating hyperbolic tessellations from David E. Joyce, “Hyperbolic Tessellations: Introduction”; http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/poincare/ poincare.html:

“A regular tessellation, or tiling, is a covering of the plane by regular polygons so that the same number of polygons meet at each vertex. No doubt, the tessellations of the Euclidean plane are well-known to you. They are: {3,6} in which equilateral triangles meet six at each vertex; {4,4} in which squares meet four at each vertex; and {6,3} in which hexagons meet three at each vertex. A notation like {3,6} is called a Schläfli symbol. There are infinitely many regular tessellations of the hyperbolic plane. You can determine whether {n,k} will be a tessellation of the Euclidean plane, the hyperbolic plane, or the elliptic plane by looking at the sum 1/n + 1/k. If the sum equals 1/2, as it does for the three tessellations mentioned above, then {n,k} is a Euclidean tessellation. If the sum is less than 1/2, then the tessellation is hyperbolic; but if greater than 1/2, then elliptic.

...The hyperbolic plane can not be metrically represented in the Euclidean plane, but Poincaré described ways that it can be conformally represented in the Euclidean plane. One of those is to represent the hyperbolic plane as the points inside a disk. For this representation, a straight line in the hyperbolic plane is represented as the part (in the disk) of a circle that meets the boundary of the disk at right angles.

...For instance, here is a representation of the tessellation of the hyperbolic plane by pentagons where four pentagons meet at each vertex, that is, the {5,4}-tessellation. 







It may look like the sides of the pentagons are curved, but that's just because of the representation we're using. In the actual hyperbolic plane they would be straight. Also, the pentagon in the middle looks larger, but, again, that's due to the representation. You just can't put an infinite plane in a finite region without a lot of distortion.”

19. Escher’s hyperbolic tessellation, Circle Limit I, below, with two drawings: one showing the graphing of the triangular hyperbolic plane pattern, and the other showing the central “supermotif” for Circle Limit I. (Douglas Dunham, “Creating Repeating Hyperbolic Patterns—Old and New”, Notices of the AMS, Volume 50, Number 4, April 2003, pp. 453, 454; http://www.ams.org/notices/200304/ fea-escher.pdf--this article contains a complete mathematical explanation for the creation of this pattern.) 



Circle Limit I, the Cayley graph of the group [6,4], and the central “supermotif ” for Circle Limit I.

20. Jos Leys, “Mathematical Imagery, “Hyperbolic Escher”; http://www.josleys.com/show_gallery.php?galid=325.

21. Faith Gelgi, "The Influence of Islamic Art on M.C. Escher", Fountain MagazineIssue 76 / July - August 2010; http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/The-Influence-of-Islamic-Art-on-MC-Escher.

22. Faith Gelgi, Ibid.

23. Faith Gelgi, Ibid.



*****

I'd like to thank my friend, Robert Ellis, a mathematics professor at New York University and a union representative for the Adjunct Professors in the UAW, for reading and commenting on this article, and photographer Chris Boundy for the use of his photo.


*****


The Historic Moyer House (1907) For Sale

In March 2013 I wrote about the history of Albert Moyer's concrete house and its Moravian tile decorations in South Orange, New Jersey. (https://tilesinnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/03/concrete-and-tiles-i-moyer-mercer-murosa.html)  The current owners of the Moyer House are selling it, and the realtor has created a website with photos and a brief video of the house--including its tilework (http://324northridgewoodrd.com/), which is worth visiting.  





*****

or be a 
VIRTUAL ATTENDEE!
Choose Registration Option #3
MAY 19th 2017!

IT'S A CELEBRATION! 
TILE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
30th Anniversary GALA EVENT 
Doylestown, Pennsylvania  
May 19th 2017  
Venue has been EXPANDED
for up to 150 guests!  
. . . read more event details!
Note: Gala Event is one day prior to the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works Tile Festival - May 20th & 21st.
BECOME AN EVENT SPONSOR! 
The THF 30th GALA SPONSORS INCLUDE:
Pat & Jim Evanko, Rolanda Port & an 'Anonymous Benefactor' 

Tile Heritage Foundation | P.O. Box 1850Healdsburg, CA 95448

*****


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*****


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