Thursday, August 15, 2013

George Grant Elmslie and Alfonso Iannelli — two designers for the 1936 Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana

George Grant Elmslie, American (born Scotland), 1869-1952
Main building cornice panel, Terracotta. 1936
Manufactured by Midland Terracotta Company, Chicago, 1919–39; Fritz Albert (American, 1865-1940), modeler
From the Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana
(demolished 1991); William S. Hutton, architect, and George Grant Elmslie, designer
Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of Cathers and Dembrosky
Photograph by versluis

An interesting correlation of symbolism and motif exists between George Grant Elmslie and Alfonso Iannelli who were two designers for the 1936 Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana.

A wonderful exhibition titled, “The Progressive Pencil: George Elmslie’s Prairie School Designs” is currently on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Regarding this piece the exhibition label explains the following:

In the 1930s, Elmslie collaborated with the architect William S. Hutton on three public elementary schools in Hammond, Indiana: the Oliver P. Morton School, the Thomas A. Edison School, and Washington Irving School. All three received funding from the Public Works Administration, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.

The Morton school and the concurrently designed and built Edison school impressively combined Prairie School rectilinearity with Elmslie’s organic ornamentation and large-scale figural sculpture. This panel—one of a series crowning the cornice of the Morton school—features the dynamic “flying V” Elmslie favored, along with abstracted floral and foliate ornament.

Alfonso Iannelli
American (born Italy), 1888-1965
Screen for Oliver P. Morton School, Hammond, Indiana, 1936
Photograph by versluis 
Photograph taken from the exhibition, “Modernism’s Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli — 1910 to 1965”

The panels were designed and made as multiples, stacked on one another and the joints grouted for the installation. The exhibition label for this piece states, “This panel was part of a decorative perforated terracotta screen above the entrance of the Oliver P. Morton Elementary School in Hammond, Indiana.”

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