|The Addison Mizner Collection at The Society of the Four Arts
By Augustus Mayhew
Architect Addison Mizner’s extensive library, volumes that span three centuries, and his design diaries — scrapbooks filled with sketches, watercolors, photographs and ephemera — are noteworthy aspects of the decorative arts collections at The Society of the Four Arts, reflecting Mizner’s influential status as a professional architect and illustrating the inspirations for the houses, buildings and interiors he created in New York and Palm Beach.
The Four Arts acquired the library in 1940, the scrapbooks nearly a decade later, through the generosity of Mrs. Frederick Guest. And, when these archival materials are considered with the Historical Society of Palm Beach’s collection of Mizner’s architectural drawings and office records, they clearly establish Addison Mizner as a formidable architect. Even so, having apprenticed and trained with California architect Willis Polk, been a licensed and registered architect in four states, established Mizner Industries and counted New York and Palm Beach’s 400 among his clients, following his death in 1933, Addison Mizner’s legacy was subject to disparaging assessments.
Certainly, it is possible that the lack of recognition can be explained by his own dinner-table wit and character, expressed in his book, “The Many Mizners,” or his lack of formal Beaux-Arts education. However, without question, Alva Johnson’s inane book, “The Legendary Mizners,” published in 1953 following a series of New Yorker magazine articles titled, “The Palm Beach Architect,” did much to undermine Mizner’s rank in the pantheon of American architects. As architectural historian Donald W. Curl wrote in his book “Mizner’s Florida, American Resort Architecture,” Alva Johnson’s book was mistakenly classified non-fiction, as the author “retold the myths and discarded the architectural accomplishments.”
|The enormous scope and extent of the collection maintained at The Four Arts King Library make evident the work of an articulate seasoned architect versed on a wide spectrum of subjects, international in reach. In addition to architectural theory, practice and history, there is material on building construction, civil engineering, structural engineering, landscape architecture, interior design, the decorative arts and town and country planning. Plus, the collection affords glimpses of the now lost European culture that once ruled ateliers, as pencil and ink sketches made way for photography, and the architect's regard for turn-of-the-century Venetian watercolors, Baroque altarpieces, Venetian chimneys, Castilian convents and Byzantine ceilings.|
|The scrapbooks are organized into systematic categories according to geography, historical periods and subject matter. Each volume is more than 100 pages, comprised of sketches, small format personal travel photographs and large-format professional photographs, postcards, tear sheets and booklets, making for as many as 30,000 images. Spain and the Colonies is a three-volume set featuring what must be every plaza, calle, avenida and iglesia in Spain, Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala. Rome and Venice are combined into one volume. Historical periods include Aztec and Primitive, Byzantine, Gothic and Romanesque. Subject headings provide the guidelines for the makings of Mizner Industries, such as, Ironwork and Fixtures, Woodwork and Furniture, Fireplaces and Chimneys, Ceilings, Murals, Panels and Doors and, especially captivating, Costumes and Portraits.
In today’s Palm Beach, there remain about forty Mizner designed houses and buildings while furnishings and artifacts manufactured and imported by Mizner Industries can still be widely found. Many of Mizner's largest houses were demolished during the 1960s and 1970s when Palm Beach could not resist the sophistication and exclusivity of subdivisions and condominiums.
|Here are a few illustrations from the collection of the architect whose loggias and patios, stucco and barrel tile, forever transformed Palm Beach.
The Addison Mizner Library
|In 1940, Mrs. Frederick Guest, nee Amy Phipps, underwrote The Four Arts' acquisition and the restoration of Mizner's 300-volume architectural library.||Addison Mizner's bookplate.|
|Addison Mizner was a licensed and registered architect in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. Following three years of formal training with California architect Willis Polk, Mizner opened his own professional office in San Francisco. Before moving to Palm Beach, Mizner was a prominent New York architect and interior designer from 1904 until 1918.|
|A 9-volume set, of "Arte y Decoracion en Espana," 1917-1926, includes images of authentic period artifacts manufactured by Mizner Industries.||Replicas of these 17th-century lantern styles were manufactured by Mizner Industries.|
|Addison Mizner Scrapbooks: Sketches|
|Mizner maintained an office in New York, eventually moving from an apartment in the city to a house on Long Island in 1914.|
|During the New York years, Mizner was also an in-demand interior designer, above sketches for Louis Wanamaker. Later, Mizner designed Wanamaker's Palm Beach house, La Guerida.||Pencil sketch for a fireplace andiron. New York, June, 1908. Mizner was known to have furnished his New York apartment with religious artifacts imported from Guatemala and Spain.|
|Photographs, Postcards and Tear sheets|
|A photograph of a Spanish retablo.||A colorful painting by Valencian artist, Manuat Viglietti, illustrating a Spanish farmhouse provides insight into the era's palette.|
|Spain and the Colonies, Vol I, II & III|
|Rome & Venice|
|Top right, Addison Mizner amidst the pigeons at Piazza San Marco.|
|Mizner always credited cloisters, convents and monasteries as the inspiration for his design of the Everglades Club.||Cloister at Saint Trophimus, Arles.|
|Fireplaces & Chimneys|
|Furniture & Woodwork|
|Ironwork & Fixtures|
|Tapestries and Textiles|
|"She heard him speak to someone below," was the caption on this evocative print by Elizabeth Shippen Green.|
|Portrait in pastel, 1743. Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (c.1715-1783).||Louis XVI.|
|Hawaiian royal family photographs affixed with a wax seal.|
|Addison Cairns Mizner (1872-1933).|
|For information about membership and research at The Society of the Four Arts, Gioconda and Joseph King Library, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 561-655-2276.|
|Photographs of the collection by Augustus Mayhew.|