III. Settings & Styles
IV. Facades & Elevations
V. Art & Design
VI. Palm Beach
The Society of the Four Arts [SOFA]
Boca Raton Historical Society [BRHS]
Mizner Library Foundation [MLF]
Historical Society of Palm Beach County [HSPBC]
More than 80 years after Amy Phipps Guest donated the Addison Mizner Scrapbooks to The Society of the Four Arts, containing many of the sketches in this online exhibition, the collection’s value continues to be appreciated by residents and scholars. Mizner’s freehand drawings are of special note, a window into aesthetic impulses broadened over the span of decades and creative processes steeped in bygone architectural tableaus.
Better than finished masterpieces, an architect’s initial impressions connect the artistic mind directly with the hand that created the art. Mizner’s sketches record the creative development of what has become South Florida’s iconic architectural skyline. When Mizner designed Playa Riente, the Everglades Club, and Via Mizner, his blueprints were clearly his own creations rather than pattern-book styles, importing Old-World elegance from centuries past and transforming it into Palm Beach’s signature style.
As detailed in many of the drawings, Mizner grasped the scale and proportions of every aspect of building and decoration from structural columns to chandelier shades, as documented by the finished products in the Mizner Industries catalogs. His meticulous specifications prove he could have easily made literal copies of European architectural forms. Instead, he chose to go his own way.
Today’s Palm Beach remains pleasantly influenced and inspired by Addison Mizner’s distinctive resort architecture, a mix of fantasy and creative genius. His work was complex, never simple, and straightforward. He wanted his creations to be timeless, subtly amassing different ages and styles that appear to have many stories to tell.
How better to reflect on Palm Beach’s history and embrace the town’s multifaceted character?
Chairman, Fine Arts Committee
The Society of the Four Arts – Palm Beach
Addison Mizner, known primarily for his early 20th-century adaptation of Spanish and Italian Renaissance styles for Palm Beach mansions and buildings, as well as the furnishings and artifacts that filled them, was also a considerable sketch artist, reflected in his travel drawings and preliminary sketches for clients before architectural plans or models were conceived.
In 2009 for the Palm Beach Social Diary, I wrote Envisioning Palm Beach: The Addison Mizner Collection at The Society of the Four Arts, a wide-ranging survey focused on the architect’s scrapbooks, their scope and substance arranged thematically by geography, historical period, and subject matter. Each volume is comprised of tear sheets removed from architectural journals and magazines, postcards, small-format personal travel photographs, large-format professional photographs, and, embedded among them, pencil and ink sketches and drawings. Thus, every page makes for a multi-dimensional historical collage that adds immeasurably to our knowledge of Mizner’s inspirations as well as insight into the range of his graphic imagination and his development as a draftsman and manufacturer.
For this online exhibition and to better appreciate Mizner’s vision, the sketches and drawings from The Four Arts’ scrapbooks were scanned and photographed within the scrapbook as well as shown apart from them, as they might have first appeared in a sketch pad or on stationery. The Reynolds Clark Collection and The Historical Society of Palm Beach County drawings were scanned and resized for online viewing. Some of the drawings are in fragile distressed condition, others remain unidentified as to the client, project, or to their location.
These quick-draw pencil sketches, first-draft perspectives, and studied pen and ink drawings, however fragmented, display Mizner’s command of architecture’s building blocks — line, shape, form, composition, and structure. His handwritten directions and specifications to his draftsmen and craftsmen attest to his meticulous sense of precision. Whether his earliest depiction of the Alhambra on June 19, 1905, his initial impulses for Alva Belmont’s Sands Point tea house in 1915, or more detailed elevation plans for Playa Riente in 1923 and 1928, Mizner’s legacy is as influential for its architectural innovations as his standing among the 20th-century’s most inventive artisans and craftsmen.
With several of the architect’s mansions demolished, others historic in name only, Addison Mizner’s sketches and drawings remain, however worn and frayed, recalling an era when building design was truly an art.