Review: A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene and Greene

Entry Hall Window Panel: Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene and Greene at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (July 14 – October 18, 2009) traces the extraordinary achievements of the Brothers Charles and Henry Greene in their quest for beauty in everyday objects. Inspired by native landscapes and materials as well as traditional Japanese crafts, the Greene Brothers were also influenced by the works of Henry Hobson Richardson, the single most influential architect of the 19th century.  For the first time in any museum, A New and Native Beauty highlights pivotal moments in the careers of Charles and Henry Greene and the American Arts and Crafts Movement.

Following the ideas of William Morris, the driving force behind the English Arts and Crafts Movement which integrated social and moral ideologies into the art and architecture produced during this time, the Greene Brothers also rebelled against the uninspiring machine made objects; products of the industrial revolution, and placed emphasis on hand crafted ornamentation and details in their work. The first part of the show places the brothers within the larger context of the Movement and establishes a direct link between the furniture Henry Hobson Richardson designed for the Woburn Public Library and the furniture designed by the Greenes for their stunning houses in California. The rest of the show positions the spectator inside seven houses designed by the Greenes displaying furniture, stained glass, ironwork and lighting fixtures which not only harmonized with one another, but also with the building they intended to be part of.

Consistent with the furniture of the Woburn Public Library, one of Richardson’s most ornate buildings, the furniture of the Greene’s follows the individualistic character of their buildings. The furniture part of the exhibition emphasizes the simplicity and a harmonious union of design, the structural integrity of the architecture and the honesty expressed in the use of materials. Richardson’s influence on the Greene Brothers is observed throughout the exhibition in the rounded brackets and in the exposed mortise and tenon joints. In contrast to the furniture of the Woburn Public Library whose exposed tenoned joints serve as the ornamentation, the furniture of the Greene Brothers was inlayed with mother of pearl and silver which distinguishes their work from other Arts and Crafts artists.

The accompanying catalog to the exhibition edited by Edward R. Bosley and Anne E. Mallek beautifully illustrated, offers the latest scholarly research on the work of Greene and Greene including their stained glass as well as their female clientele. The catalog and the objects of decorative arts part of the Greene and Greene show place the brothers among the masters of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.

  A New and Native Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene and Greene celebrates the works of these two extraordinary artists “considered to be the quintessential Arts and Crafts designers[1],” as well as the astounding careers of Henry Hobson Richardson, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Stickley Brothers who became some of the most influential architects of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.


[1] Elizabeth Cumming and Wendy Kaplan, The Arts and Crafts Movement (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991) 123

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Xochitl says:

    Yay! I get to learn from your expertise 🙂

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