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Oral history interview with Thomas Adrian Fransioli, 1981 April 21

Interviewee:
Fransioli, Thomas Adrian, 1906-1997  Search this
Interviewer:
Brown, Robert F  Search this
Subject:
Brown, Margaret E.  Search this
Eggers, O. R. (Otto Reinhold)  Search this
Feiss, Carl  Search this
Finley, David E. (David Edward)  Search this
Pope, John Russell  Search this
Klauder, Charles Z. (Charles Zeller)  Search this
Walker, John  Search this
Art Students League (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
National Gallery of Art (U.S.)  Search this
University of Pennsylvania  Search this
Type:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Citation:
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Thomas Adrian Fransioli, 1981 April 21. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Topic:
Architects -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
Architecture -- Study and teaching  Search this
Interior decorators -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
World War, 1939-1945 -- Japan -- Hiroshima  Search this
World War, 1939-1945 -- Photography  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)13152
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)212087
AAA_collcode_fransi81
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_oh_212087
Online Media:

Oral history interview with Thomas Adrian Fransioli

Interviewee:
Fransioli, Thomas Adrian, 1906-1997  Search this
Interviewer:
Brown, Robert F.  Search this
Names:
Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) -- Students  Search this
National Gallery of Art (U.S.)  Search this
University of Pennsylvania -- Students  Search this
Brown, Margaret E., d. 1957  Search this
Eggers, O. R. (Otto Reinhold), 1882-1964  Search this
Feiss, Carl  Search this
Finley, David E. (David Edward)  Search this
Klauder, Charles Z. (Charles Zeller), 1872-1938  Search this
Pope, John Russell, 1874-1937  Search this
Walker, John, 1906-1995  Search this
Extent:
2 Items (Sound recording: 2 sound files, digital, wav file)
37 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Interviews
Sound recordings
Date:
1981 April 21
Scope and Contents:
Interview of Thomas Adrian Fransioli, conducted April 21, 1981, by Robert F. Brown for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Wenham, Massachusetts.
Fransioli speaks of his upbringing in Seattle, Washington; training and friendships at architectural school at the University of Pennsylvania; working in North Carolina, Virginia, Philadelphia, and Cleveland as an architect, interior designer, and draftsman; his commission for a grand country house in Virginia, 1932-1934; his work for John Russell Pope on the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; work in photographic reconnaissance for the U.S. Army during World War II; visiting Hiroshima after the atomic bomb; his training at the Art Students League; his paintings of cityscapes and houses; the promotion of his career by Margaret Brown of Boston; and influences upon him. Fransioli also recalls Charles Klauder, Margaret Brown, Carl Feiss, Otto Eggers, John Walker, David Finley; and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Thomas Adrian Fransioli (1906- 1997) was an architect and painter from Massachusetts. He was born in Seattle, Washington.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Topic:
Architects -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
Architecture -- Study and teaching  Search this
Interior decorators -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Interviews  Search this
World War, 1939-1945 -- Japan -- Hiroshima  Search this
World War, 1939-1945 -- Photography  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.fransi81
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9624d6571-740e-4d07-882e-0c7715355229
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-fransi81
Online Media:

Elizabeth Gordon Papers

Creator:
Gordon, Elizabeth, 1906-2000  Search this
Names:
Claiborne, Craig  Search this
Gordon, Elizabeth, 1906-2000  Search this
Leach, Bernard, 1887-1979  Search this
Extent:
3 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Periodicals
Photographs
Correspondence
Personal papers
Place:
Japan
Date:
1958-1987
Summary:
Papers, 1959-1987, of Elizabeth Gordon, editor of the periodical, House Beautiful from 1941-1964, mostly related to her research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; notes; drafts for articles and lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; drawings of paper and foil art; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
Scope and Contents:
The Elizabeth Gordon Papers measure 4.5 linear feet and span the years 1959-1987. The collection mainly documents Ms. Gordon's research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; research notes and materials; articles; lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; article materials; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
Arrangement note:
This collection is organized into eight series. 1. Biographical data, 2. Shibui research, 3. Shibui issues of, House Beautiful, 4. Correspondence, 5. Shibui promotion, 6. Exhibition files, 7. Printed materials, and 8. Photographs.
Biographical Information:
Born in Logansport, Indiana in 1906, Elizabeth Gordon served as editor of House Beautiful magazine 1941 to 1964. Ms. Gordon first became interested in Japanese aesthetics during the mid-1950s. As a result she began to read and study Japanese art, history and culture. In 1959, Gordon travelled to Japan with three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize. In August and September, 1960, House Beautiful, under the editorial control of Ms. Gordon, published two extremely popular issues devoted to the subject of "shibui". Due to the popularity of the issues, museum exhibits devoted to the concept of "shibui" travelled around the United States. Ms. Gordon died in Adamstown, Maryland in 2000.

Biographical Overview

1906 -- Born in Logansport, Indiana

1920s -- Attended the University of Chicago

1930s -- Moved to New York to work as a promotional copywriter for several newspapers

1930s -- Syndicated columnist on home maintenance for The New York Herald Tribune

1930s -- Editor at Good Housekeeping (here for 8 years)

1937 -- More House for your Money by Elizabeth Gordon and Dorothy Ducas published by W. Morrow and Company: New York.

1937 -- Married Carl Hafey Norcross

1939 -- Appointed editor of House Beautiful

1964 -- Left the magazine world

1972 -- Published a special issue on Scandinavian design and awarded the insignia of a knight, first class, in the Finnish Order of the Lion

1987 -- American Institute of Architects made her an honorary member

1988 -- Carl Hafey Norcross died

September 3, 2000 -- Died in Adamstown, MD

(The following biography of Elizabeth Gordon comes courtesy of curator Louise Cort. Written in consultation with Elizabeth Gordon, October 23, 1987)

The research papers, memoranda, magazines, books, photographs and color transparencies and other materials in this archives are related to the publication by Elizabeth Gordon (Mrs. Carl Norcross), editor of House Beautiful from 1941 to 1964 and creator of the August, 1960 issue of the magazine on the special theme of the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui". The "shibui issue" was followed by the September, 1960, issue of the same publication on the theme, "How to be shibui with American things." As a by-product of the issues, a "Shibui Exhibition" travelled to eleven museums in the United States during 1961-1964. Each exhibition was opened with a slide lecture by Elizabeth Gordon.

Miss Gordon first became curious about Japanese aesthetics in the mid-1950s when she began to see Japanese objects being displayed and used in the homes of Americans who had spent time in Japan during the Occupation and Japanese influence began to appear in wholesale showrooms of home furnishings manufacturers. It was clear that the time had come: she HAD to go to Japan!

She read for five years before going to Japan - history, social mores, art history. (Many of the books on Japan that she collected during this time have been presented to the library at the University of Maryland, College Park.)

An important bit of advice came from Alice Spaulding Bowen, owner of Pacifica, the highest quality shop of Asian antiquities in Honolulu, who told her, "Be sure to read, The Tale of Genji - then you'll understand everything."

She made her first trip to Japan in April, 1959, accompanied by three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Miss Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize.

Miss Gordon came home, planning to spend the summer researching "shibui" with the aid of the Japan Society. But she found virtually nothing written in English on the concept. So she returned to Japan in December, 1959 together with staff member Marion Gough, to dig deeper and to work out details and get better educated with Eiko Yuasa. One of their devices was to walk through department stores and discuss with sales personnel whether objects for sale were "shibui", or were "jimi" or "hade", and why. Between themselves, they did the same for the costumes of women they saw on the streets.

Lacking printed sources for information on "shibui", Miss Gordon sought out and interviewed experts, including Douglas Overton, head of the Japan Society in New York. In Japan in December, 1959, she met Yanagi Soetsu, founder of Japan's Folk Craft Movement and head of the Craft Museum in Tokyo (with an introduction from Tonomura Kichinosuke, head of the Craft Museum in Kurashiki). She met the chef Tsuji Kaichi, who was commissioned to write an article on "kaiseki" (that could not be used because of an inadequate English translation) and Frances Blakemore. She met several times with Bernard Leach and attended his lecture at Bonnier's while he was in New York in March, 1960. (He would later write a "fan letter" for the issue)

As the concept of "the shibui issue" began to take shape, a third trip in the spring of 1960 focused on photography - to produce the shooting script decided on the preceding December. This was executed by the noted photographer Ezra Stoller of Rye, New York, and John DeKoven Hill, House Beautiful's Editorial Director. (Mr. Hill worked with Frank Lloyd Wright except for the ten years that he was a member of the House Beautiful editorial staff)

Miss Gordon was back in Japan in Mid-August 1960 as the "shibui issue" was causing a sensation. Altogether she spent sixteen months in Japan.

As one of the experiences that influenced her strong interest in Japanese costumes and textiles, Miss Gordon remembers a spectacularly thorough exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno on, 1200 Years of Japanese Costume. She saw it on the last day of its exhibition (possibly 1964).

The August 1960 issue sold out quickly. Copies of the magazine, which sold for fifty cents, were sold on the "black market" for ten dollars.

The publication of the August 1960 issue was followed by an unprecedented avalanche of "fan mail". Many department heads in colleges and universities, including the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (where Miss Gordon had worked as an undergraduate) wrote to comment on the issue. Many people in other fields of endeavor wrote: heads of firms concerned with interior design, landscape architecture, and related areas expressed their interest in the concept of "shibui" Other writers include Bernard Leach, Gertrude Natzler, Laura Gilpin, Mainbocher, the architect Yoshimura Junzo, the textile artist Marianne Strengell, Walter Kerr, Craig Claiborne, and Oliver Statler.

The "shibui issue" was followed immediately by the September issue dealing with the use of non-Japanese objects to express the concept of "shibui." (Miss Gordon convinced her advertisers, who had been skeptical about the potential success of the August issue, by promising the September issue dealing with American products.) Four American firms were involved in the production of an integrated line of paints, wallpaper, furniture and carpets expressive of the concept. Products were designed by the firms' designers following the clues offered by objects and fabrics purchased by Miss Gordon in Japan in December 1959 and spring 1960. Miss Gordon has expressed her dissatisfaction with the September issue, although public opinion was positive. She feels that some of the firms failed in the "shibui" project, though some "caught" the message: namely the paint company and the fabric/wallpaper company.

In response to strong public interest, the House Beautiful staff prepared a travelling exhibition to introduce the concept of "shibui" through a series of vignettes, mixing fabrics and objects, colors and textures. The museum installation was designed by John Hill of House Beautiful. Japan Air Lines underwrote shipping costs.

The exhibition began in Philadelphia in late 1961. Ezra Stoller was sent to photograph the installation in considerable detail at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in January, 1962, so that his photographs cold serve as guidelines for installations at the other museums, which included the San Francisco Museum of Art (April 1962), the Newark Pubic Library, and the Honolulu Academy of Art. Miss Gordon presented a lecture on "shibui" at each of the museum installations.

In appreciation of her work to introduce Americans to the concept of "shibui", the city of Kyoto presented a bolt of especially "shibui" kimono fabric executed by a Living National Treasure textile artist. Miss Gordon eventually tailored the fabric into a dress and jacket. She received the 1961 Trail Blazer Award from the New York Chapter of the National Home Fashions League, Inc. In June, 1987, Miss Gordon was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, with her introduction of the concept of "shibui" and her promotion of an understanding of other culture cited as her major contributions to American architecture.
Provenance:
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
No restrictions on use.
Topic:
Interior decoration -- Periodicals  Search this
Landscape gardening  Search this
Art, Japanese  Search this
Aesthetics, Japanese  Search this
House funishings  Search this
Interior decoration  Search this
Museum exhibits  Search this
Interior decorators  Search this
Gardens -- Japan  Search this
Genre/Form:
Periodicals -- 1940-1970
Photographs
Correspondence
Personal papers -- 1950-2000
Citation:
The Elizabeth Gordon Papers. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Elizabeth Gordon, 1988
Identifier:
FSA.A1988.03
See more items in:
Elizabeth Gordon Papers
Archival Repository:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/dc3bd5683e5-f956-4a04-9d0c-4565a6b761b7
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-fsa-a1988-03
Online Media:

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