Tag Archives: watercolor

Friday Finds: Emily Brontë

Brontë, Emily. Two Poems: Love’s Rebuke and Remembrance. With the Gondals Background of her Poems and Novel by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford. Austin, Texas: Charles E. Martin, Jr.- Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1934.

Wait, Emily Brontë at the APL?

Occasionally, I find books in Special Collections that take me by surprise. Two Poems: Love’s Rebuke and Remembrance by Emily Brontë begs the question- Why do we have it. Upon opening the work, I discovered a tipped in watercolor signed by Wolf Jessen. There was also a card paper-clipped to end paper with the following text:

This is the only copy of this book at TxU. It might be considered a rare book because of its associations with Austin and The University, and should not circulate, or should circulate only on a very limited basis. It is a limited edition (no. 20 of 60 copies) published in Austin, with background material by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford (former rare books librarian), illustrations by Wolf Jessen (Austin architect), and is dedicated “To Mrs. Miriam Lutcher Stark.

I needed to know more.

I began naturally with Katie Pierce Meyer, APL’s librarian, and Nancy Sparrow from the Alexander Architectural Archives. Nancy sent me the biographies for Wolf and Harold Jessen. The brothers were both students of architecture at UT and opened a firm together here in Austin in 1938. Wolf Jessen was also a member of the faulty at the School. Nancy also sent along one of Wolf Jessen’s projects, Monumental Causeway, which he produced while still a student (dated October 4, 1935).

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Wolf Jessen, Monumental Causeway, October 4, 1935. Jessen and Jessen papers, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin, txu-aaa-soasw00005-2000.

The illustrations he made for Two Poems were also undertaken while he was a student!

While I had discovered who Wolf Jessen was, I was still curious about Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, whose biography I located on the Texas State Historical Association website, which discussed her work with the Wrenn Library and scholarship on the Brontës (Leach, “Ratchford, Fannie Elizabeth”). She also had an interest in architecture. The Texas State Archives houses a collection of papers from Ratchford regarding an unrealized book project on Texas architecture, which she worked on between 1933-1947.

RatchfordAuthorSignature

I also located a book review for Two Poems written by Leicester Bradner. I had hoped that Bradner would discuss the book project; however, he focuses on the argument Ratchford presents. He does note, “In spite of the brevity of the present study, which was designed by the publishers only for a collector’s item, it adds immensely to our understanding of Emily’s poems” (Bradner, “Reviewed Work,” 210). While Bradner makes no reference to Jessen, he does highlight that the work was a special edition at the request of the publisher, which raises intriguing questions about the genius and development of the book project.

Finally, I would note that APL’s copy of Two Poems is not the only copy on campus anymore. The HRC has two as well. One is unnumbered according to the record, while the second belonged to Miriam Lutcher Stark and is copy 1 of 20.

Bradner, Leicester. “Reviewed Work.” Review of Reviewed Work: Two Poems by Emily Brontë: With the Gondal Background of Her Poems and Novel by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, Emily Brontë. Modern Philology 33.2 (1935): 209-210.

Leach, Sally Sparks. “RATCHFORD, FANNIE ELIZABETH.” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra42). Accessed September 22, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Semester Recap: The Unbridled Beauty of Watercolor Renderings

To kick off a series of blog posts recapping the Spring 2014 semester, we figured we’d start with one of the most visually captivating: watercolor renderings from our very own Alexander Architectural Archive.

Earlier in the semester, Judy Birdsong’s Visual Communications studio paid a visit to the Archive to check out some of our working drawings in order to see how they have changed over the years. This is a completely fascinating progression, and one of my personal favorite things to view when I visit the Archive for my own research needs. However, a few weeks later, students were assigned a project requiring watercolor — and the watercolor renderings the Archive has are an absolutely incredible resource!

I was lucky enough to be given a similar exposure to the Archive’s watercolors by Curatorial Assistant Nancy Sparrow, and I’m here to pass on the unbridled beauty. If any of you happen to have been looking to improve your architectural watercolor skills, the Archive is an unparalleled resource!

Throughout final reviews, a similar version of the same comment often comes to the surface: accurately conveying an architectural idea heavily depends on the way you draw or render your final presentation graphically. With so much focus on computer generated renderings in practice today, watercolors are almost slowly being vaulted into the ranks of a lost art. These stunning examples from the Archive showcase immaculate talent that displays a clear understanding of color, shadow, contrast, and fine detail by the artist.

We hope the following high-resolution images inspire you in some way, whether out of pure admiration, or to pursue a new (or revived!) technique in the renderings you produce yourself. Click on the below photographs to view in beautiful detail!

I was floored by this beautiful rendering of the Flawn Academic Center, located just across the mall from Battle Hall. Nancy and I could not stop admiring the glass…
…as well as the rectangular screen detailing that makes the FAC’s facade so distinguishable on campus. Truly, I could stare at every facet of this piece for hours!
This rendering of the Blanton Art Museum by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects features a more soft and controlled style versus the more lively and articulated piece of the FAC. I love the gradient of color in the trees and the wax-like reflection of the roadway.
This detail view reveals the attention paid to the tiling under the eaves, the careful shading of the windows, and – my personal favorite – the almost exact reflection of the fenestration in the sheen of the roadway. This is such a unique technique that adds to the character of this piece, and I’m feeling a creative spark inside me just typing this!
We also love this rendering of the drama building, also on UT’s campus. This piece features some of the more lively, broad strokes of the FAC rendering. I, personally, love articulating trees and other plants with markers and watercolor, and this artist used flattering, vibrant green hues to offset the tan and sand hues of the featured building. I also purposely left this image uncropped – the paint strokes at the bottom reveal a glimpse into the creative process!

I cannot stress enough how valuable an experience it is to pay a visit to the Archive to see renderings, drawings, photographs, and even tools used by the greats we house in our collections. Not only are these collections inspiring, but they are reminders that there are endless ways to represent an architectural idea. I believe this last point is the most powerful, especially for students embarking on a career in architecture and design. The profession is inherently creative and open to interpretation – and you have the power to convey ideas in your own style!

Many, many thanks to Nancy Sparrow for bringing these pieces to my attention. We hope you take advantage of the Archive’s treasures for all of the semesters ahead!