Sandro Botticelli, one of the most influential painters of the Italian Renaissance, specialized in atmosphere. What set his work apart from his fellow artists, like Filippo Lippi and Andrea del Verrocchio, was his interest in depicting sensory experiences. His late-fifteenth century masterpiece, The Birth of Venus, shows the allegory of the winds blowing the newborn goddess towards her lady-in-waiting, Venus’ hair naturally wild and rippling across the canvas. Small crests of white in the water become compact waves close to shore, and the viewer can easily imagine hearing that rush of the push and pull of the water at the shoreline. Flowers fall magically from the sky to let us know that even the air around the goddess is different and magical; it smells like roses.
Botticelli’s approach was innovative, painting objects in motion that reflect or create identifiable sensory experiences. He was not the first, nor would he be the last artist to try to bring a more natural impression to his work. Everyone from the Romantics and Realists in the 19th century to the Modernists and Postmodernists in the 20th has tackled the challenge of translating nature into a man-made vision.
In the early 20th century, the Art Nouveau movement encouraged a fluidity of line and form, resulting in floral abundance that echoed the season of Spring. By mid-century, the modern art movement was also experimenting with the shapes made in, and made by, nature. These artists often experimented across a range of media and targeted a variety of audiences. Furniture makers were painters; textile designers were architects. In Italy, a young man named Mario dal Fabbro embraced organic modernism but, in the spirit of the postwar age, he hoped to make it accessible to anyone.
There were two sides to dal Fabbro. On the one hand, he was a committed furniture and industrial artist. He grew up in a woodworking family, but also studied at art school in Milan. His early work earned him an invitation to exhibit at the Triennale in Milan and, later, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As a designer, he was interested in bringing new, modern forms into the postwar household. And dal Fabbro didn’t just want to sell you a chair; if you were handy and lived on Graymoor Lane in Olympia Fields, for example, you could buy one of his books and make that chair yourself. It was a remarkable innovation in modern design: mass produce the plans for mass production. It was like the early twentieth-century kit house, but for the postwar, modern interior.
Embracing the Abstract
As he advanced in his career, dal Fabbro became a sculptor, carving forms out of wood the same way he had carved tables and chairs. The organic influences of the modern movement underpinned his work, but he was also inspired by contemporary abstract artists. He could do with wood what Dali, Picasso, and others were doing with paint and steel.
Courtesy of Maison Gerard.
Dal Fabbro approached each piece as if he were shaping around something, an almost elemental representation of forms in nature. Rather than showing wind or water directly, his sculpture in the 1970s and 80s could capture the spaces in between. His untitled 1982 work, for example, is a hollowed form of convex and concave spaces, fluid-like, that lead to seemingly weather-worn hollows, as if wind and water had worn this piece away naturally. Dal Fabbro was honing and polishing organic lines until they became the artwork, themselves.
Courtesy of Maison Gerard.
These hollows, curves, and undulating lines inspire the designers at Graymoor Lane, as well. Our Juniper Collection highlights the imperfect, but beautiful shapes in nature: the way that water can carve out a stone, or wind can weather a tree. It’s a beauty that makes you stop and admire the power of the elements, and we have tried our best, like designers before us, to capture that in a simple, elegant design. In our Solstice collection, some people have seen the leaves of a tree, others the ripple on a wave or the wisp of a cloud. Whatever you see, you will be wearing a little piece of that tradition, stretching all the way back to Botticelli and the goddess of love and beauty herself.