Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Frank Rakoncay [1935-1998]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

RAKONCAY, Frank [1935–1998]

Dream State

date unknown

etching with hand coloring / 7.5 inches by 10 inches

Chicago artist Frank Rakoncay graduated from the city’s Art Institute in 1975 and maintained a studio in Chicago for many years before relocating to Florida. He died in 1998 at the age of sixty-three.

“Dream State” is one of two Rakoncay works in the collection. This is an etching enhanced with hand coloring.


The earlier version of the courthouse elevation was wrong on several counts, but especially on the proportion of the elements. I’ve fixed that [that is, the elevation now agrees with the plan, though both of them may need further work]. Rendering cylindrical forms in flat elevation has never been my strong suit. Here I seem to have had more fun with window placement and their relationship to masonry bonding patterns. It’s getting there.

Next I’ll try some color.

The Richardsonian Romanesque

The Fennimore County courthouse, Agincourt, IA / 1888-1889 / William Halsey Wood, architect (ostensibly)

William Halsey Wood

You’d think I might have completed at least one Agincourt project by now. You’d be mistaken.

The Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of the late 19th century named for the great Boston architect H. H. Richardson [1838-1886], a curious connection because, in my view at least, Richardson’s own work became less and less “Richardsonian” toward the end of his truncated career. Were I designing the Fennimore County courthouse in the style of the man himself, it would look very different. Indeed, it would be a far more difficult exercise than working in the idiom that bears his name, and might just be inimitable. Why? Because inspiration is more challenging than imitation — by a long shot.

It’s a curiosity that Halsey Wood’s projects of the mid to late 80s aren’t influenced as strongly by Richardson as are those of Wood’s contemporaries, architects we can blame for the parody of Richardson’s style which followed the great architect’s death in 1886. I sat down recently to consider which of HHR’s buildings WHW might actually have seen, studied, and drawn inspiration: there’s no evidence Wood ever penetrated very far into New England.

There were Richardson imitators in NYC, but if Halsey happened to see an actual HHR design, he’d probably have found it in, of all places, Pittsburgh, where Richardson had two important buildings: one very large and one quite small, but both admirable works. Wood did three projects in P’burgh and could easily have seen the Allegheny County courthouse and jail; less likely the petite Emmanuel church across the river.

For overt Richardsonianisms (spell check doesn’t like that one bit) among Wood’s designs, the most obvious are St Paul’s Passaic, St John’s Wellsboro, and without question Peddie Memorial First Baptist in Newark. They all issue from about the same time and each incorporates some of the earmarks of a Richardsonian (rather than a Richardson) design. Witness Peddie Memorial:

HHR, for example, would not have done those entry arches as Wood has done here (at left), that is a single arch produced with just five voussoirs: the impost block and three very large stones for the voussoirs. Looking at Peddie one day, I understood that a closer parallel, by far, was the Finnish work of architect Lars Sonck.

It’s not an exact parallel but Sonck’s telephone company building in Helsinki bears some of the same brooding mass as Peddie. Richardson’s arches were low and “Syrian” — with a spring line well below waist level — but both WHW and Sonck increase their visual weight and carrying capacity several times over. It’s a psychological rather than a physical thing.







PS [26OCT2020]: An updated version of the Fennimore courthouse elevation:

Fennimore County Court House, Agincourt, IA / William Halsey Wood, architect / 1888 / elevation drawing 26OCT2020

Rudolf Kügler (1921-2013)

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

KÜGLER, Rudolf [1921–2013; German]

“The Dock”

color etching / 15.5 inches by 19.5 inches / #167 of 200


“Marble Quarry”

color etching / 15.5 inches by 19.5 inches / #194 of 200


Once again the mid-century modern taste of the Bendix family has brought us these fine etchings by German artist Rudolf Kügler. Of his career and work, the internet has little to say, which is unfortunate:

Rudolf Kügler, painter, printmaker, and sculptor, was born in Berlin, Germany in 1921. He studied at the University of Applied Arts in Berlin from 1946 to 1947 with Hans Speidel, and then at the Academy of Fine Arts under Max Kaus until 1954. During this time he studied abroad throughout Spain, Greece, Egypt, and stayed extensively in Rome and Paris. He took a position as a professor of art at the Berlin Academy of Art in 1956 where he taught until 1986.

And from another source, on the 1958 print specifically:

Kügler’s eye finds the pace and rhythm of industry in “Marble Quarry”, contrasting the angular, sharp-edged machinery of human development against the wild patterns of exposed geological history.

Abstracted depictions of civilization dominated Kügler’s early to mid-century work before he moved solidly into a non-representational style. Cities, villages, and sparsely populated natural landscapes were equally vibrant with life. His sculptural handling of the matrix to coax forth scenes of humankind’s footprint from the plate creates a nearly three-dimensional illusion, as seen in the sharply-outlined, rigid shapes containing the freeform textures of this etching.

M. J. Hamblin Smith (1871-1936)

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HAMBLIN SMITH, M. J. [1871–1936; British]

The Goatherd

four-color woodcut / 10.5 inches by 9 inches / #6 of 50


Some of the collection’s artists seem to come in pairs. Such is the case with British artist M. J. Hamblin Smith. But this also forms an interesting pair with the goats rendered by Kay Nixon (Kathleen Irene Blundell-Nixon).

“The Preface” by Edw. Taylor

The Preface

By EDWARD TAYLOR [1642-1729]
Infinity, when all things it beheld
In Nothing, and of Nothing all did build,
Upon what Base was fixt the Lath wherein
He turn’d this Globe, and riggall’d it so trim?
Who blew the Bellows of His Furnace Vast?
Or held the Mould wherein the world was Cast?
Who laid its Corner Stone? Or whose Command?
Where stand the Pillars upon which it stands?
Who Lac’de and Fillitted the earth so fine,
With Rivers like green Ribbons Smaragdine?
Who made the Sea’s its Selvedge, and it locks
Like a Quilt Ball within a Silver Box?
Who Spread its Canopy? Or Curtains Spun?
Who in this Bowling Alley bowl’d the Sun?
Who made it always when it rises set:
To go at once both down, and up to get?
Who th’ Curtain rods made for this Tapistry?
Who hung the twinckling Lanthorns in the Sky?
Who? who did this? or who is he? Why, know
It’s Onely Might Almighty this did doe.
His hand hath made this noble worke which Stands
His Glorious Handywork not made by hands.
Who spake all things from nothing; and with ease
Can speake all things to nothing, if he please.
Whose Little finger at his pleasure Can
Out mete ten thousand worlds with halfe a Span:
Whose Might Almighty can by half a looks
Root up the rocks and rock the hills by th’ roots.
Can take this mighty World up in his hande,
And shake it like a Squitchen or a Wand.
Whose single Frown will make the Heavens shake
Like as an aspen leafe the Winde makes quake.
Oh! what a might is this Whose single frown
Doth shake the world as it would shake it down?
Which All from Nothing fet, from Nothing, All:
Hath All on Nothing set, lets Nothing fall.
Gave All to nothing Man indeed, whereby
Through nothing man all might him Glorify.
In Nothing then embosst the brightest Gem
More pretious than all pretiousness in them.
But Nothing man did throw down all by Sin:
And darkened that lightsom Gem in him.
That now his Brightest Diamond is grown
Darker by far than any Coalpit Stone.

Stephen Brook (born 1957)

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

BROOK, Stephen (born 1957)

“Night Diner”

acrylic on board / 12 inches by 12 inchs


In the spirit of Edward Hopper (and, perhaps, our current situation), contemporary British artist Stephen Brook depicts the self-imposed social isolation represented in Hopper’s work and, perhaps without intention, that of our own time and place.

This was an anonymous gift to the Collection.

Franz Geritz (1895-1945)

[From the community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

GERITZ, Franz [1895-1945]

Mt San Jacinto


color woodcut / 9 inches by 12.25 inches / unsigned proof

Franz (Frank) Geritz, painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer, and educator, was born in Budapest, Hungary on April 16, 1895. He immigrated with his family to the United States in 1909 and his education continued in the public schools of Philadelphia and Chicago. Geritz worked for the Pullman Company in Chicago before moving to Northern California. In 1921, he graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland where he was a student of Perham Nahl, Xavier Martinez, and Frank Van Sloun.

Between 1920 and 1923, Geritz supported himself by freelancing for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Examiner. By 1922 he was living in Southern California and began a ten-year career of teaching block printing at the University of California Extension, Los Angeles. In November of that year his article “How to Make Block Prints” was published in California Southland. In 1923, an Exhibition of Block Prints and Etchings by Frank Geritz was on view at the Los Angeles Museum in Exposition Park between September 13 and 31.

He was a member of and exhibited with the California Society of Etchers, the California Printmakers, and the Oakland Art Association. In 1926, he showed in the Print Rooms of the Los Angeles Museum along with Loren Barton, Grace M. Brown and Francis W. Vreeland. He won a bronze medal for his color block prints at the San Diego Pacific Southwest Exposition and his color block print Mono Lake was selected in 1927 for the 100 Prints of the Year exhibition. In 1934, Geritz created a handful of block prints through the Public Works Administration and, in 1939, his work was included in the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

After moving to Los Angeles he met musician Josephine Heintz and they married on March 26, 1927. Geritz explored the western states and rendered the splendor of Yosemite, Shasta, Mono Lake, and Zion in his block prints. He also worked in portraiture and created many block prints or etchings of friends and local personalities including Arthur Millier, Perham Nahl, Edward Weston, Xavier Martinez, Emil Oberhoffer, Margrethe Mather, Ramon Novarro, and Georges Baklinoff.

His work is represented in the collections of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Brooklyn Museum, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Library of Congress, San Diego Museum, and numerous county and city libraries within California.

Franz Geritz died in Los Angeles, California on November 27, 1945.  His death was linked to a boyhood injury

Toward a manuscript… (1.something)

ARCH 771 / Fall 2020 / Ramsay

As an exercise in “group think”, let me assign a writing exercise that will be valuable in the ongoing project — beyond your time and certainly beyond mine. [I’m presuming a lot here.]

Kate Macdonald, publisher of HandHeld Press, has asked me (some time ago, actually, so the potential may have passed by) to put the Agincourt Project in book form. You can visit her site here: https://www.handheldpress.co.uk/. My initial response/reaction was the dilemma of how to tell the story: Should it be written by one of the characters in town, say Anson Tennant’s great nephew Howard Tabor, who writes for The Daily Plantagenet? Or should it be written by an actual person — most likely by me — as “narrating the story of telling the story”? In other words, is the book a work of fact or fiction? I’ll be interested to have your thoughts. [’ve got a 76th birthday coming up and that seems as good a date as any to have a first draft in hand.

So there is Question #1: What form ought a book about a fictional community take?

The natural follow-up is about the warp and weft of that story. Buildings and the people who designed-built-financed-used-and maintained them can be made to tell a large though incremental part of the narrative. But what other elements of material culture would be useful? And what influences ought to be addressed? For example, has COVID-19 affected the community in a lasting and meaningful way? I suspect so. But what about other major events within and outside the community that also played a role? The influenza pandemic of 1918. The Great Depression and all those “alphabet soup” agencies created to put people to useful work. Wars, like the Civil, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Positive influences from philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie — the founder of the feast, so to speak.

I’ve grouped these in three large categories: FORCES (natural conditions over which we have no control, such as climate, geology, etc.); FACTORS (broad cultural phenomena or fads which very often begin elsewhere but have local impact, like government programs, benefactors like the aforementioned Carnegie, or the Stock Market Crash of 1929); and, finally, FACES (of which Carnegie might be one but also including local persons with influence, like teachers, public figures, in or outside government, businesses — even artists and architects who have left a legacy). Sorry, I like alliteration.

So there is Question #2: What elements or topics ought to be considered as significant parts of the story? 

For #1 I’d like each of you tackle that basic but vital question. Which approach would engage readers and hold their attention?

For #2 perhaps you could divide in three or four groups and each take on the basic outline of the story. Is chronology the best way to narrate? What other options might be equally good or even better?

De Bijenkorf (1.2)

Projects, so many projects, have remained just that: unfinished. Some of them are even in the category of “the unbegun”. De Bijenkorf’s Department Store is among those.

“The Beehive” (that’s what “de bijenkorf” means in Dutch), as I’ve written before, evolved from its first 25′ by 140′ foot storefront to incorporate the two neighboring buildings to the south. They would have been, of course, typical late Victorian storefronts, which means of course they would typically be dissimilar. In façade as well as floor levels. Unifying them would have no small project. And that’s why I thought immediately of the De Baliviere Building on Delmar Boulevard in St Louis.

Designed by St Louis architect Isadore Shank, it is one of the more successful adaptations of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “textile block” system of the 1920s — though technically, I suppose it’s not. This was also executed at once, however, rather than in pieces.

The ground floor of commercial retail space was ornamented with this pattern of terra cotta tile in an abstracted rectilinear pattern; some glazed black, some in natural terra cotta red. I guess this obligates me to conceive a pattern for De Bijenkorf, perhaps something derived from the hexagonal preference of bees. Unifying the interior spaces should prove far less complicated.

Materials like this, by the way, were logical in heavily industrial cities of the Midwest because they were relatively impervious to pollutants and could be easily washed with soap and water. They were also a welcome note of color in drab winters landscapes.