Hans Frank [1884-1948]

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

FRANK, Hans (1884–1948)

“Landschaft mit Fluss” [“Landscape with River”]

c. 1925

woodcut print on laid paper / 10 1/4 inches by 7 3/4 inches (image)

The prints of Austrian artist Hans Frank are not as familiar to U.S. audiences as the comparable work by John Edgar Platt. Our search for information led to a British site, to which we’ll defer:

Twin brothers Hans Frank and Leo Frank were born in Vienna on 13 May 1884. They were both students of Anton von Kenner at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna and Franz Rumpler at the Vienna Academy. Hans Frank was a painter and printmaker, working in both aquatint and colour woodcut and he exhibited at the Vienna Secession in 1912 and 1913. During World War I he served as an artillery regiment officer but after the war he travelled extensively through southern France, Italy, and Austria. Frank was awarded numerous prizes, including the Golden State Medal in 1908, the Silver Medal of the City Graz, the Royal Sakson Medal for Art and Science, the Staatlicher Ehrenpreis, the Prize of the City Vienna in 1931, the Goldene Ehrenmedaille des Wiener Künstlerhauses in 1934, the Waldmüllerpreis für Malerei, and the Kriehuber-Preis der Stadt Wien in 1944. He was a member of the Künstlerhaus in Vienna, the London Society of Graver Printers, and the California Society of Printmakers. His favourite motifs were birds and forest animals depicted in their natural habitats.

Compare Frank’s “Landschaft…” with Platt’s “Building the Trawler”, both of which profit from the influence of Japanese ukiyo-e.

Adriaan Johannes van ‘t Hoff [1893-1939]

“Achter de Duinen” / etching / Adriaan Johannes van ‘t Hoff

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

van ‘t HOFF, Adrianus Johannes (1893–1939)

“Achter de Duinen” [“Behind the Dunes”]

etching / 7.8 inches by 11.6 inches (image) / #6 of 100

Adrianus (sometimes Adriaan) van ‘t Hoff  was a well known Dutch Arts and Crafts artist, famous especially for his travel posters and drawings and etchings of animals, particularly birds. He studied at the Academy of Figurative Art in the Hague and became one of the best loved and famed artists in the beginning of the 20th century. His work was strongly influenced by Art Deco and Jugendstil motifs, but shows none of that here. This example of his work came to the Community Collection from the van der Rijn family, owners of de Bijenkorf Department Store, who were themselves native to the Hague.

Platonic Solids

Passing platonic solids isn’t as painful as it might sound.

The “Shingle Style” is a design idiom relatively easy to assimilate, based as it is on the manipulation of platonic shapes such as those propounded by German educator Friedrich Fröbel. [I know, enough about Fröbel already!] Though the German died mid-century and didn’t live to see the impact his educational theories would have on American architecture in particular, he’d be surprised to find familiar shapes in Oak Park, Illinois, for example: The Walter Gale house of 1893 is a classic case in point.

The juxtaposition of three primary geometric solids, the prism, cylinder, and rectangular slab in that hierarchy of importance, all wrapped in narrow horizontal clapboard and shingled roofs were a stunning achievement for the very young Frank Lloyd Wright (twenty-six at the time), still employed by the Adler & Sullivan firm. It was work like this that caught Sullivan’s attention and resulted in the angry scene where phrases like “You can’t fire me; I just quit!” are hurled about. Design like this isn’t produced by people trying to hide.

Not wanting to beat a flagging horse, I won’t invoke the C. T. Mott house referenced several times in the past week, except to say that comparably reductive geometries were quite easy to interpret as a plan. Once you’ve looked at as many houses from the years 1885-1915 as I have, it takes little effort to imagine the two unillustrated sides of the house and the interior plan arrangement.

It’s really too bad there is so little demand for this sort of shit, ’cause I’m damnably good at it.

Trickle-down Aesthetics

“Provenance” in art is the unbroken sequence of ownership from the artist’s studio or gallery to the auction house floor. It is usually taken as proof of authenticity, not unlike the chain of evidence in prosecuting a crime. Works of art attributed to renowned artists — Picasso, for example, or Whistler — can command significantly higher prices when they come with an unblemished provenance.

An architectural idea can leave a similar record; its trajectory, so to speak, from a supposed point of origin, a “smoking gun”, to a second iteration and to the next and the next, often exhibiting evolutionary change along the way — like the passing on of a rumor. In the case of Chester Motte’s modest home imagined on West Avenue — an exceptionally skillful exercise in platonic geometry, if you ask me — its antecedents are reasonably easy to trace. The most likely candidate for “smoking gun” (or “patient zero” in the realm of epidemiology) might be the 1886 William Kent cottage at Tuxedo Park, New York, by architect Bruce Price.

While Price is hardly a household name, one of its earliest offspring was the first suburban home of the recently-married Frank Lloyd Wright, whose notoriety is sufficient for him to become a question on “Jeopardy”. The Kent cottage was widely published but not the sole Shingle Style example, surely, to have crossed Wight’s line of sight. The young Wright was, if nothing else, a stylistic sponge, absorbing and making over in his own evolving idiom a phenomenal amount of current architectural work.

For the twenty-two year old Wright, someone inculcated with the educational methods of 19th century German educator Friedrich Fröbel, the Shingle Style was a cake walk; Wright’s personal touch was the stylized Palladian window motif in the front gable. So when the C. T. Mott’s “Country Cottage” came along, I knew its family tree at least two generations back. In fact the sequence here isn’t 1, 2, 3, that is, Price-Wright-Mott, because the dates put Mott between the other two. The provenance of an idea is an ever broadening tree, not a single knotted rope.

This simple (simplistic?) case is even less predictable, because the Mott and Price designs are so close in date that an even earlier expression of that platonic composition may yet to be found lurking in the shadows.


The Fennimore County Agricultural and Mechanical Society

Three substantial components of the project’s physical form have eluded me: #1) the pair of public spaces at Agincourt’s core—The Commons and The Square—and their respective character, the estrogen and testosterone of civic life; #2) the cemeteries at the east edge of the Original Townsite—The Shades (non-denominational), St Ahab’s (Roman Catholic consecrated space), and the Hebrew Burial Ground; and #3) the Fennimore County Fairgrounds. Of these, the most enticing is the third, because I can at least identify with midway carnival rides, cotton candy, and images of Pope Francis crafted from peas, beans, and pasta.

Two students have approached me about imagining this space at the west edge of town on the far side of the Mighty Muskrat. Understanding this site is not the most user-friendly on the web, I’ve gathered some of the miscellaneous references to the fairgrounds for them—and for you as well.

  • The Fennimore County Agricultural Association may have been my first serious consideration of the topic. And Improving the Gene Pool dealt with the fundamental purpose of such cultural institutions in the 19th century.
  • The Fennimore County Fair [2017.12.12] was an early observation of the topic. As was Brigg Fair, a romantic reference to a folk song orchestrated by Frederick Delius. See also: American Passtime (which has one too many “s”s but I prefer it that way) and Chautauqua (part 1) and Chautauqua (part 2) about another 19th century cultural institution often linked with fairgrounds but operating independently.
  • “Meet me at the Fair” [2018.01.03] was one of several attempts at linking the problem with parallels in my own experience. Here I wrote about William A. Wells, an early Oklahoma architect of my acquaintance who had designed several features at an amusement grounds in suburban Oklahoma City at the time of statehood.
  • The Northwest Iowa Traction Co. served the fairgrounds after about 1911 with seasonal service, which required a trestle over the Muskrat for access. And Infrastructure is yet a further inquiry into the fairgrounds’ connectivity with other parts of the community.
  • Romantic allusions to the fair brought me to write about Lover’s Leap, while “Sumer is icumen in…” attempted to integrate the fairgrounds with the river that borders its east edge.

Never having considered what all these musings may mean when taken together, I leave it to the two intrepid student volunteers who’ve elected to take this issue head on.

Little Gifts

“Real Photo Postcards” (RPPCs) are simply what they claim to be: actual photographs, rather than printed by offset lithography or some other process. For that reason alone, it is difficult to gauge how many of them there may be; perhaps as few as one. Which is why they are so expensive. This beauty is priced at $75, a very good reason why it won’t be added to the Agincourt Project collection. And yet…

Gifts like this don’t come along as often as I might like. Agincourt’s principle bank, the F+M+M or Farmers, Mechanics & Merchants Bank, came about through the merging of two earlier institutions on shaky financial grounds. I’m only slight bothered that the sign behind these gentlemen reads “Farmers and Merchants”, rather than “Farmers and Mechanics”, which would mesh more readily with the story line. It will take little time, however, to adjust that story to fit the evidence we see before us. The bonus, of course, is the group standing in front of the bank, four of them named, who could easily be connected with the bank in some way. Sure, I could photoshop their names, but why look a gift horse in the mouth. How are you at reading old handwriting? I see “Nelson” and “Grandfather Haugh” and “Carl” on the far right, but having trouble with Mr T.

BTW, “Haugh” is an English surname and is pronounced haw. And wouldn’t you like to know who was giving a lecture. That sort of detail doesn’t show up in a printed card.

Hans Figura [1898-1978]

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

FIGURA, Hans (1898–1978)

Woolworth Building, New York City


aquatint and etching / 9 1/4 inches by 5 3/8 inches

Serbian-born and Austrian-educated Hans Figura, according to one source, “created over 850 etchings, mostly in color, of the historical tourist landscapes and cityscapes of Europe, using primarily aquatint, similar to his colleagues Luigi Kasimir and Josef Eidenberger”; they might well have included Bohemian etcher Tavík František Šimon. Figura’s American subject, the Woolworth Building, was briefly the tallest in the world. Here the view is across City Hall Park, framed by one of the arches of the Manhattan Municipal Building.

Mary Grace Tabor (Mrs Kurt Bernhard) lived in New York City for several years, when this was probably acquired.