One of the pleasures of the exhibit is comparing the furnishings from one house to the next, although the displays fall short of re-creating the settings in which they were placed. Black-and-white photomurals of the interiors don’t capture the warm wood and glowing colors from the stained glass that filled the rooms. While this decoration sounds fussy, it created a more streamlined, modern effect than beaux-arts interiors typical of the period.
At the center of the show are some of the 100 furnishings and light fixtures created by the Greenes for a 1909 Pasadena house commissioned by Robert Blacker, a retired businessman from the lumber industry. No detail was too small for the architects who even designed the heating registers with patterns of butterflies and flowers.
After they split up, the Greenes pursued separate architectural commissions in the 1920s and ‘30s but their independent designs, as shown in the last gallery, are bland compared to the earlier collaborations.
By the 1950s, the two were dead, along with the passion for Arts and Crafts architecture, but their legacy continued to remain alive in Craftsman bungalows across the country. These affordable dwellings, built from pattern books and do-it-yourself kits in the first decades of the 20th century, were based on the broad, sheltering roofs and porches designed by the Greene brothers in response to the California sunshine.
WHAT: “The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene”
WHERE: Renwick Gallery, Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street Northwest
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily; through June 7
WEB SITE: www.americanart.si.edu