After publishing three books on masterworks by his great-grandfather, Samuel G. White is zeroing in on the finer points of his work.
“Stanford White in Detail” focuses on ornament and interiors that the partner in McKim, Mead & White dispatched with unmatched elegance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“I’ve never found an architect who could scoop up the ice cream and never lose the message like him,” the author says. “That was his greatness.”
White was practicing during the Gilded Age in New York – and defining what that city was to become. “You might say he was a creature of the moment, but that he also created that moment,” he says.
He employed elements for long-range solutions – with an explosion of energy from European cultures, post-Civil war prosperity, rapid urbanization of cities and the elite class. “Stanford White was an expression of all that in architecture and decorative terms,” he says.
White defined his city with unmatched vision. “Before him, New York was not that beautiful, and what came after him not as charged as his work was,” he says.
The new, 206-page book is composed mostly of full-page color plates and a minimum of prose to introduce its seven sections. Lavish photography by Jonathan Wallen takes the reader through the Villard Houses on Madison Avenue, the Payne Whitney House on Fifth Avenue, and the Library of the Veterans Rooms at the Park Avenue Armory, among others.
“New York was on its way to becoming the center of the universe, with pieces in place like becoming a commercial banking center and a global transportation center, and creating a class of extremely wealthy individuals that had everything – except breeding and background,” he says. “They needed a physical manifestation of their accomplishments.”
If White was able to give that to them, he didn’t hold back at Box Hall, his own summer house on Long Island. And here, Wallen’s images of his home – unpublished before now – are a singular visual treat.
“We wanted to include the detail shots, to add some flavoring and spice to the buildings and rooms,” White says of the entire book.
Sumptuous – and to some degree astonishing – it’ll be a welcome addition to any aficionado’s bookshelf.
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