(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) Eric Barnett spent hours planning delivery of some unique pieces by the late renowned architect Louis H. Sullivan. Eight of Sullivan’s architectural ornaments are currently on display at Northwestern University, on loan from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
SIUE’s loaned items are featured in the exhibition, Design in the Age of Darwin: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern. Barnett, director of The University Museum at SIUE, said the University frequently loans items from its extensive collections to museums nationally and internationally.
But the Northwestern catalogue features a close up of one of the Sullivan items from SIUE. “We have loaned Sullivan objects to other museums on several occasions over the years, but this is the first time that the Rubel terra cotta piece has gone out because it is unique,” he said. The terra cotta piece on the cover of the Northwestern catalogue is an original Sullivan work that has been on display on the second floor of SIUE’s Lovejoy Library. “Sullivan had the craftsmen go through the process of sculpting, molding and casting this as a single piece—a 'one-off' as they would say—for the Ruben Rubel residence, formerly in Chicago.”
In addition to the Sullivan pieces from SIUE, the catalogue lists various pieces from other artists featured in the gallery at Northwestern. SIUE’s items have been featured in cities including St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington D.C. Some works have been displayed internationally, such as The Walking Man by French sculpture Auguste Rodin which was shown in the National Gallery of Art in Canada, Barnett said. “I took all these pieces to Northwestern myself along with a graduate assistant,” Barnett said of the Sullivan works. “To ship them commercially it would have more than doubled the weight of the shipment.”
The exhibit on display at Northwestern will be shown until Aug. 24. Barnett said he then will drive back to Northwestern to pick up the items on loan. He supervised the loading, transportation and unloading and will again witness the reloading, transportation and reinstallation of the items on the SIUE campus. Some of the pieces are irreplaceable, Barnett said, adding, “Safety is a paramount concern for us.”
While many times architectural ornaments will be produced in large quantities and made available to builders, Sullivan meticulously crafted his terra cotta creations for a one-of-a-kind result. Architects like Sullivan, Barnett said, “created whole new designs exclusive to their buildings.”