PROPERTY OF A PRAIRIE SCHOOL COLLECTOR
Jennifer Komar Oliverez, Progressive Design in the Midwest: The Purcell-Cutts House and the Prairie School Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 2000, pp. 108-137 (for a detailed discussion on the architects)
David Gebhard, Purcell & Elmslie: Prairie Progressive Architects, Salt Lake City, UT, 2006, pp. 122-125 (for a detailed discussion on the architects)
A Prairie School Masterwork
This stunning window, from an architecturally important "jewel box" bank, offers museums and collectors a rare opportunity to acquire a major window from the Prairie School Movement. It is one of six surviving clerestory windows from the main banking hall of the Madison State Bank (demolished, 1968) in Madison, Minnesota.
In the period 1910 through 1921, the architectural practice generally known as Purcell & Elmslie received more commissions than any other firm, including Frank Lloyd Wright's office. George Grant Elmslie had served for 20 years as a principal designer in Louis Sullivan's architectural practice, where he met William Gray Purcell. Purcell & Elmslie's most important designs were institutional commissions. Three of these buildings rank among the most important Prairie School architecture: Merchants National Bank, Winona, Minnesota (1912); Madison State Bank, Madison, Minnesota (1913); and Woodbury County Court House, Sioux City, Iowa (1915-6).
The most distinctive feature of the imposing exterior of the Madison State Bank was the set of nine clerestory windows above its front entrance. Natural light, transmitted through these windows and a large skylight (surviving elements of which are at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), played an essential role in illuminating the main banking room. These windows varied in their details, most notably the location and design of a complex section near the bottom of each window. The geometric motif of the window was carried through in other elements of the building, including the light standards in the main bank room. Three of the nine clerestory windows were destroyed when the building was demolished.
Most of the significant windows from other institutional commissions designed by Purcell and Elmslie remain installed in their original structures, including the Merchants Bank of Winona and Woodbury County Court House. These windows are generally very large and could not practically be installed outside of their original context. Windows from residences designed by Purcell and Elmslie are generally much simpler in design, consisting primarily of clear glass.
One of the five other surviving clerestory windows is in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum; another is in the collection of the Newark Museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a set of three windows designed by Elmslie for the J. G. Cross House, 1911. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts holds over a dozen windows designed by Purcell and Elmslie.
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