A Collection of Drawings from the Casa Archive
During his lifetime, George Fox Steedman pursued many activities and interests. To some, he was considered a modern day Renaissance man. His background in engineering served him well as he developed projects and worked on inventions, resulting in more than 40 patents.
At Casa del Herrero, he spent many hours in his workshop pursuing silversmithing, woodworking, and machine tooling. “I am afflicted (or blessed?) with an incurable heart disease, which, if I take life easy, will probably permit me to live to a ripe and happy old age…my life work of engineering, machinery, and the like gave me a training that now permits me to spend many happy hours each day as a sedentary silversmith – a very happy and contented life…after plenty of hard work and activity in my younger days.”
Mr. Steedman conducted detailed research and kept meticulous records for many of his pursuits. Often, drawings and sketches would accompany these items. Additionally, he filed correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera in neatly organized folders in his workshop office filing cabinets. Today, Mr. Steedman’s world remains alive through the papers he left behind.
The images in this exhibition represent drawings and sketches by Mr. Steedman’s hand. It is the hope that they will inspire creativity and ingenuity in the viewer, allowing further creative pursuits to take shape and soar.
Mr. Steedman was involved in all aspects of the development of Casa del Herrero. Working with George Washington Smith, Mr. Steedman looked specifically to Spain (areas such as Toledo, Seville, and Granada) for inspiration. Many of these observations served as prototypes for the architectural design and garden details at the estate.
Castings and Inventions
As an engineer, Mr. Steedman was interested in finding solutions to challenges whether structural or creative. He studied the lost-wax casting process, which he used to make sculptures such as the lion finials decorating the Casa’s loggia staircase. His drawings show an intellectual curiosity in the understanding of the process and creation of inventions and objects to be used at the estate.
George Fox Steedman was captivated by centaur imagery because he felt the first part of his last name “steed” (or high-spirited horse) and the last part of his last name “man” in combination lent itself nicely to the representation of this mythical creature. Centaur imagery appears throughout the house and was a reoccurring theme in Mr. Steedman’s personal drawings.
Drawn absentmindedly or with artistic intent, doodles are an interesting look into the mind of the person creating them. The Casa is fortunate to have a few drawings of this nature, which show Mr. Steedman’s preoccupation with design and “branding” of the family name.
In May and June of 1923, George Fox Steedman took a trip to Spain as part of the planning process for the design and decoration of Casa del Herrero. Traveling with Louis La Beaume, an architect friend from St. Louis, he visited Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, and Lisbon before heading to Andalusia where he stayed in Seville and Granada. Mr. Steedman detailed the trip in notebooks, writing down comments and making sketches of interesting furniture and architectural details. Expatriate American antiquarians Arthur Byne and Mildred Stapley served as guides and counselors for Mr. Steedman’s purchases, which were interspersed with visits to significant landmarks and private collections.
Sculpture and Figure Studies
Mr. Steedman had a keen eye for detail, which is evident in his sculpture and figure studies. The solid figural lines provide weight while the delicate shading brings both expression and life to the images.
George Fox Steedman became interested in silver around 1923 after purchasing a catalogue for a silver exhibition held in London in 1902. Two years later, in 1925, he began conducting meticulous research on the availability and pricing for silver sheets and bars so that he could begin mastering the art of silversmithing.
After serving a brief apprenticeship with the renowned Boston silversmith, George Gebelein, Mr. Steedman later returned to Casa del Herrero where he completed silver projects in his workshop. He produced beautiful works including goblets, dinnerware, and vases. He often made gifts for his family for birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays, each one individualized for the recipient with stamped markings and dates denoting the occasion.
Mr. Steedman often looked toward medieval designs in the creation of imagery for his silver pieces and numerous other design projects. He drew many examples of figures and decorative details as inspiration to inform his own design sensibilities.
After reading an article in Sunset Magazine titled “Why Don’t You Build a Sundial for Your Sunset Garden?” in June 1933, Mr. Steedman was inspired, and created a birdhouse sundial, which today remains an iconic item in Casa del Herrero’s south garden.
In typical Steedman style, the creation process was meticulous, with each section of the sundial drawn multiple times until he was satisfied with the final product. The research for the placement of each section was extensive to ensure that the time would display correctly. Today, that research continues to pay off as more than 80 years later the sundial still marks the correct time.