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Anonymous Perspective Renderings

The concept that Ellis deliberately shunned professional recognitionis by not signing some of his perspective renderings or by signing them with a pseudonym is another idea that first appeared in the 1960s. It arose as a way of explaining perspective renderings that to an untrained eye resembled Ellis's work but did not bear his usual signature. Rather than accept the simple fact that these renderings were not done by Ellis but by delineators imitating his published work, the concept of anonymity allowed them to be added to the roster of his known signed renderings. The corollary concept of pseudonymous signatures soon followed. That idea allowed renderings signed by other people, such as Albert Levering for example, that looked like Ellis's perspectives to also be identified as his work.
   Because of these misperceptions the idea that Ellis was an elusive genius who deliberately shunned publicity and  credit for his work eventually became the prevailing view. However, the facts of Ellis's biography contradict this characterization. With but very few exceptions, throughout his life Ellis signed his architectural renderings just as he signed his paintings. Put bluntly, he knew exactly how good his perspective renderings were, and with his signature he claimed his place in the world of American architecture. Many other delineators and architects who studied Ellis's published renderings were moved to try to imitate them, and their perspective renderings, both signed and unsigned, also were published. And about half a century later some of them were  misattributed to Ellis. Some of these delineators are now belatedly beginning to emerge from Ellis's shadow as able practitioners in their own right. Simultaneously, the actual verifiable achievement of Ellis has begun to take proper shape. Anonymous and pseudonymous work play no part in it.

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Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis
Beaver's Pond Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2004)
9x12 hard cover, 364 pages, 245 b&w and 45 color illustrations, $70
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© Eileen Manning Michels 2009