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Work for Henry Hobson Richardson

Ellis's description of the portly Henry Hobson Richardson as a "magnificent big brute", which has been cited many times, was interpreted in the 1960s to mean that Ellis personally knew Richardson, and that led to speculation that Ellis worked for him. Possibly Ellis's words imply an actual personal encounter or acquaintance with or sighting of Richardson; or possibly it was merely parroted hearsay about an importantl figure in American architecture. Whatever the case, this statement, bolstered by several of Ellis's Richardsonian designs, was spoon transformed into the idea that before starting an architectural practice with his brother, Ellis actually worked for Richardson 
   As an alleged employee of Richardson, Ellis supposedly was responsible for the decorative details of two important but troubled civic projects. However, Ellis's alleged but undocumented initial architectural study with Arthur Gilman, best known for Second Empire designs, would have had little or no relevance to Richardson's practice of the late 1870s. It is unlikely that Richardson, then at the forefront of the American architectural profession, would have hired an inexperienced Ellis when he had the pick of the crop of young men trained in the new academic architectural program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who were eager to work for him. Ellis himself never claimed that he had worked for Richardson, nor is there any mention of Ellis in Richardson's office memorabilia. Ellis's architectural designs, like those of so many other American architects, ultimately reflected Richardson's forms and details. But that was later; at the time of the alleged work in Richardson's office, Ellis viewed himself primarily as a painter, not an architect.

....find details in Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis

....look for forthcoming posts

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