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Claude Fayette Bragdon

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Claude Fayette Bragdon

(Oberlin, OH, 1866 - 1946, New York, NY)

Rochester’s Renaissance man, Claude Bragdon, drew his creative inspiration from many disciplines and traditions. His architecture surrounds us in Rochester homes and civic buildings, like the Maplewood YMCA and the First Universalist Church. One of his most significant legacies was “projective ornament,” a modern language of design derived by Bragdon from numbers and geometry abstracted from nature. Bragdon’s intuitive sense of the deep organic connections between design and the natural world was informed by Theosophy, a late-nineteenth-century philosophy that understood the universe to be in a constant state of spiritual evolution and drew on ancient religious writings and mystical traditions. Following the death of his second wife, Eugenie, in 1920, Bragdon moved to New York City where he immersed himself in theater design, color music, and even film. Rochester connections persisted with his sister, May, and friends including Fritz Trautmann and Hildegard and James Sibley Watson. Bragdon often returned to lecture and exhibit his work at the Memorial Art Gallery. In 1963, his good friend and Rochester artist Fritz Trautmann, wrote to Bragdon's son Chandler, “Claude was possessed of a boyish enthusiasm and a sense of wonder that he never outgrew. He felt that he was the agent of some ineffable but perfect intelligence which at propitious moments guided his hand.” [Marjorie Searl, Curator of American Art, 2010]

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