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From Rochester Collections

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Shield for Song and Light Festival

ca. 1915
13 3/8 x 13 3/8 in. (34 x 34 cm)

Claude Fayette Bragdon
United States (Oberlin, OH, 1866 - 1946, New York, NY)

Object Type: Decorative Arts
Medium and Support: Watercolor and ink on paper with glass and lead
Credit Line: Gift of Chandler Bragdon
Accession Number: 1956.91
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Location: Not currently on view

Like philosophers and artists before him, Claude Bragdon sought a sacred geometry of cosmic significance and harmonious design. In his 1915 book Projective Ornament he outlined a modern, universal system of design based on numbers and geometry abstracted from nature. Bragdon’s beliefs in Theosophy influenced his use of the fourth dimension in creating his ornament. He believed in the fourth dimension as a mystical hyperspace that explained some of the mysteries of life and the afterlife. Bragdon based his new ornamental style on a complex system of projecting and manipulating two-dimensional shapes such as squares and triangles into four-dimensional shapes such as tesseracts and pentahedroids.

In September of 1915, Claude Bragdon helped organize the Song and Light Festival, a community-building public singing event held in Highland Park. As Master of Light, Bragdon used projective ornament to design colorful circular glass shields and Japanese-style lanterns that he artfully arranged around the stage. Lit by electricity, Bragdon’s projective ornament designs created an otherworldly outdoor environment likened to a “cathedral without walls.”

Bragdon was intensely absorbed and inspired by this new endeavor in which he could aid progressive social reform using his passion for color, light, drama and modern ornament. The popularity of the Rochester festival soon spread to other cities in the northeast, and Bragdon was involved in staging Song and Light Festivals through 1918.

[Gallery label text, 2010]

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Episodes from an Unwritten History: Claude Bragdon & Fritz Trautmann Brochure accompanying an exhibition at the Memorial Art Gallery from August 13-December 12, 2010.

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