Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton: Mosaic Mavericks, 1934-1963 with Wendy Good
Friday, May 15, 2019
This historical presentation celebrates the accomplishments of the Bruton sisters, who played a pivotal role in the modern mosaic revival of the 1930s. They became master mosaicists and elevated the art form during the first half of the twentieth century. The three Bruton sisters—Margaret, Esther, and Helen—were artists active in California from the 1920s through the 1960s. They began their experimentation with mosaic in the WPA projects of the 1930s. During the Depression, it was impossible to procure the Venetian smalti tile traditionally used in mosaics; the Brutons improvised by scavenging a San Jose terra cotta tile factory to procure their raw materials. Many of their works are fashioned from broken pieces and seconds that the factory couldn’t sell.
The Brutons were incredibly innovative and prolific artists. Over the decades they created dramatic large-scale mosaics on college campuses, elementary schools, hotels, commercial buildings, churches, cruise ships, the San Francisco Zoo, and a military monument in the Philippines. In the 1950s, the Brutons’ art took on a distinctly mid-century modern flair. Their designs began to incorporate sleek wooden panels inlaid with glass, abalone shells, and even bone. Margaret Bruton became especially accomplished in the art of terrazzo; she created hundreds of abstract terrazzo tabletops that appeared in hotels and private residences across the country. These mid-century modern masterpieces are highly desired by collectors today. The goal of this presentation is to inspire and educate attendees by making them aware of these accomplished and groundbreaking women mosaicists.
This highly visual PowerPoint presentation will include biographical information about the artists, images of them and their numerous works in mosaic and terrazzo, a description of their artistic process, and an evaluation of how their work evolved over the decades from the 1930s through the 1960s. The presentation is historical, educational, and informational. It will not have a hands-on component, but there will be time for Q&A.
Wendy Van Wyck Good is a reference librarian and archivist from the Monterey, California, area. She has a Master’s in Library Science from Drexel University and a Masters in English from the University of Delaware. Recognized as the foremost expert on the Bruton sisters, she writes the only blog devoted exclusively to the Brutons and their art (BrutonSisters.com). Her book, Sisters in Art: Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton, will be published in the fall of 2020.