The Hardwood Floor in Art
From time to time we feature blogs about hardwood flooring and art.
In this post we’ll travel back in time to 1875, check out mountains of floor (literally), and drool over some 90-year-old museum flooring made of tropical hardwood.
The Floor Planers
In 1875 in Paris, most artists created paintings that showcased the upper echelon of society, the elite. It certainly was not vogue to paint the working class, but that is exactly what former solider and attorney-turned-painter Gustave Caillebotte did.
Up to this time, some artists did use the working class as subjects, and typically did so by depicting farmers or peasants. Few had tackled the lives of urban workers.
Caillebotte’s painting, The Floor Planers, is important because it is one of the first to feature the urban working class. In the painting three shirtless, muscular workers labor hunched and plane the wood floor in a group effort. An open bottle of wine sits near them, and a nondescript pile of clothes rest in the back corner.
Caillebotte presented this realistic portrayal of working life at an art competition, the 1875 Salon, but the jury was apparently not impressed. They were likely surprised by its subject matter (at the time shirtless urban workers perceived as too vulgar or too accurate of real life) and thus rejected it. Yet, only a year later, some critics disagreed when the painting was praised and exhibited with the likes of Edgar Degas.
Trained as an engineer, Caillebotte’s style was precise, providing a depiction not unlike an old photograph. In this painting he was interested in portraying a snapshot into the lives of workers improving a wood floor. And we certainly appreciate that.
The Floor Planers is located at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. If you don’t have travel plans to the City of Lights in the near future, the painting can also be viewed online at the museum’s website.
Mountains of Floor
A work of art doesn’t necessarily mean canvas, gesso, and oil paints. It can certainly be created from, you might have guessed it, wood flooring.
Born in Tennessee, now Brooklyn-based artist, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels has taken wood flooring to another level—a mountainous one.
In a previous post we discussed Plankology and how wood engineered flooring is created. In her own way, Fels re-engineers flooring to her own artistic ends. With floor planks, shims, and plaster, she wants us to consider houses, rooms, and architecture. We like that.
In her current installation, Beauty Surplus, Fels has transformed a historic home (the John Michael Kohler House in Sheboygan, Wisconsin) into an intriguing artistic creation to challenge us in how we view wood, spaces, architecture, environments.
Real Wood Floors is headquartered in the mountainous Ozarks (well, what we call mountains around here), so we see mountains in Fels’ work and appreciate the challenge to consider anew how we look at our environment.
If Sheboygan is not this summer’s vacation destination, you can also take a virtual tour with them. We did it and found it quite fun.
A Hardwood-Flooring Lover’s Dream
The gorgeous hardwood floor in the John and Mable Ringling Museum of art has been underfoot art appreciators since the 1920s.
In the museum’s Gallery 2 resides the Rubens’ Triumph of the Eucharist series. Some might consider the floor as breathtaking as the art. However, in time and with so many visitors, the floor needed an overhaul, and thankfully received one in 2019.
We find many characteristics of this floor to be awe-inspiring.
To begin with, the hardwood is Manilkara, a stunning Brazilian redwood. The intricacy of the cut planks is just dazzling. The presentation is delightful, a herringbone pattern, that includes a parquet of maple and oak for its border. This is a floor that belongs in a museum.
We are so thankful that the museum curators and the wood conservators took the time to save this floor. We believe, with a little TLC, a wood floor can last a lifetime.
We hope you have enjoyed this journey into the art of hardwood flooring. We like to think it’s no coincidence that Caillebotte presented The Floor Planers for the first time in 1875. To view our collection, with a nod to the historic, check out our 1875 Collection. If you were inspired by this article to take better care of your wood floor, please check out our Real Clean products we created to help you maintain a floor for a lifetime, and maybe more.
Posted on May 28, 2020
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