When I attended a conference last week at the Toledo Museum of Art, I took a brief walk through the exhibit halls during one of the afternoon breaks.
At the end of one hall, a pair of doors caught my attention.
From afar, it looked like a story was being told in the panels. I had to look closer!
The doors seemed to be made of bronze, or some other metal, and showed beautiful figures in silhouette. Each of the six panels told a story of designing and creating.
Since the afternoon sun shone through the double doors, there was a lot of backlighting on the doors. (Not one of my better shots!)
I couldn’t gain access to the room and instead spent time admiring the exquisite workmanship of the panels.
“These doors are stunning. Do you know the backstory of the doors,” I asked a nearby museum docent. No, he replied.
One of the museum development staff saw me standing outside their door and came out to chat with me.
“Wish I knew something about the doors,” she said. “You’re not the first person to ask. We have a lot of museum visitors come by and ask about their history.”
I was disappointed, wondering how I could find out more about the doors.
On my way to the conference room, I saw Amanda Gantchev, one of the other attendees at the conference. I told her about the doors, and how I wished I could learn more. We sat down for the rest of the afternoon sessions.
The Next Day
I didn’t think of the doors the next morning, I was busy catching up on email messages and web project work.
And then I saw the email message from Amanda.
What a lovely surprise! Amanda sent me background about the doors!
She contacted Alison Huftalen, the head librarian at the Toledo Art Museum, who shared some of the backstory about the doors. Here’s what Alison said:
The bronze doors were designed by Oscar B. Bach, of Bach Products, Inc.
They were created for the Museum in 1925 and were awarded the Gold Medal of Honor in Design and Craftsmanship by the Architectural League of New York in 1926.
They were originally located in the Monroe Street Lobby at the entrance to the stairway to the Ground Floor and were relocated to the Terrace Room, outside of the café and Development in 1982.
I knew there had to be a story about those wonderful doors. Thanks, Amanda!
Once I knew who the artist was, I did some of my own research about Oscar Bach.
Oscar Bach, Decorative Metal Artist and Consultant
A prominent decorative metalworker in the early and mid-twentieth century, Oscar Bach was born in Germany in 1884.
He studied painting at the Royal Academy in Berlin and also began a four-year apprenticeship in metallic art in his teen years.
At the age of 20, Bach was commissioned to design the metalwork for the City Hall in Berlin, Germany. Can you imagine?
In his twenties, he traveled throughout Europe and North America, and had a studio in Venice, Italy.
Bach moved to New York City in 1911. He opened a metalwork business with his brother Max, and had his first U.S. commission in 1913.
Ranging from small modest decorative pieces to large architectural work, Bach’s work encompassed a number of styles, including Arts & Crafts, Gothic, Renaissance, and modern Art Deco.
In addition to using a number of styles, Bach’s designs were fabricated in a diverse range of materials: bronze, iron, steel, aluminum, silver, or copper.
His work was seen throughout New York City, at the Architectural League of New York, the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center. One of his most well-known works is his large stainless steel mural installed in the Empire State Building lobby.
Bach exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art frequently. His work was also seen at international exhibitions; he won the grand prize at the 1911 World’s Exposition in Turin, Italy for beds he designed for Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II.
From what I read, Bach was commissioned by several companies and churches across the United States for metalwork design.
And there’s several local Michigan connections! Bach created the wrought iron gates at Cranbrook Art School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1928) as well as the interior gates and chandelier in the First National Bank building in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1927).
In 1942, Bach began a career as a metallist consultant for industrial firms, including Oneida, American Radiator Company, Tappan Stove Company, and others.
He died in 1957 at the age of 72.