Date of Degree
Rosemarie Haag Bletter
Richard Guy Wilson
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
The work of the New York City-based architect Edward Durell Stone (1902-1978) has been subject to ongoing critical controversy. Stone achieved phenomenal success, beginning in the 1950s as an architect in the period of the Cold War, with buildings on four continents, in thirteen foreign countries, and in thirty-two states. But an examination of his stylistic progression reveals that Stone increasingly fell out of critical favor as he shifted modernism from the International Style to a more "romantic" modern aesthetic that incorporated decoration along with aspects of monumentality, regionalism, historicism, and fantasy—a progression that can be traced in six of his high profile projects: the Richard H. Mandel house in Bedford Hills, New York (1933-1935); a model house for Collier's magazine (1936); the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (1935-1939); the United States Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle et Internationale Bruxelles (1956-1958); the American Embassy complex in New Delhi, India (1953-1965); and the Gallery of Modern Art in New York City (1956-1964). And yet, middle-class consumers responded positively to Stone's architecture, reflecting the larger problematic of a crisis of taste in America, exemplified by the extended arguments between the popular writer Tom Wolfe, who praised Stone as an apostate for daring to break free from the constraints of doctrinaire modernism, and Stone's most outspoken adversary, Ada Louise Huxtable of the New York Times, who panned his work as "kitsch," a criticism that still endures but not necessarily with a full understanding of its connotations. Through kitsch, it can be argued, Stone was able to democratize taste by cracking the barrier between the high art of the avant-garde and the emerging middle-class culture. Much of Stone's legacy as a celebrity architect is due to the influence of his second wife, Maria, who helped to shape his public image as she managed his publicity at the apex of his career in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this period—when mass communication systems were growing at an unprecedented rate—Stone especially used to his advantage print and television to achieve worldwide fame, which lasted as long as his aesthetic was contemporary with the mass culture it represented.
Hunting, Mary Anne, "Edward Durell Stone: Perception and Criticism" (2007). CUNY Academic Works.