Sforzina: Designs for a Modern America
Two years before the opening of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, often cited as the origin of the Art Deco movement, the roots of French Art Deco were planted in the United States. French architect and interior designer Edgard Sforzina emigrated to the United States in February 1923.
In his short but prolific career in America, Sforzina designed George Gershwin’s Art Deco Riverside Drive apartment, interiors for parts of Cincinnati Union Terminal, and numerous private residences and store interiors.
Working with Sforzina’s granddaughter, Denise Ellison Allen, the Art Deco Society of Washington, catalogued and archived hundreds of original designs and prototypes created by Sforzina and organized the first retrospective of his work. “Sforzina: Designs for a Modern America, 1924-1941” will open the weekend of April 30th and May 1st during the 39th annual Washington DC Modernism Show.
The Show and Exhibition will be held at the landmark George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The Exhibition will continue at the Memorial through July 9th.
Admission to the exhibition is free, but requires purchase of either admission to the Modernism Show between April 30 and May 1 or purchase of a tour of the Memorial between May 2nd and July 9th. The Memorial is now open three days a week -- Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tours are available at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., & 3:30 p.m. The guided tour is one hour in length. Advance reservations for the tours are available .
The Exhibition displays the breadth of Sforzina’s work,
• As an artist Sforzina created dozens of graphic designs for use on textiles and other products. Examples of his graphic designs include fabric designs created for Cincinnati Union Terminal.
• As an artisan Sforzina designed and built custom furniture, lamps, and other household items.. The exhibition displays some of his prototypes.
• As an industrial designer Sforzina created designs for individual items such as barware, clocks, lamps, and furniture as well as designs for coordinated groups of furniture including bedroom, living room, and dining room sets. The exhibition includes examples of many of his designs.
• As an interior designer, Sforzina created and executed coordinated designs for individual homes and commercial environments. The exhibition identifies many of Sforzina’s residential and commercial clients, including period advertisements and reviews.
• As an architect, Sforzina created portfolios of designs of modern houses and developed proposals for construction of a new headquarters for the Columbia Broadcasting System and for remodeling the Cloud Club in the Chrysler Building. The exhibition includes examples of Sforzina’s architectural designs.
About Edgard Sforzina
Edgard Desire Sforzina was born and raised in Paris, graduating from the L’Ecole des Decorative Arts about 1901. Following his graduation, Sforzina worked as a designer for Carthian & Beaumetz, primarily for the famed Art dealer Joseph Duveen of London.
Sforzina’s career was interrupted by military service during World War I. Following the war he joined the Parisian firm Lucien Alavoine & Company, one of the world’s leading interior design firms. Alavoine subsequently assigned Sforzina to its Fifth Avenue office in New York City. He arrived in New York November 17, 1922. Sforzina briefly returned to Paris to bring his wife and infant daughter to their new home in America.
Sforzina initially continued his work for Alavoine, but by the late 1920s, had established his own design firm, dropping the “S” from his name to form Forzina, Inc. He was also employed by the architectural firm Fellheimer & Wagner to work on the interior design of Cincinnati Union Terminal.
Among work commissioned in New York was Fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie’s shop and personal residences for ,
• Architect Alfred Fellheimer
• Industrialist and philanthropist F. Lewisohn, and
• Composer George Gershwin
Although Sforzina’s roots were firmly planted in Manhattan, commercial projects soon sprouted in such cities as Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, and Cincinnati. Sforzina designed
• Slattery’s Millinery shop, described in a 1928 advertisement as Boston’s first salon in “L’art Moderne”
• The “Salon Moderne” in Hutzler Brothers department store in Baltimore, opened in 1928.
• A ticket booth in an unidentified building in Chicago. • The stationmaster’s office and conference room in Cincinnati Union Terminal.
Sforzina was among the designers featured in a 1929 exhibition of the new modernistic style held at the American Designers Gallery in New York. Author Mary Fenton Roberts noted that “In the main room… there was a fine display of decorative fittings for use in a Modernistic room. And these included … table silverware by Ilonka Karasz, photographs by Steichen, furniture by Edgard S. Forzina as well as Paul T. Frankl, and many other things that would be essential in the home of anyone wishing a Modernistic interior.” Arts & Decoration, February 1929