One of the pioneer delineators of this country, Mr. Hughson Hawley, was one of the most “popular” the profession has produced. Today his work looks mid-Victorian but with all its faults, measured by later standards, it still had a popular appeal that the most beautiful “architectural” drawing lacks.His buildings were of brick and stone, not white paper and India ink; his skies were blue with real clouds in them,which cast cloud shadows in a fascinating way across even the most monotonous of facades. His streets were full of people who were doing something, not just figures, gaitered and caned, obligingly standing still to give scale to the building.
-Kenneth Clark, Pencil Points, January 1926
This vivid and succinct description of Hughson Hawley’s charm as an architectural renderer was written near the end of his long and productive career. Clark characterizes his own period as an “age of great architectural renderers,” but says that the modern renderer expresses the architect’s point of view, and in doing so, may fail to translate architectural ideas into a form that the layman can grasp. Of necessity, the architect must make detailed technical drawings, almost always line drawings, if others are to construct an actual building from the ideas that are put down on paper. On the other hand, if the resources are to be secured with which to construct the building, the architect must convince the client to spend money, hence the reason for many architectural renderings. As John Floyd Yewell, a popular renderer in the first half of the twentieth century, wrote:
Plan and elevation alone may suffice to convey to the trained and experienced eye a clear conception of an architectural project but for most individuals a three dimensional representation, such as a good perspective, is necessary . . . As long as there are clients, this need will exist.
That was Hawley’s genius. Active from 1880 until 1931, Hughson Hawley was a bright star in an age of highly talented illustrators and renderers. By his own account, he finished a prodigious 11,000 drawings over the course of his 50 year career—a career that spanned one of the great eras in American architecture, from the construction of the first tall buildings in New York City until the onset of the Great Depression. It was a period that saw the establishment of the profession of architecture and of schools of architecture in the United States, developments that brought many changes to the business of architecture. Furthermore, the introduction of photography in the nineteenth century revolutionized the mechanical reproduction of artwork for magazines, books, and newspapers, laying the groundwork for the ubiquity of visual imagery in late twentieth century life.
Much of Hughson Hawley’s biographical information comes from an article about him published in Pencil Points in 1928, when the artist was 78 years old.4 Triumphing over early adversity, Hawley’s life was one of long periods of hard work and strenuous play. Born in England in 1850, he married at the age of 16, had two sons by age 18, and soon thereafter, a daughter as well. In order to support his young family, Hawley tried scene painting, first in Liverpool with some success and then for a theater in Exeter, where he was an astounding failure. Instead of taking the advice of a supervisor and hanging up his brush, Hawley began to study in earnest, drawing constantly and working from nature. He made such a turnaround that by 1874, he moved to London to paint scenery for Christmas pantomimes at Covent Garden. Then, in 1879, Hawley received an offer from an American theatrical producer to paint scenery for the Madison Square Theatre in New York City. He arrived in September and by the following year had established himself solidly enough to enable his family to join him in New York from England. On the advice of Thomas Wisedell, one of the architects of the Madison Square Theatre, Hawley decided to try the profession of architectural rendering.
In 1880, he rented his own studio, printed and distributed business cards, and by Monday of the following week, accepted the first of his 11,000 commissions. By the end of his career a half-century later, Hawley had worked for architects all over this country and internationally as far away as Japan.
In addition to his work as an architectural renderer, Hawley published illustrations in Harper’s Weekly and the Century, among other New York City based magazines, and exhibited as an independent artist. He was a regular participant at the annual exhibition of the Architectural League of New York, which began in 1886. His success is evident in the prices requested for his drawings done for commercial sale. In 1890, his drawing of Rouen Cathedral was listed for sale at $650, a substantial sum of money at that time. In the same exhibition, a drawing by John LaFarge was for sale at $450 and a mural painting by Kenyon Cox at $2,000, while drawings by lesser-known artists were tagged at $50 and $75. Clearly Hawley was ranked in the top level of artists in late nineteenth century New York.
As was typical of that time, Hawley performed different functions depending on the type of commission he received. For his work as an illustrator, he was responsible for the entire design and execution. In the beginning of his architectural career, Hawley learned how to create a perspective drawing of a building from a plan, a time consuming task, but decided after two years to have architect clients submit a perspective drawing in pencil to him. In cases of architects ordering from a great distance where a drawing on paper might be damaged in transit, Hawley sub-contracted that task to an associate, Emil Lowenstein. In one of the few documents of Hawley’s career, he wrote to John Duncan, architect of Grant’s Tomb, that he charged by the hour and if he could have the size of drawing for the project in question, he could give Duncan an estimate for coloring the perspective.
New York in the 1880s witnessed the beginning of the skyscraper era as land values transformed the limited area of lower Manhattan into increasingly expensive real estate and the technological innovation of steel frame construction made tall buildings economically feasible. These developments were critical in transforming the city from a small-scale harbor port into the bustling, densely packed metropolis of the future that we know today. William Starrett, president of the Starrett Brothers Construction Company, which built many of these new buildings, wrote in 1928 that:
The skyscraper is the most distinctively American thing in the world. It is all American and all ours in its conception, all important in our metropolitan life; and it has been conceived, developed and established all within the lifetime of men who are, in many cases, still active in the great calling. . . . For the skyscraper, to be a skyscraper, must be constructed on a skeleton frame, now almost universally of steel, but with the signal characteristic of having columns in the outside walls, thus rendering the exterior we see simply a continuous curtain of masonry penetrated by windows—we call it a curtain wall . . . . We use these skyscrapers and accept them as a matter of course, yet as each new one rears its head, towering among its neighbors, our sense of pride and appreciation is quickened anew, and the metropolis, large or small, wherein it is built, takes it as its very own, and uncomplainingly endures the rattle and roar of its riveting hammers, and the noises and the inconvenience of traffic which it brings. And this is because we recognize it as another of our distinctive triumphs, another token of our solid and material growth.
Hawley’s clients were the architects of many of these new buildings, some of which still stand as familiar landmarks on the skyline and others of which have now been demolished to make way for much taller buildings. George B. Post and R. H. Robertson, two of the leading commercial architects of the day, were among the first architects to engage Hawley’s services. Post’s Cotton Exchange (plate 5), now demolished, was one of Hawley’s first renderings. The building appears, as built, in the background of Hawley’s later rendering for Francis H. Kimball’s entry in the U.S. Custom House competition (plate 19). Bruce Price, Clinton and Russell, McKim, Mead & White, William Schickel, J. C. Cady, Cass Gilbert, and Ernest Flagg, among many other architects, commissioned numerous drawings from Hawley throughout their careers. In an era when competitions were a popular way of soliciting designs for new projects, the 1928 Pencil Points article reports that Hawley was often the renderer for entries by different architects in the same competition and states his rate of success in winning competitions as an astonishing 75 percent!
What made Hawley such a popular and successful renderer for this period? From the vantage point of the end of the twentieth century, Hawley’s vision of New York City at the beginning of the era of the skyscraper and great urban development is full of the confidence and prosperity described in William Starrett’s account of building construction at the time, and none of the gritty urban reality. Hawley’s training as a scenic artist probably stood him in good stead for rendering large-scale drawings of increasingly taller buildings. Before the advent of the elevator, buildings were rarely more than three or four stories high, and architectural drawings were on a correspondingly smaller scale. In building a commercial structure of substantial height, it stands to reason that the client would want an image imposing enough to convey the architectural beauty, solidity, and character of his investment. Hawley, having painted theatrical scenery, would have been comfortable working in such a scale and coloring a large area with consistent shade, shadow, and tone. Additionally, his background had familiarized him with a long tradition of nineteenth century English architects who employed perspective artists to render large and detailed pictures of their buildings. Both these traditions are seen in Hawley’s work; indeed, many of his largest architectural works can easily be imagined as the urban back-drop for a theatrical production.
What makes Hawley’s entrance onto the late nineteenth century American architectural scene even more interesting is the role that drawing had played in previous generations. Counter to the prevalence of imagery in modern life, there was no widespread accessibility to books or illustrations in the architectural world. Architects of the early nineteenth century were protective of their individual work because, before the advent of copyright, ideas could be openly copied and presented as one’s own.12 Some architects were adamantly opposed to the publication of their work and when pressed to do so, submitted small-scale perspectives that would make it difficult for a rival to steal down to the details. Public architectural libraries were non-existent, and rare was the architect who shared the books from his personal library with a fellow architect or student. Paper in that era was a very expensive commodity, not to be wasted, and books and journals not commonly acquired. Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892), one of the best known American architects of the period, often produced his elaborate watercolors on paper that had other drawings on the verso.13 By mid-century, cheap methods of making paper were discovered. After the Civil War, there was a boom in the establishment of periodicals, as changes in postal rates and the new railroad system made national distribution of periodicals an attractive venture. Architects gradually became convinced that the publication of their works would attract more clients than plagiarists. Hawley’s large-scale works can thus be seen as an instrument of the new architect, ready to compete for his commissions and confident in his professional standing.
Critical reaction to Hawley’s work can be traced through the architectural journals of the period. The Pencil Points biography, written at the end of his career, is understandably laudatory. That journal was founded in 1920 to support the art and profession of architectural rendering, and Hawley was a hero from the early days of the practice. In fact, Hawley’s arrival in the United States in 1879 had coincided with the increasing professionalization of architecture. The first journal devoted to architecture, the American Architect and Building News (hereafter referred to as the AABN), had just begun publication in Boston on January 1, 1876. Journals at this time were illustrated with reproductions of drawings or other artwork usually in the form of a wood engraving. Although architects were at first reluctant to use journals to present their works, the advent of the AABN created a demand for architectural illustration such that the early subscribers wrote asking for more drawings, as they never read the text.14 With the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opening the first school of architecture in the United States in 1868, and with the Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson the leading figure in American architecture, Boston sent out architectural news and gossip to the rest of the country through this vehicle.15 As the century progressed, however, New York emerged as an equally strong architectural center, and competition between the two cities can be noted on the pages of the AABN. Eventually, in 1907, the publication moved its editorial offices to New York. The early architectural renderers in the AABN were either architects or illustrators. Chief among these renderers was E. Eldon Deane, whose work in the magazine is almost exclusively in ink line drawings. Many of the staff draftsmen imitated his style, to such an extent that there almost appears to be a house style for the journal.16
In addition to reporting on architectural projects, the AABN chronicled the exhibitions, sketch clubs, meetings, issues, and general comings-and-goings of architects. Both Boston and New York had very active communities, and Hawley was a well-known figure in both spheres. In 1886, a reviewer began his description of the Boston Exhibition of Architectural Drawings with the following statements in which the flavor of the AABN can be enjoyed:
The example set by the New York Architects has already been followed by their brethren in Boston, who have had enterprise enough to offer to the public an exhibition containing nothing but architectural drawings, and notwithstanding the absence of other attractions, the collection is as pretty and interesting, even to the unprofessional visitor, as one often finds anywhere, . . . Taken as a whole, the appearance of the Boston collection as hung upon the walls, is superior to that of the similar exhibition in New York. There are fewer of the great, heavily-colored competition perspectives, and fewer, also, in proportion to other kinds, of black-and-white work; so that the general effect is one of delicate color, sepia, brown ink; tinted paper and sketchy washes giving the prevailing tone, upon which an occasional black-and-white sketch, or a drawing in full color, count like the high lights and deep shadows of a well-balanced picture, instead of fighting for supremacy with each other.17
While Hawley undoubtedly would have been the artist of some of the “heavily-colored competition perspectives,” this critic writes with appreciation of several unusually good watercolors. He notes two renderings of houses:
. . . both colored by Mr. Hughson Hawley, in his very best style. Mr. Hawley always seems, at first sight, to be a little over-fond of forcing the color of his buildings, or rather, we should say, of giving them a sombre aspect; but a more careful examination shows that this is done with a legitimate purpose, for heightening the beauty and transparency of his skies. Most beautiful and transparent they are, too, and if we cannot avoid the reflection that the architecture is a little sacrificed to them, we can still find instruction in noticing the skill with which, by the superposition of a dark chimney or finial, he transmutes a colored wash into the glow of a sunset sky, or fills his distance by the subtle application of a strongly profiled outline, with air and sunshine.
Reaction to Hawley’s work by different critics varies according to the writer’s point of view, although the description of his work is consistent. Another admirer wrote of the First Annual Exhibition of the Department of Architecture of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1892 that there are a number of beautiful renderings by Hawley who “gets even more glory than do the architects themselves.”
But not all critics were enamored of this style of presenting architecture in rendering, and in some reviews mentioning Hawley’s works, it is difficult to tell whether the writer is critical of the architect, the renderer, or both. In a review from the AABN of the designs for the competition of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in the Architectural League of New York exhibition, the reviewer noted the entry by J. C. Cady as:
. . . a plan with a dome in a Romanesque, or perhaps better, an indeterminate style, covered with row upon row of interlacing arcades, which are rather monotonous applied as decoration to so large a surface, and, when they come to be bent over on their backs in the upper portions of the dome, are positively disagreeable to the architectural instinct. [This rendering by Hughson Hawley] . . . forms one of the most conspicuous objects in the room, although the brilliancy of the coloring does not, to the expert eye, conceal a certain poverty of detail, and it positively increases the paltry, model-like look which an excess of foreground, and a bad arrangement of horizon and vanishing points, give to the representation of the building.
This tension between the architectural design of the building and the artistic means whereby it is expressed was a leitmotif of many reviews of architectural exhibitions published in the architectural journals of the late nineteenth century. One strand of this discussion involves not the medium of expression, but the creator of the actual drawing. The reviewer of the Boston Architectural Exhibition of 1891 in the AABN strongly advocates the role of architects in rendering:
. . . [some architects] show no intention of letting their skill disappear for want of use; but many architects . . . seem to find it necessary to get expert assistance for their larger drawings. Although this is, perhaps, financially wise, the art of architectural drawing loses by the defection of so many of its once valiant champions, and exhibitions lose very much by the appearance of sameness of style among the most important works. If Street, Nesfield, Norman Shaw, Ernest George, Jackson and Waterhouse [noted English architects] can afford time to make their own perspective drawings, our architects, apart from the unfortunate heads of what the Frenchmen call the American “usines d’architecture,” [factories of architecture] ought to be able to do so, and their artistic reputation would gain in consequence, however it might be with their pocket-books.
His description of the faults of artists rendering architectural subjects is almost a prescription of a drawing by Hawley; qualities noted with admiration by other critics: “Watercolorists, not primarily architects, almost always fail in representing architectural subjects by drowning the architecture in chiaroscuro, ‘masterly’ brushwork and startling cloud-effects.”
Exhibitions of the kind reviewed in the AABN played a crucial role in the development of architecture and architectural education in the United States; hence some of the debate about renderers versus architects can be ascribed to the ongoing discussion about the nature of architectural education and practice. Throughout the nineteenth century, architects exhibited their works in many different settings, often mixed in with other artists. Alexander Jackson Davis, architect and superb watercolorist, was a frequent exhibitor at the Mechanics’ Institute of New York exhibitions. Other architects, such as Daniel Burgess, H. Cook, and Alexander Rich, whose works and reputations have faded from collective memory, exhibited at the American Institute of theCity of New York from the late 1830s until the early 1850s. For the exhibitions of the latter organization, Davis, Minard Lafever, Calvin Pollard, Martin Thompson, and Richard Upjohn, all prominent New York architects, served as judges for the fairs. But with the growing professionalization of architecture, as indicated by the foundation of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1857 and of schools of architecture at American universities, exhibitions featuring architectural drawings and models assumed a more vital role in this community. In New York, for example, the Architectural League was established in 1881 to promote the artistic training of architects, and began annual exhibitions in 1886, at first in conjunction with the exhibition of the Salmagundi Club, which had been founded in 1871 as an artists’ sketch club.
In architectural journals, reviewers of these exhibitions note the pedagogical value of seeing so many different kinds of works displayed together. The 1886 Boston Exhibition of Architectural Drawings elicited the following advice from the reviewer:
A collection of architect’s sketches always has a certain interest in the variety of treatment which it shows. Some men succeed better in color, and some with ink, and nearly all have tried several methods of getting effect, the results of which convey to their fellows encouragement or warning, as the case may be; so that for the young architect or student, himself uncertain as to what style to choose, the opportunity to study the experiments of others is of great use.
The acerbic reviewer of an 1891 architectural exhibition in Boston is highly enthusiastic, writing that this is an exhibition that people actually went to see! He notes the attendance was no doubt enhanced by the location of the exhibition in the newly opened Boston Public Library (designed by Charles McKim) and its free admission, but nonetheless, he was moved to write of the exhibition’s importance:
. . . it is impossible for an architect to take a general survey of [these 500 better architectural designs and drawings] without a feeling of pride at the power and independence with which American architecture is advancing towards a development which may be far off, but which will be a very brilliant one. Even now there are buildings in this country which will be revered centuries hence by architects as the first transitional examples of the new style; and when the contemptible colonial chicken-pox has spent its force, and architects and their clients begin again to use their artistic sense freely, we shall see more and more the results of the energy with which American architects have been training their eyes and hands, and collecting recourse of observation and recollection, for the past twenty years.
Ironically, the type of drawing taught in architecture schools was not like the highly dramatic watercolor style of Hawley and other popular renderers like Eldon Deane. At Columbia University’s School of Architecture, founded in 1881, students were not given classes in watercolor rendering. Most of the drawing exercises emphasized ink or pencil on paper, many copying line drawings of photographs or engravings! Wash drawings and watercolor were used in the Beaux Arts tradition, but only by advanced students whose work focused on the architectural elements of the building. While Hawley’s generation of renderers were often illustrators or artists who worked in several different genres, the next generation of renderers, who began to appear around the turn of the century, were usually graduates of the new American schools of architecture. Trained as architects, they approached their subjects differently from the artists trained as illustrators.
In addition to the new schools of architecture, there were other avenues for a young artist or architect to improve his visual skills. Hawley himself was a member of the New York Sketch Club, and both the AABN and the New York based journal, Architecture, recount summaries of lectures, demonstrations, and sketching trips held by this club during the 1880s and 1890s. Hawley frequently gave demonstrations of his watercolor techniques and accompanied club members on trips to sketch from nature, very much like his practice from his early days in England.
The Sketch Club appears to have ceased operation around 1904, judging from a notice in Pencil Points in 1928 that records the 24th annual alumni dinner for the New York club. In a style typical of Hawley’s showmanship, the article recounts a demonstration entitled “How to paint like Hawley in one lesson.” The description gives a good flavor of the kind of company these clubs provided:
An outline drawing in pencil of Ripon Cathedral, large enough to give each man present a six inch square to color, was presented, on card board, together with a full array of brushes, paint and pots, water and sponges. Lots were drawn for the respective squares and each of the forty members was to render his square in three minutes. When the kaleidoscope result was ready, Hawley announced that he would proceed to work the drawing up, soften the hard edges and bring it together harmoniously. He said, however, that it was always his custom to work in the dark, so the lights were turned out and he went to it, keeping up a running conversation meanwhile. Five or six minutes later the lights were turned on and the finished painting was there on the easel, much to the astonishment of the members. The explanation, of course, was there were two drawings prepared beforehand, one for the members to work on and the other a finished rendering.
The differences between the two are “instructive for they show the means with which a watercolorist begins to accumulate detail, shade and shadow, and other effects and transform them into a cohesive picture.” The story also relies on Hawley’s reputation as an extremely prolific renderer for its punch line. Rather than making fun of Hawley as the renderer, the sleight of hand pays homage to his talent. The cumulative two hours of work executed by the forty members present at the dinner did not bring the drawing close to a conclusion. Hawley’s estimate of having produced 11,000 drawings in the course of a 50 year career is a truly staggering figure. At roughly 220 drawings per year, Hawley would have completed almost five drawings every week with no break in production at all. The size of some of his renderings makes this rate of production even more impressive. Hawley was famous as a robust individual; the Pencil Points hagiography details his ability to get by on only two or three hours sleep a night, a capability that attracted the attention of the medical community, who reportedly studied him.
After a period of little more than 20 years, the New York Sketch Club was revived in 1926, in part to provide professional instruction to both designer and draftsman, and also to foster the kind of fraternal activity described in the passage above. One major difference in this second incarnation was that the club was to provide instruction in “pencil painting.” It is no coincidence that the popular journal for renderers was called Pencil Points. The explanation given for this emphasis underscores the difference between the beginning of Hawley’s career in the 1880s and the end in the 1930s:
The lead pencil is perhaps the one most important tool of the architect, and in making studies, sketches and rapid memoranda it is his invariable resort and constant companion. An architect who cannot use his pencil with facility and decision is at great disadvantage. It is the invaluable process of representing a building, as a work of art by means of another work of art.
Hawley’s reputation had been built on his extreme facility with watercolor, and as styles in rendering changed, it was inevitable that his work would seem unfashionable to the younger generations of architects who arrived on the scene. Hawley may have been the first renderer of the stylistically advanced Woolworth Building, but he had already been working for its architect, Cass Gilbert, for many years. Given that no job book or other documents survive that list Hawley’s work year by year, one can only guess at the ebb and flow of his commissions through the course of his 50-year career. Certainly, in looking through the illustrations of renderings in the Architectural League Annual as well as the standard journals, one sees a shift away from the “mid-Victorian” watercolors, as noted by Kenneth Clark in the opening passage of this essay, to an acceptance of more varied styles, from watercolor to wash and pencil.
After 1908, the name of the renderer was no longer included in the list of participants in the Architectural League of New York’s annual exhibition, making it difficult to track Hawley’s career. That he maintained a high rate of production is clear from one story recounted in the Pencil Points biography describing a nine-week charrette in 1921, prior to his departure for England (fig. 6). Throughout the 1920s, Hawley retained many clients. At the same time, judging from illustrations published in the 1928 Pencil Points, he was trying to stay up-to-date by working in pencil and creating scenes that show more of the urban context of the buildings (figs. 7 and 8). In 1927 Hawley wrote to architect Lawrence Grant White, son of Stanford White, asking for work and assuring White that as rendering in watercolor was “out of fashion” and “almost a Lost Art,” he too could render in black and white sketches.
A glance through the architectural periodicals of the 1920s—and there were many more than when Hawley started in the 1880s—shows that a variety of different rendering styles was being published. Many of the renderings appear to be in some form of black-and-white media, which would of course translate more readily into a reproduction for publication. Here was another major transformation in the profession of architectural rendering that transpired over the course of Hawley’s 50-year career. In the beginning of Hawley’s career, the drawings he produced were likely to be presented to the client, used in a competition, or at some later time, put on display for the public. There were opportunities to reproduce watercolors for larger distribution, most notably in color lithographs, but the quality of the reproduction in printed black-and-white media was not particularly high. Even color lithographs substantially altered the appearance of the original. They are of a different size than the original, and the medium itself solidified the transparent washes into a weightier presence. Nonetheless, the lithographic versions of these works are impressive in their own right.
After the invention of photography, artists and illustrators had to face the question of how reproduction of the original art work in the mass media would affect the character of the work itself. From the vantage point of the later twentieth century, it may be difficult to understand the revolution this caused, given the proliferation of images in our era. But the impact of the technical questions involved is better understood when one considers the nature of dealing with digital imagery or the recent introduction of color photography in daily newspapers. The means of production have a profound impact on the quality of the reproduction.
As an illustrator himself, Hawley would have been familiar with such issues and taken care that the detail in his drawings would not have been lost when translated into a reproduction. As was typical of journals at the time, Hawley’s drawings made expressly for illustration in magazines such as Harper’s Weekly were gouache on paper, a broader medium than watercolor with areas of tonal contrast that would translate well onto the printed page. The watercolors, produced for public exhibition, were reproduced as heliotypes, the means best suited for reproducing that kind of work. The effects of the delicate detail and color of the watercolors are miniaturized by the reproduction, thereby losing much of the stature of the original work.
In both architectural journals and exhibitions, the impact and role of architectural photography was often noted. Of the Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Architectural League of New York in 1894, the reviewer in the AABN wrote:
Hereabout, we come to some photographs of Mr. Kimball’s theatres, which, notwithstanding the interest of their subject, count as dark, unpleasant spots among the bright drawings. It would be a pity to discourage contributors from showing photographs of their works, and some things can only be properly shown in that way; but it would be very much for the advantage of exhibitors to have the photographs collected in a room by themselves, where they would neither injure the effect of the drawings nor be injured by them.
By 1899, photographic reproduction had replaced illustrations of drawings in the AABN. After the turn of the century, photographs of projects were the predominant form of illustration in most architectural journals.
In many ways, a comparison of Hawley’s career with that of Hugh Ferriss (1889-1962), the great renderer of the early twentieth century, underscores the differences of their respective eras and the development of the profession of rendering.36 Ironically, Ferriss entered Cass Gilbert’s office as a draftsman in 1913, right at the time that Hawley was rendering the Woolworth Building for the architect. Trained as an architect, Ferriss worked briefly as a draftsman for Gilbert and then, as Hawley had done 35 years earlier, opened his own studio in 1915. Ferriss quickly became a very popular renderer and illustrator and, later in the 1920s, with the architect Harvey Wiley Corbett, one of the new voices in architectural circles. Rather than reflecting the prevailing attitude about buildings, Ferriss was a visionary, dedicated to the discussion and formulation of new ideas about architecture and the future city. Whereas most of Hawley’s renderings focus on one building towering alone in the city, as indeed many were at the time of construction, Ferriss liked to depict the buildings within the urban context, often from a vantage point high above the street level. While Hawley left no writings about his work or his profession, Ferriss was articulate and outspoken, publishing and lecturing on a frequent basis. Although of different generations, Ferriss was undoubtedly familiar with Hawley’s work because an illustration of a Hawley piece is reproduced in Ferriss’ article on architectural rendering in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Many of Ferriss’ drawings were made directly for publication, although the drawings were also exhibited at various times. What is surprising about his works is that it is nearly impossible to guess the actual size by looking at the reproduction. Nearly all of Ferriss’ works show a large-scale scene in which the mass of the structure, not the volume or the detail, is the major focus. For example, the drawing “Buildings Like Mountains,” the frontispiece to Ferriss’ 1928 Metropolis of Tomorrow, shows a vast landscape of mountain peaks. In reality, the drawing measures only 11 x 8-1/2 inches. Yet the discrepancy in scale is imperceptible, so well do the medium and composition fit the form of reproduction. The dominant role of black-and-white photographs in architectural illustrations had a major impact on the swing to renderings in pencil. In 1940, Ferriss wrote an article on rendering for Pencil Points that printed statements and works by 26 renderers, of which 18 drawings are in a black-and-white medium. One renderer, Alan C. Davoll, mentioned that he chose the photographic color values in the drawing, which had a “highly effective sales value” on the client, because they translated successfully into black-and-white reproduction.
In 1931, at the age of 81, Hughson Hawley retired from active professional life and returned to his native England to live with his daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Farnol.38 He died on May 11, 1936, in Brighton. As is true of anyone who enjoys longevity in this world, Hawley saw many changes in his lifetime—artistic, technological, political, and historical. That he continued to prosper throughout the changing times is testament to the continuing appeal of his vivid and exuberant watercolors, even as new styles and media of architectural representation came to the forefront. The business of architecture had been transformed dramatically over the course of Hawley’s career—nevertheless, the renderer continued to function as an intermediary between the architect and the outside world.
The introduction to the 1940 Pencil Points article on rendering defines the essential issues facing renderer and architect:
All are pretty much agreed that the drawing should tell the truth—but what kind of truth, and how much? Is the literal truth about the projected assemblage of sticks and stones enough or should there be added, so far as the delineator is able, some expression of the spiritual quality, a suggestion of the designer’s aspiration towards a beauty born in his mind, possibly not to be quite reached in the execution of the building itself? Once having departed from the strict literal truth, is it possible to check further departures, motivated by less noble intentions? . . . How far may an architect stretch his conscience under the urge to persuade or retain a client’s interest through the admitted power of brilliant draftsmanship? These are questions to be asked of himself by the delineator as he approaches his task and by the architect of himself as he commissions the drawings to be made—questions which require for their proper answer a high degree of essential honesty.
These elements are no less true for the renderer today than they were in Hawley’s day. It was the depiction of the essential truth of the building, the ability to render it in such a way as to make it live for its audience, that made Hawley the great success he was. Hawley’s renderings preserve a vision of a city in an era not that long passed, one that lives on in memory, and in occasional glimpses and perspectives on the streets of New York
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