STANNY: The Gilded Life of Stanford White by Paul R. Baker

STANNY: The Gilded Life of Stanford White

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A detailed but curiously torpid recounting of the flamboyant life of one of America's greatest architects. Baker (History/NYU) supplies a wealth of information about White's architectural achievements and his contributions to the cultural life of this country, but scants his personal life. It may be that Baker wishes to downplay the sensationalism that has dogged the architect's name since he was gunned down by the irate (and probably psychotic) husband of a former mistress, but for many the lack of anecdotal material and psychological probing into what was, even in Baker's description, a ""gilded life"" will prove disappointing. Very little attention is paid, for example, to the architect's marriage and to details about his extramarital cavortings, although these escapades were apparently well known to his contemporaries. Baker does speculate interestingly, however, on the possible homerotic overtones to be found in White's male friendships with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Nicola Tesla, and Charles Freer, among many others. Readers primarily interested in White's architectural and decorative output will find brief descriptions of most of his works--the Metropolitan Club, Madison Square Garden, summer ""cottages"" for ""the 400"" in Newport. Here, the author provides a real service. His analyses of the cultural trends during the last decades of the 19th century and the first decade of this one are also concise and revelatory. But for the reader eager to penetrate the mystery of White's complex personal life, Baker's work will provide few clues.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1989
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan