Published: January 28, 2016
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — George Eastman Museum has been given the sample grille section by Samuel Yellin created for the George Eastman residence in 1924. This donation from Yellin’s granddaughter, Clare Yellin, is a momentous contribution to the museum, which includes in its campus of buildings Eastman’s Colonial Revival Mansion. Rochester architects Edward S. Gordon and William G. Kaelber engaged Yellin for a project for the conservatory in the residence, which included a large lunette flanked by two rectangular grilles, set in front of fabric, permitting sound to be transmitted from the organ chamber hidden behind. Yellin’s intricate integration of vines, leaves, flowers and birds places this work among his most significant residential designs.
Eastman had instructed Kaelber that he “make it a condition” that Yellin “submit a sample of the work that will be satisfactory,” a request entirely consistent with Yellin’s standard practice for such commissions. Gordon later informed Yellin that “the sample of wrought iron is very beautiful indeed and certainly very satisfactory.” The sample grille section is believed to be the only sample made by his firm that has been returned to the place for which it was designed.
Yellin (1884–1940) was born in Mogilev-Podilsky in the Ukraine region of the Russian Empire. After precocious service as an apprentice and journeyman, he immigrated to Philadelphia in 1905, joining his mother and sisters, who had moved to escape persecution. In 1906, Yellin enrolled at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, but his talents were so extraordinary that he was promptly named head of a newly created program in ironwork. Over the next decade, Yellin, the foremost maker of ornamental wrought iron in the United States, worked with leading architects on commissions for churches, banks, collegiate buildings and wealthy patrons.
Yellin is the subject of a forthcoming multivolume monography by Joseph Cunningham, curatorial director of Leeds Art Foundation, in whose honor the sample grille section was donated.
For information, 585- 271-3361 or www.eastman.org.
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