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Marianne Strengell Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 1991-07

Collection Scope

The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, photographs, early writings of Strengell and published works of her father, Gustaf Strengell, textile samples and her work in the Philippines.

SERIES I: Personal (1620-1998) contains materials relating to Strengell’s family, specifically several works by her father, Gustaf Strengell, in Finnish. In addition there are notebooks of her early drawings and writings, and an illustrated story written by daughter Sandra Dusenbury at age 15.

SERIES II: Professional (1935-1993)

Subseries 1: Artwork contains her artistic statement, clippings, some writings and notably, her two works documenting her experience in the Philippines helping to establish a cottage industry in weaving and textiles. Also there are a number of textile samples, some identified. Subseries 2: Correspondence (1931-1998) is chiefly letters to and from art institutions regarding the acquisition of her works. However, of particular note are two letters from Eliel Saarinen (translated from the Finnish) urging Strengell to come to Cranbrook, and describing his work, particularly on Kingswood School. Correspondence to Cranbrook Director of Archives Mark Coir sheds light on Strengell’s time at Cranbrook and on Eliel Saarinen’s feelings toward Nazi Germany. In addition, former student Jack Lenor Larsen’s correspondence includes discussion on weaving processes and weaving/textiles at Cranbrook. His essay, “A Case for Pluralism” is also in the collection.

SERIES III: Realia (1922, 1993, 1995) contains two medals awarded to Strengell, and one to her father Gustaf.

SERIES IV: Photographs (1910-1995) consists of two boxes of photographic prints, two boxes of larger, mounted prints, and two boxes containing approximately 1500 slides. The unmounted prints, chiefly black and white, include photographs of Marianne and Olav, many snapshots of family, some of Wellfleet, and a number of prints her textiles and rugs. In 1996, a collection of 21 black and white prints (and negatives) of nature photo panels that Strengell produced in her later years were transferred from the Cranbrook Art Museum to the Archives. These images, as well a collection of related oversize images, remain with the manuscript collection. The slides cover a variety of topics, from her many travels, to her textile and artistic work, to those used in her lectures. Slides of work by various artists include those of Cranbrook alumni such as Eames, Bertoia and Saarinen.

SERIES V: Oversize (1931, 1974, 1980, n.d.) contains items related to others in the collection, such as an exhibit poster, some fabric samples and a book by Gustaf Strengell. It also contains a framed watercolor Marianne did in 1980 and two framed collages of wood, cork and fabric, possibly by Olav Hammarstrom, per a reference in the finding aid to his papers in the Archives of American Art.

Dates

  • 1620 - 1998
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1995

Creator

Access

Access to the collection is unrestricted.

Use

Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.

History

Marianne Strengell was born in Helsingfors, Finland on 24 May 1909, daughter of Finnish architect Gustaf Strengell and interior designer Anna Wegelius. She graduated from the Central School of Industrial Design in Helsingfors in 1929, then went to Stockholm where she assisted in the preparations for the 1930 Stockholm Exposition. Prior to coming to the United States in 1936, Strengell held several positions in Scandinavia, designing rugs, textiles and interiors. One of her earliest positions was as a designer at Hemflit-Kotiahkeruus where her mother, Anna, was director and responsible for starting a cottage industry in weaving for the farmers’ wives.

As early as 1931, Strengell was invited by family friend Eliel Saarinen to work at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, however it wasn’t until 1937 that she began there as an instructor. In 1942, when Loja Saarinen retired, Strengell replaced her as head of the Department of Weaving and Textile Design. She developed a curriculum that emphasized weave structure, versus the more pictorial imagery used by Saarinen. In her 25 years at Cranbrook, she trained many fine textile artists, including Jack Lenor Larsen, Robert Sailors and Ed Rossbach. Her circle of friends and colleagues included Harry Bertoia, Ben Baldwin, Ray and Charles Eames, and Florence Knoll. She retired from Cranbrook in 1961.

While teaching at Cranbrook, Strengell also held a number of outside consulting positions and worked on commissions for architects, such as the interior fabrics for Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Tech Center and work for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. She was a pioneer in the use of synthetic fibers, and her emphasis on texture rather than pattern influenced the American market in automotive and interior design. Her versatility in the development of new yarns and fabrics contributed toward the use of textiles as architectural elements. Strengell created original textile designs for automotive interiors for Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Chrysler and American Motors, as well as for United Airlines. Her upholstery design “Taj Mahal” for the 1959 Lincoln Continental is iconic. She sometimes worked in conjunction with her husband, architect Olav Hammarstrom, designing interiors and textiles for his projects. Their home in Wellfleet, Mass. was an amalgam of his architectural and furniture design, and her textiles and rugs.

In 1951, Strengell was sent by the International Cooperation Administration to Japan and the Philippines as a weaving and textile adviser to help establish cottage industries. Simultaneously she acted as a consultant there on weaving and textile production, for the U.N. Technical Assistance Administration. With her husband she developed a new loom to accommodate wider widths of fabric, and she incorporated native fibers, such as coconut and grass, into the textiles. Her efforts helped raise the standard of living in both countries.

Strengell and Hammarstrom traveled the world, working, lecturing, and studying developments in architecture, arts and crafts, and the use of indigenous materials. In India, Strengell was approached by a young Indian woman determined to be a weaver, for whom Strengell helped obtain a Cranbrook scholarship. She called Nelly Mehta her “number one great Indian student.”

Strengell had more than 70 solo exhibitions throughout the United States and the world. In 1983, she began donating her textiles to museums, including the American Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Montreal, and the Museum of Applied Art in Helsinki, Finland.

She was first married to Cranbrook artist, Charles Yerkes Dusenbury, and had two children, Sandra, and Chris. She later married Olav Hammarstrom. She passed away at their home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on 8 May 1998.

Extent

9.2 Linear Feet ((7 MS, 6 OS), 1 folder. Box 10 contains slide boxes 1-5, Box 11 contains slide boxes 6-10.) : 1 folder of photographs

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Marianne Strengell, daughter of Finnish architect Gustaf Strengell and interior designer Anna Wegelius. Prior to becoming an instructor at Cranbrook in 1937 on Eliel Saarinen's invitation, Strengell held several positions in Scandinavia, designing rugs, textiles and interiors. In 1942, when Loja Saarinen retired, Strengell replaced her as head of the Department of Weaving and Textile Design. She developed a curriculum that emphasized weave structure, versus the more pictorial imagery used by Saarinen. In her 25 years at Cranbrook, she trained many fine textile artists, including Jack Lenor Larsen, Robert Sailors, and Ed Rossbach. Her circle of friends and colleagues included Harry Bertoia, Ben Baldwin, Ray and Charles Eames, and Florence Knoll. She retired from Cranbrook in 1961. While teaching at Cranbrook, Strengell also held a number of outside consulting positions and worked on commissions for architects, such as the interior fabrics for Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Tech Center and work for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. She was a pioneer in the use of synthetic fibers, and her emphasis on texture rather than pattern influenced the American market in automotive and interior design. Her versatility in the development of new yarns and fabrics contributed toward the use of textiles as architectural elements. Strengell created original textile designs for Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Chrysler and American Motors, as well as for United Airlines. She sometimes worked in conjunction with her husband, architect Olav Hammarstrom, designing interiors and textiles for his projects. Strengell and Hammarstrom traveled the world, working, lecturing, and studying developments in architecture, arts and crafts, and the use of indigenous materials. The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, photographs, early writings of Strengell and published works of her father, Gustaf Strengell, textile samples and her work in the Philippines. It documents Strengell’s life as a weaver, teacher, photographer, artist, mother, and wife.

Arrangement

The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, photographs, early writings of Strengell and published works of her father, Gustaf Strengell, textile samples and her work in the Philippines. It is divided into five series: Personal (Box 1-2); Professional (Box 2-4); Realia (Box 5); Photographs and Slides (Box 6-11); and Oversize (Box 12-13) that document Strengell’s life as a weaver, teacher, photographer, artist, mother and wife.

Series II is further divided into two subseries: Artwork and Correspondence.

Additional access

An index to the collection is available.

Acquisition

The collection was donated to the Archives in three lots – one in 1991, one in 1995, and the third in 1996. These were merged into a single collection in 1996 by Ethel McNaughton. A fourth set of records was donated in June 2003 from the estate of Olav Hammarstrom.

Related Materials

Audio Cassette Tape Collection, 1990-09, Tape 78

Olav Hammarstrom Papers, 1995-19

CAA Records of the Administration, 1981-09

Cranbrook Foundation Records, 1981-05

Benjamin Baldwin Papers, 2006-05

CAA Publications, 1998-05a

Scrapbook Collection

Cranbrook Archives Photograph Collection. See: CAA Faculty Photographs and CAA Faculty Work

Transfers

Some individual images of Strengell, as well as images found in a portfolio of her work, have been removed Photograph Special File.

Processing History

Initial processing by Ethel McNaughton, 1996; Final processing by Cheri Y. Gay, 2011.
Title
Guide to the Marianne Strengell Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid written by Ethel McNaughton.
Date
1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman.

Revision Statements

  • 2011: Revised by Cheri Y. Gay.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository

Contact:
39221 Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills MI 48303 US