The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part Two)

The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part Two) August 31, 2018


Hafen apparently loved hollyhocks
“Hollyhocks” (ca. 1900), by the Swiss-American Latter-day Saint artist John Hafen (1856-1910), a personal favorite of mine (when, of course, I’m not smashing things). He was among the artists sent to study in Paris by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparation for painting the interior murals for the Salt Lake Temple.   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


I’ve been having a little bit of fun with some very silly and unreasonable pseudonymous critics of the Church (and of me) over the question of “Stalinist art” and Mormonism.  See, for example:


“The Latter-day Saints and “Stalinist Art” Revisited (Part One?)”


Since my, umm, seething anger over this issue continues to boil completely out of control — in much the same manner that my never-ending rage on scores of other subjects burns dangerously and perpetually — I think I’ll have a bit more fun with it.  Or, to put that another way, I think that I’ll vent my unbridled wrath on the subject at least a bit more:


One intrepid art historian among them posts a photograph of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City (formerly the Hotel Utah, originally built in 1909-1911) and juxtaposes it with a photograph of the Hotel Moskva (originally opened in 1935 and oddly misidentified by this critic as the Stalin-era “Duma” or Soviet legislature).  The resemblance between the two buildings, in his judgment, evidently provides incontestable proof that Mormon art and architecture are “Stalinist”:


The former Hotel Utah
The Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, originally built as the Hotel Utah

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Less discerning architectural historians have categorized the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (née the Hotel Utah) as an example of the Renaissance Revival style, plainly failing to notice that it’s actually a specimen of Stalinist architecture avant la lettre.  It was designed, beginning in 1909, by the non-Mormon Los Angeles architectural firm of Parkinson and Bergstrom, which had no known ties to either the Bolsheviks or to the, at that time, still obscure Joseph Stalin.  It opened in 1911.  Joseph Stalin gained supreme power in the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s onward, dying in 1953.


The Hotel Moskva reborn, sort of
Today’s Four Seasons Hotel in Moscow is a replica, on the same site as the original building, of the Hotel Moskva, which functioned there from its opening in 1935 until its closing in 2002.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


By this critic’s loose standard, the world is positively awash with “Stalinist” hotels, because, after all, in hotel construction, form must more or less follow function:


Sullivan's Wainwright Building
The Wainwright Building, in Chicago, was designed by the American architect Louis Sullivan (d. 1924), often called “the father of modernism” in architecture, who coined the phrase “Form follows function.” Sullivan argued that that the shape of buildings and objects should be primarily dictated by their intended function or purpose.   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Here are a few such hotels, each of them from Washington DC.  Scores of similar examples can be found in major cities all across the United States:


The Mayflower, where I've stayed at least twice
The (Marriott) Mayflower Hotel — the largest luxury hotel in the District of Columbia and the longest continuously operating hotel in the Washington D.C. area, sometimes known as the “Grande Dame of Washington”, the “Hotel of Presidents,” and, after the White House itself, as the city’s “Second Best Address” (a description ascribed to President Harry Truman)

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


APK isn't a womanizer
The Capital Hilton, finished in the 1940s
(Public domain photo by AgnosticPreachersKid for English Wikipedia)


Matern's Omni Shoreham image
The Omni Shoreham Hotel, in a Wikimedia Commons photo by Jürgen Matern


DC's Madison Hotel
The (Loews) Madison Hotel (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


The J. W. Marriott Hotel     (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)


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