A Teco Vase-Turned-Lamp, a Chicago Modernist’s Painting Fetch Top Prices at Treadway-Toomey Auction What light through yonder Teco breaks? A handsome Teco vase designed by W.B. Mundie and fashioned into a striking lamp showcased a Prairie-style stained glass shade and sold for $28,800.
News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - OAK PARK, ILL. –- A painting by Chicago modernist William S. Schwartz of a 1940s era town gas factory, and a Teco vase designed by W.B. Mundie, which was converted into a stunning lamp with a Prairie-style stained glass shade, were top sellers at Treadway-Toomey Galleries’ 20th Century Art & Design Auction on March 5 in Oak Park, Ill.
“Gas Factory,” an oil on canvas Schwartz (1896-1977) painted circa 1948, sold for $33,600, surpassing estimates of $20,000 to $25,000. A Russian who immigrated to the U.S. at 16, he was graduated with honors from the Art Institute of Chicago and became an important Chicago modern painter and printmaker.
In “Gas Factory,” Schwartz captures a bygone era and its by-products. An aquamarine stream flows through the factory’s park-like setting with an abundance of lush greenery and trees. Along a pathway, workers are walking to and from the factory. Three tall smokestacks fill the sky with dark fumes that have veiled the landscape with a black haze.
“The Schwartz painting could well be one of some 200 manufactured gas plants that dotted the map of Illinois,” Allen W. Hatheway, Ph.D., said. A geological engineer, Dr. Hatheway specializes in environmental remedies for the nation’s now defunct gas factory sites.
“Plentiful bituminous coals in the state were used in conversion to artificial gas, which was used for residential and business lighting, heating of homes, water and cooking, and as an industrial fuel, all before the arrival of natural gas, beginning in 1931,” Dr. Hatheway said. “Most town gas plants were privately owned and continued in operation until about 1955. The painting is evocative of one of these plants in the 1940s. Its tall buildings tell us that the plant had converted to the process known as carburetted water gas. Its location on a stream or riverbank was also very common, as water was used to cleanse the unwanted and objectionable tars from the gas and also, in far too many cases, as a discharge point for the toxic gas manufacturing liquid effluents. Gas works were central to the well-being of most towns, but each today requires diligent attention toward environmental remediation."
Rare and extraordinarily beautiful, the Teco lamp brought $28,800 (est. $20,000-$30,000). The base was fashioned from a Teco vase design by Mundie, design no. 288, which was described in the 1905 Gates Potteries catalog as “also suitable for a lamp base.” The matte green vase was topped with a magnificent eight-sided shade of leaded iridescent and stained glass in an array of dazzling yellows, greens, oranges and pinks.
“The shade had a strong Prairie School influence that featured a wonderful variation of a chevron design with stylized flowers and a geometric border,” Don Treadway, gallery owner said. “The masterful use of iridescent and stained glass in the design was exceptional. It was originally made as an oil lamp but had been converted at some point for electricity.”
Another of Mundie’s outstanding Teco designs was also among the top sellers. The 13.25-inches tall vase,