Douglas Donaldson (1882 – 1972) American Metalworker

Douglas Donaldson Copper Dish
Douglas Donaldson Copper Dish

Douglas Donaldson (1882 – 1972) was an American metalworker. He was born in Detroit and professionally active in Los Angeles. He was one of the most influential proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement in Los Angeles.

Biography

Donaldson taught design, metalwork and jewellery at numerous schools in and near Los Angeles, including his first position, director of manual arts, Throop Polytechnic (succeeded by Rudolph Schaeffer). Subsequently, he was a teacher at the new Chouinard School of Art and head of the art department, Los Angeles Manual Arts High School. After teaching at Otis Art Institute, he established his School of Decorative Design, Hollywood, California, in the 1920s.

Collaboration with Wife

Donaldson and his Wife, Louise Donalson, were appointed to select applied arts entries for the Southern California section of the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. The exhibit included their own metalwork. Donaldon’s gold-medal-winning entry for the fair was a covered chalice distinguished by elaborate repoussé and enamel work and crowned by a delicate opal finial carved in the shape of a bird.

 Covered Chalice (also known as Freshman Singing Cup), 1914. Silver, parcel-gilt, champlevé enamels, opal, moonstones, turquoise, emeralds, and peridots
Covered Chalice (also known as Freshman Singing Cup), 1914. Silver, parcel-gilt, champlevé enamels, opal, moonstones, turquoise, emeralds, and peridots

He established a decorative arts guild with his wife, showing distinctive crafts gathered nationwide. In 1925, he was elected first vice-president of the newly organized Arts and Crafts Society of Southern California. He was associated with Arts and Crafts movement artisans, including Ernest Batchelder, James Winn, Ralph Johonnot, and Rudolph Schaeffer; he emphasized to his students that ‘the conception of beautiful ideas must lead the way — the technical processes simply being the words which compose the language of art.’

Douglas Donaldson Copper Dish
Covered Bowl by Douglas Donaldson

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Trapp, K. R., Bowman, L. G., Oakland Museum., Renwick Gallery., & Cincinnati Art Museum. (1993). The arts and crafts movement in California: Living the good life. Oakland, Calif: Oakland Museum.

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