Deerfield Society of Arts and Crafts

Madeline Yale Wynne

On October 28, 1904, Frances Glessner recorded in her journal: “I went to call on Mrs. Wynne to arrange to take lessons in metal work.”  She had her first lesson in silver work on November 29, and soon after fashioned a salt cellar which she presented to her husband as a Christmas gift.  The salt cellar, pictured below, is engraved “Made by F.M.G. for J.J.G. Dec. 25th 1904” and is now in the collection of the museum.  Frances Glessner vigorously pursued her hobby for more than a decade, producing countless pieces of silverwork, most of which were presented as gifts to friends and family.

Frances Glessner’s teacher, Madeline Yale Wynne, was a distinguished metal worker and important proponent of the Arts and Craft movement.  She was born in Newport, New York in 1847, the daughter of the inventor of the Yale lock.  Her father possessed considerable artistic aptitude as a miniature painter, and as a child, Madeline spent countless hours in her father’s garden-studio.  She studied painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and later attended the Art Students’ League in New York, before advanced studies in Europe. 

Widowed at a young age, Wynne came to Chicago in 1893 and took up residence with her brother Julian in his home at 9 Ritchie Place (current address would be 1311 N. Ritchie Court).  The home soon became a Mecca for true lovers of art and literature, and the “imposing dowager” presided over a distinguished salon of Chicago artists and literati.  She and her brother also created a home workshop where they began producing unique and fascinating items of silver and jewelry.  Wynne’s designs, which frequently included enamels and semi-precious stones, were entirely original and usually featured obvious hammer marks (a trademark of Frances Glessner’s designs as well).  The examples below were illustrated in the June 1899 issue of House Beautiful.

Wynne was one of the 126 charter members of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society when it was founded at Hull-House in October 1897.  Members included metalworkers, designers, potters, artists, writers, and architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright.  The Society’s constitution promised “to cultivate in its members, and through them in others, a just sense of beauty” particularly in the design and decoration of everyday articles.   Wynne was also a founder of the Deerfield Society of Arts and Crafts in Deerfield Massachusetts where she spent her summers for many years.

Wynne was a writer of some note and penned a short story called “The Little Room.”  The title was adopted by an important group of Chicago painters, sculptors, writers, and architects who formed themselves into an informal group in the 1890s which lasted well into the 20th century. 

After the death of her brother, she took a studio in the Tree Studio Building.  She died in Asheville North Carolina in January 1918 at the age of 70.