Gardiner, Stephen 1925-
GARDINER, Stephen 1925-
PERSONAL: Born April 25, 1925, in London, England; son of Alfred Clive (an artist) and Lilian (an artist; maiden name, Lancaster) Gardiner; married May 17, 1956 (divorced, 1977); married Joan Scotson (an architect), April 25, 1979; children: Andrew, Rebecca. Education: Graduated with honors from Architectural Association School of Architecture, 1948. Politics: Liberal.
ADDRESSES: Office—45 Heathside, Esher, Surrey KT10 9TD, England.
CAREER: Stephen Gardiner Architects, London, England, principal, 1957—. Lecturer at schools in England and the United States, including Architectural Association School of Architecture and University of Texas; Harris Armstrong Visiting Lecturer at Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Military service: Royal Navy, 1943-46; became sublieutenant.
MEMBER: Royal Institute of British Architects, Architectural Association (member of board of trustees).
Death Is an Artist, Washburn (New York, NY), 1959.
Le Corbusier, Fontana (London, England), 1974, Viking (New York, NY), 1975.
Looking at Architecture, Phaidon (London, England), 1980.
Inside Architecture, illustrated by Dick Barnard and Graham Smith, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1983.
Kuwait: The Making of a City, with photographs by Ian Cook, Longman (New York, NY), 1983.
Epstein: Artist against the Establishment, M. Joseph (London, England), 1992.
Frink: The Official Biography of Elisabeth Frink, HarperCollins (London, England), 1998.
Architectural critic for London, 1964-68, Spectator, 1968-70, Observer, 1970-90, Encounter, Listener, Architectural Review, and Sheba.
SIDELIGHTS: Stephen Gardiner once told CA: "Architecture is a largely misunderstood art. As a practicing architect, and as a writer who enjoys the art of writing, I have a great need to inform the lay public in a sphere of work I enjoy." His writings on influential architects and artists have attempted to do just this, as has his architectural criticism. "It's important to be an architect to write about architecture, and to look at the broader picture," he told Caroline Roux of London'sGuardian newspaper in 2001. Gardiner also believes architecture should serve a social purpose; to that end, his designs have included schools, homes, play centers for handicapped children, and offices.
Inside Architecture is in keeping with Gardiner's stated purpose of informing the lay public. He analyzes seventeen buildings from around the world, each chosen as a representative of its era. These include the Parthenon in Greece, Chartres Cathedral in France, and the Katsura Palace in Japan. There are illustrations of each building. The book is "exceptionally well written" and "avoids professional jargon," commented Arnold Friedman in Interior Design, adding that it "packs a great deal of information into its few pages."
Epstein: Artist against the Establishment is one of several biographies Gardiner has written. Its subject is sculptor Jacob Epstein, an American Jew who settled in London as a young man early in the twentieth century and became controversial both for his work and his personal life. As for the work, Phoebe-Lou Adams explained in the Atlantic, "His imaginative compositions outraged the complacent, his nude figures outraged the prissy." On the personal side, he had a loyal first wife, Margaret "Peggy" Dunlop, who managed his finances to free him to deal with his art, but he also had a string of extramarital lovers; he finally married one of them, Kathleen Garman. Many Britons objected to Epstein's philandering and were put off by his sometimes-abrasive personality; anti-Semitism also figured in the attacks on him, and his sculptures were defaced on occasion. Still, he eventually built up a reputation as one of the nation's best sculptors and won a knighthood.
Gardiner was well acquainted with Epstein and his family, a circumstance that "lends intimacy and detail to his portrait," observed John Carey in London's Sunday Times. He thought Gardiner's depiction of the artist a bit too admiring, failing to grant that Epstein's detractors may sometimes have made legitimate points, but he allowed that "despite his tendency to exploit people, Epstein comes across as an intensely lovable man, generous, natural and radiantly vital." Carey and some other critics wished for more pictures of Epstein's work; Adams referred to the book's "parsimonious illustrations." Adams granted, though, that Gardiner narrates Epstein's life story "conscientiously." Meanwhile, a Publishers Weekly critic praised the biography as "a towering, kinetic portrait of a giant of art."
Gardiner details another sculptor's life in Frink: The Official Biography of Elisabeth Frink. Frink rose to prominence in the 1950s, when she was in her twenties, becoming one of England's top sculptors of the post-World War II era. Her figures are primarily of men, birds, dogs, and horses; her work is notable for "its directness, its excision of all artiness in a frank statement of feeling," related Frances Spalding in the Sunday Times. Gardiner presents Frink as a gifted artist influenced by the horrors of the war and by her Catholic upbringing, although she eventually declared herself a nonbeliever. He also shows her as a woman with an active love life (she married three times) and a penchant for drinking and carousing.
Like Epstein, Frink was friendly with Gardiner, but because she was reticent about discussing art, "Frink is mostly seen from the outside," Spalding reported. She added, "Nevertheless, this book catches the boldness, bravery and generosity with which Frink lived." Guardian reviewer Michael Bracewell commented that as Frink's authorized biographer, Gardiner is "wholly uncritical"; however, Bracewell also described the book as Gardiner's "passionate defence of all the values which he believes [Frink's] life and work to represent." Spalding, while desiring more analysis of Frink's art, allowed that "her life makes fascinating reading, and Gardiner's account is engagingly fluent."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, July, 1993, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Epstein: Artist against the Establishment, p. 118.
Guardian (London, England), October 17, 1998, Michael Bracewell, "Fashion Victim," p. 9; January 11, 2001, Caroline Roux, "Writer's Block: Why Have Just One Career," p. 34.
Interior Design, May, 1984, Arnold Friedman, review of Inside Architecture, p. 102.
Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1993, review of Epstein, p. 78.
Sunday Times (London, England), September 27, 1992, "Feats of Clay"; October 18, 1998, Frances Spalding, "The Woman Who Loved Men.*"