Friday, March 4, 2011

Showing Their Metal

by Daniel Kuether, Heavy Metal fan

When it came to objects d’art, the Martin family gathered pieces from everywhere.  This included work by local artisans, Japanese prints, and pieces given or sold specifically to the family by Frank Lloyd Wright.  A group of pieces in the Martin collection of particular interest to Buffalonians and Arts and Crafts enthusiasts is a series of metalware vessels bearing the maker’s mark of a local craft shop:  Heintz Art Metal. 

In 1903, Otto L. Heintz left his Buffalo family business - the Heintz Brothers jewelry shop - and bought the local Arts & Crafts Company.  He changed the name to Art Crafts Shop in 1905 and, finally, to the Heintz Art Metal Shop in 1906.  The shop quickly grew in popularity for its distinctive designs.  The business would be short lived however, and after the death of Otto Heintz in 1918, the company closed for good following the stock market crash in 1929.

The Arts and Crafts Movement was in full swing by the time the Martins were preparing to make their home on Jewett Parkway.  The styles and motifs of this movement can be seen in many of the local craftsmens’ works, including the products of the Roycrofters and their charismatic leader Elbert Hubbard, a dear friend of Darwin Martin’s.

Heintz Art Metal gained prestige primarily for its popular silver-on-bronze decorative overlays.  Darwin Martin owned a desk set of this signature Heintz variety. What’s unusual about the Martins’ set of five Heintz vessels is that they look nothing like this popular style, though they still bear the Heintz stamp.  Each has a brass, acid-etched finish producing an irregular design, but there is no trace of the famous silver - or the earlier colored enamel - overlay.  

The Martins' set of five Heintz Art Metal vessels
 So where does that put the Martins’ Heintz metalware vessels?  The acid-etched pieces were produced prior to the popular silver overlay wares.  They most likely belong to the early transitional period between 1903 and the company’s name change in 1906.  Their finish has become known to dealers and collectors as a “Tiffany-type patina,” referencing their resemblance to works by the Louis Comfort Tiffany Co.  This would be a sign of the times and the competition between the two metalware companies. 

The Martins’ vessels are quite unique, and few similar pieces exist.  Their presence in the Martin House collection is an important example of Arts & Crafts design tied to local Buffalo history.

Bottom of one of the vessels, showing the Heintz shop mark and "IRM" monogram (Isabelle Reidpath Martin)


Anonymous said...

Firstly, whatever the top of the post is supposed to be, video or slide show, is not working for me ????

Intriguing, and in my limited knowledge quite correct to question the lack of sterling overlay. Have you contacted David Surgan at for any input - he is the guru on Heintz. I have both Heintz and Silvercrest pieces in my collection and specifically have picked up Silvercrest for the geometric patterns (that Heintz lacks) assuming that the parallel period for Silvercrest, i.e. 1919-1929 (I believe) reflects the Prairie vibe happening in Buffalo. Too bad there isn't more literature out there for both.


EJF said...

Gus -

There are two images in the post, but no video or slideshow at the top, so I'm not sure what you're referring to. May I ask what internet browser you're using?

I don't think we're questioning whether these pieces are Heintz or not. We found examples of the "Tiffany" or gold dore finish in the Kevin McConnell book. Contacting Surgan is a good idea and we'll pursue that.



Anonymous said...

I use Explorer mostly - I get a grey box with a triangular start button in it, suggesting a video or flash slide show or similar. It appears just below the message title and above the author's name. I also run Firefox and checking it there is no box. I know there are subtle differences between browsers, so just a software glitch I suppose.


Anonymous said...

I think the set likely dates from 1906-1912 or later and not from 1903-1906. That the mark is for the Heintz Art Metal Shop and not the Art Crafts Shop indicates that it is a later piece. Were you able to follow up with Surgan for advice?