Preface by Kenneth A. Lohf
More than thirty-five years ago, Joseph Urbans second wife, Mary Porter Beegle, with his daughter, Gretl Urban, presented to Columbia Universitys Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum his papers and his art files. The more than 27,000 papers, architectural plans and designs, drawings, paintings, photographs, and stage models document a career that began in turn-of-the-century Vienna and later included assignments at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, stage designs for the Boston Opera Company, productions for the Ziegfeld Follies and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and architectural plans for such New York landmarks as the
Ziegfeld Theatre, the Hearst International Magazine Building, and the New School for Social Research. The sketches and plans for these that were built and many other proposals that were never built, such as the Reinhardt Theatre, illustrate the richness of his conceptions and the grandeur of his imagination.
In recent years studies have been published on Urbans work as a designer of the Ziegfeld Follies and the more than fifty Metropolitan Opera productions that he completed from 1917 until his death. Until now there has been no complete biography, so the present volume is especially welcome. The more than two hundred illustrations in both color and black and white present a graphic history of his achievements in all his artistic endeavors. All publications on Urban have drawn almost exclusively upon the resources of the Joseph Urban Collection now housed at Columbia Universitys Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection has, in addition, provided stage designs and models for exhibitions: at the Kennedy Center in Washington; on the occasion of the opening of Lincoln Center; for the hundredth anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera; and for a major retrospective at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York.
The rediscovery of and growing appreciation for the contributions made by Joseph Urban are sure to continue as more aspects of the artists genius unfold. Students and scholars, curators and librarians, writers and art critics are among those whose research and scholarship will benefit from the remarkable evidence of his work in the original documents at Columbia University and in the monuments that survive.