Architectural Archives

Gerald Kenneth Geerlings Collection (078)

The collection comprises student drawings, travel sketches, illustrations, cityscape drawings, intaglio prints and lithographs, created between 1922 and 1986.  The collection includes a small amount of miscellaneous materials including two catalogues raisonnés of Geerlings prints, from 1984 and 1989 respectively, and three copper test plates for engravings and aquatints from the 1920s and 1930s.  The collection includes no holdings related to Geerlings architectural works, no biographical or personal materials, nor any documentation of his military service.

Biographical / Historical Sketch

Artist and architect Gerald Kenneth Geerlings (1897-1998) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He fought in France during World War I before coming to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture.  He completed a B. Arch. with Summa Cum Laude honors in 1921 and a M. Arch. in 1922, winning the Arthur Spayd Brooke Memorial Prize in both his senior (silver medal) and graduate (gold medal) years as well as 2nd place in the national Rome Prize competition of 1922.  Geerlings also earned a Woodman Traveling Fellowship for one year’s travel in Europe in September 1924 from the University.  During these travels he sketched extensively and collected materials for two books on metalwork, The Metal Crafts in Architecture and Wrought Iron in Architecture, both published in 1929 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, and one book with his wife, Betty F. Geerlings, Color Schemes of Adam Ceilings, also published by Scribner's (1928).

Geerlings worked as a designer in the New York firms of York & Sawyer (1922-1924) and Starrett & Van Vleck (1925) before establishing his own architectural practice in the city 1926.  During 44 years of practice, he designed many residences and served as a product consultant for Kohler Company, Remington-Rand and Spalding.  We wrote extensively about domestic architecture, publishing and illustrating articles for House & Garden, House Beautiful, Woman’s Home Companion, Better Homes & Gardens, House & Home and Architecture.  Geerlings returned to the military to fight in World War II, and in 1943 was awarded the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster for navigational and bombing innovations used in the Battle of Ploesti.  He retired from active service in 1945 with the rank of colonel and between 1948 and 1952 served as a part-time civilian consultant to the Strategic Air Command Headquarters. 

As an artist, Geerlings is best known for his lithographs and intaglio prints of the 1920s and 1930s.  He was partly self-taught, although he studied periodically at the Royal College of Art in London between 1929 and 1932.  His preferred subjects were the emerging metropolises of New York and Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.  He was awarded first prize for the best etching at the “Century of Progress,” Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 for Grand Canal, America, 1933.  After his retirement from architectural practice in 1970, Geerlings devoted himself exclusively to drawing and lithography, producing, among many other works, a series of 130 black and white drawings titled Paris Along the Seine, which were later published in a book by that name.

Scope & Content Note

The collection was donated to the Archives by Gerald Geerlings, and it is rich in student and artistic materials.  The collection comprises student drawings, travel sketches, illustrations, cityscape drawings, intaglio prints and lithographs created between 1922 and 1986.  The collection includes a small amount of miscellaneous material including two catalogues raisonnés of Geerlings prints, from 1984 and 1989 respectively, and three copper test plates for engravings and aquatints from the 1920s and 1930s. 

The collection includes significant examples of his student work from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under Paul P. Cret.  Most notable are three watercolor renderings prepared in 1922 for the Rome Prize Competition and a fine rendering for a “Chinese Gateway” from 1921.  His European travels in 1924-1925 and 1929 are well documented by over 30 of his travel sketches - including several originals that were published in contemporary architectural periodicals and one group of watercolor sketches produced in collaboration with his wife, published as Color Schemes of Adam Ceilings. 

The collection preserves a nearly complete set of Geerlings published lithographs and intaglio prints as well as a number of unpublished examples.  Prints in the collection include some printed by George C. Miller and some printed by Gerald Geerlings and Charles Welch.  The collection does not include any preparatory drawings or preliminary studies for these prints with the exception of three “test plates” for important etchings and aquatints from the 1920s and 1930s.  Geerlings produced many sketches (also included in this collection) of sites in England, Scotland, Paris and New York in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The collection includes no holdings related to Geerlings architectural works, no biographical or personal materials, nor any documentation of his military service. 

The collection has been catalogued at the item level:  In preparing this finding aid, the staff has made extensive use of Joseph S. Czestochowski’s Gerald K. Geerlings, a catalogue of a retrospective exhibit of Geerlings work that includes extensive biographical information as well as a complete index of the prints.

Series Overview

I.  Drawings, 1920-1979.
A.  Student work from the Department of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, 1920-22.
B.  Travel sketches, 1924-25.
C.  Studies for Color Schemes of Adam Ceilings, ca. 1928.
D.  Travel sketches, 1929.
E.  “Grand Opera 1932” series.
F.  “Connecticut” series, 1971.
G.  “Paris Along the Seine” series, 1975.
H.  "New York" series, 1977-79.
I.  "England and Scotland" series, 1978-79.
J.  “Paris” series, 1978-1979.

II.  Lithographs & Intaglio Prints, 1927-1986.
A.  Lithographs & Intaglio Prints, 1927-1932.
B.  “Salute to New York” lithograph series, 1975-1976.
C.  Lithographs, 1984-1986.

III.  Manuscript, Clippings, Photographs, and Publications, 1922-1989.

Provenance

Acquisition:  Gift of Gerald K. Geerlings, 1970, 1980 and 1987.