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Artist Gautam Rao imagines and visually renders the beloved Sherlock Holmes characters in Mid Century Modern scenes, complete with the furniture MCM fans will instantly recognize. To find out more, we asked Gautam a few questions to learn more about his forthcoming art book, Mid-Century Modern Sherlock Holmes: An Art Book, and its inspiration.
AR: What gave you the idea for the project?
Gautam Rao: The book is a combination of two of my passions: Mid-Century architecture, art and design, and Sherlock Holmes.
I live in Indianapolis, with many examples of Mid-Century architecture nearby. I’m a professor of art at Butler University, with stunning buildings designed by both Edward Larrabee Barnes and Minoru Yamasaki on campus. Columbus, Indiana is a short 45 minute drive. I love visiting the Miller House (designed by Eero Saarinen), which is now run as a museum, part of Newfields: the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Miller House seems artistic, homey and the interiors by Alexander Girard are playful and whimsical. It’s a living museum and a visit there is always inspiring.
I became a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan, after I read my grandfather’s copy of the stories as a child in India. As a member of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis for nearly ten years, I’ve been steeped in all things Sherlockian. This Sherlockian scion society holds regular meetings to discuss and dissect all things Holmes. Joining the two passions seemed like an interesting idea.
How did you pair up furniture with the characters?
GR: The first image that came to me for the book was Professor Moriarty crouched under a Sputnik-style lamp. The famous quote is, “He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web,” and in this case I thought the lamp could look spidery.
I used a blue Ovalia Egg Chair for “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” because the carbuncle gemstone is described as “the bonniest, brightest little blue egg that ever was seen.”
Sherlock Holmes owns several Eames furniture pieces for both their comfort and artistry. Holmes is described as owning a rocking chair–what better to fit this bill than an Eames RAR rocker.
Do you think the characters would be much different in the mid century era?
GR: In working on the book, what struck me were the similarities between the stories and the mid-century era. Typewriters feature prominently, there’s plenty of pipe-smoking and people ride in cabs in both instances. Train travel was popular, people generally wore hats, and Holmes’ rooms are described a being stocked with comfortable, distinctive furniture.
Where can readers get the project once it’s complete?
GR: The book is available now for pre-order through Kickstarter. Some of the Kickstarter goodies include stylish jigsaw-puzzles, posters and mugs.
To learn more about Gautam Rao and see his other work, visit gautamrao.net.