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The Craven Miniature Rooms

Good things come in small packages, especially at the Mountain Lakes Library, where a permanent exhibit of six miniature rooms by the late Edgar Craven is on display.


Click on any of the images below to see the room and obtain more detail.
Room 1 Room 2 Room 3
Room 4 Room 5 Room 6

Edgar M. Craven lived in Mountain Lakes and worked as a banker in New York City. After he retired from banking he started a second career as an artist. He elevated his hobby of miniature making to an art form, creating a mood as well as settings of exquisite detail and character.

The Library's collection was created between 1940 and 1941 and uses the scale of 1 inch to 1 foot.

Room #1, the first room on the left above is an accurate reproduction of Craven's studio in his home at 135 Intervale Road. Not only did he recreate the interior, but he extended the vision to a magnificent garden scene visible through the large window. The tiny oil paintings in this and other rooms demonstrate Craven's talent as an artist, which enabled him to reproduce his own paintings as well as to duplicate "old master" works that appear in several other rooms.

The Spanish Patio, #6, the largest room in the exhibit, is another triumph. It is entirely imaginary but based on Craven's frequent visits to Arizona, where he was inspired by the local architecture. Viewers are invited to look through a dramatic double archway opening to a tiled patio complete with gardens and trees surrounded by stucco walls, decorative grilled windows, a carved wood balcony, rattan furniture, and a panorama of the desert beyond. The detail is truly magical, right down to the clay pots, cacti, and vine-covered walls.

Three other rooms, a Tudor hall, a Tudor bedroom, and a contemporary room in New York City are near-duplicates of museum quality miniatures created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Mrs. Thorne completed her first set of miniature rooms in the early 1930s, and they were displayed at the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, where they came to Craven's attention.. Prompted by the enthusiastic response, Mrs. Thorne went on to make two more sets of rooms: a European set, first displayed at the Chicago Art Institute in 1937, and an American set, completed in 1940. These two sets, plus some Oriental rooms that were added in 1962, comprise a total of sixty-eight rooms now on permanent display at the Chicago Art Institute. However, Craven's versions include something that Thorne's omit -- tiny copies of paintings by Franz Hals, Van Dyck, and de Hoock.

The exhibit at the Mountain Lakes Library was made possible by many volunteers who helped clean and refurbish the rooms as well as moving and reassembling them, and by a donation from the Town Club of Mountain Lakes.

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