Portraits of Buckminster Fuller by Richard Seyffert
Once I became aware of Buckminster Fuller’s concept of “pattern integrity,” I began to notice it everywhere. The construct combines “pattern” – meaning in this context a recurring design” with “integrity” –which he described as a principle, concept, property or characteristic that holds true independently. Bucky illustrated pattern integrity by tying a simple knot each, in a rope, a steel cable and a shoelace. He presented different materials with the same information, or process, and they exhibited a common result: an overhand knot. The knot exists independently of the material with which it was made; thereby exhibiting it’s own integrity.
As is the case with universal principles, it follows that pattern integrities do come up in human relations. I recently had the chance to meet Robert Seyffert, a New York based artist. Richard’s uncle, Robert and his grandfather, Leopold comprise a three-generation tradition of portrait painting, hundred-year vocational pattern integrity. Robert told me about his grandfather’s life and work as an artist. Leopold Seyffert was a personal acquaintance of renowned artists such as Ernest Hemingway and Man Ray, and a portraitist to prominent figures of the time such as Andrew Mellon and Florence Nightingale. His son (and Robert’s uncle), Richard Seyffert, took a great interest in Buckminster Fuller’s work, in particular with the spirituality embedded in Fuller’s positive attitude and vision of a better world.
Richard Seyffert was a member of New Thought spirituality, a group inspired by the Christian Science Church, which observes a theology based on divinely inspired “infinite intelligence” that resides within every individual, and in recognition of the shared perspectives, the Science of Mind church honored Bucky in 1976 where it is presumed that they met, and over the next several years their rapport would flourish. In 1976 the National Arts Club, for which Richard Seyffert served as the medal committee chairman at the time, awarded Bucky the gold medal. After meeting at the award ceremony, they found that they shared many similar philosophical and ideological interests. Richard Seyffert made a series of prints of Buckminster Fuller growing outwardly with a Geodesic dome as a backdrop. Perhaps the growing Bucky was in reference to their dialogue around spirituality and awareness, or perhaps they were a direct reference to the infinitely scalable properties of the Geodesic domes that frame the image. These very evocative prints were auctioned during the National Arts Club ceremony for a fundraiser.
In 1979, Richard and his wife Valerie visited Bucky at his family home in Bear Island, Maine. Robert Seyffert recalls Valerie recounting how much they enjoyed their time with Bucky in Maine, where Bucky sat for a series of studies and photographs taken for a classic portrait that Richard was painting of Bucky’s. While he completed one oil portrait, tragically he would not be able to complete the second. Richard Seyffert passed away in 1979 from a heart attack he suffered outside of the National Arts Club. In his studio, the unfinished portrait of Fuller sat on his easel.
The unfinished portrait of Buckminster Fuller may be in itself part of a pattern integrity. The story Robert Seyffert shared with BFI prompts us to consider how much is left to understand about Buckminster Fuller and the Universe. It also serves as a reminder for us about how much of Bucky’s own work is left up to us to complete so that we may, sooner rather than later, “make the world work for 100% of humanity.”
By: Pablo Freund
All images Courtesy of Richard Seyffert Estate and Robert Seyffert. Paintings in oil.
For more information, visit: robertseyffert.com or to inquire about the artwork, contact Robert at [email protected]