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Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie House: The Wasmuth Portfolio
Wright's rare 1910 German lithographs from his first golden age.
Frank Lloyd Wright began the 20th Century by transforming architecture into a modern language with new rules of grammar. The more avant-garde architects and designers in the Midwest followed Wright's lead as well as the latest currents flowing out of Europe to create a new direction for architecture: the Prairie School.
In 1910, Berlin's greatest art publisher contracted with Wright to produce a monograph that would become the architect's greatest work of illustration art: The Wasmuth Portfolio. Some of the finest Prairie houses of his early career were included in the stunning collection of lithographs, some of them re-designed to his greater satisfaction.
In 1914, a fire at Wright's home in Wisconsin destroyed a number of preassembled portfolios and water damaged those in the basement. To this day, individual plates from surviving sets of this seminal work have become symbols of the 'First Golden Age' of Wright and a personal connection to his tumultuous life.
ArchiTech Gallery will present these 1910 lithographs, all formerly owned by Wright, in an exhibition of some of his great Prairie houses. Additionally, in a rare sale of his early pencil drawings, Wright's own 1907 designs for a Prairie house in LaGrange, Illinois will be presented with all corresponding archival material.
All works are for sale. "Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie House: The Wasmuth Portfolio" opens Friday, September 7th and runs through Saturday, November 10th, 2007.
Please Click Here to link to David Jameson's Exhibition Essay:
Notes on the Exhibition:
Every couple of years I produce a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition. Not only does the media pick it up for obvious reasons but people put on their hats and coats and walk in after reading about it. Such is the power of his name. Still.
Since I opened the gallery in 1998, Wright's Wasmuth Portfolio lithographs have been regular sellers. This Fall was the perfect time to feature them again as I had bought a selection of rare images that hadn't been in my drawers for years.
It wasn't enough to just show a examples of the Wasmuth lithographs of his early Prairie houses. I had to contextualize the prints with archival magazines and furniture perhaps. Then I recalled some early drawings of a house in LaGrange done about the same time as the Berlin publication. They were owned by one of the grand masters of Prairie scholarship in Chicago. He had published books and journals about the great architects of the Chicago School as early as the 1950s and he and his wife had started buying furniture and drawings when no one else seemed to care.
I talked him into letting go of his rarest drawings by Wright, the 1907 plans and a perspective drawn for the original clients of a house modeled on the "Fireproof House for $5,000."
They would need work, though, if I were to ask the vast price they deserved. Most museums have nothing that early by Wright and the few collectors willing to spend such a huge sum couldn't see wrinkling or surface dirt. So I called my best conservator to look them over and tell me what she thought. She did a little surface cleaning and flattened the tracing paper in a reversible process that museums would approve. I had them each framed in simple oak stock and showcased them in an alcove with some of the archival "spec" books that Wright had made up in the Oak Park office.
The owners were so please to see their drawings looking so fine that they arrived at the gallery with a 1912 chair from Wright's Coonley Playhouse to put into the show. I brought in a fragment from the Susan Dana house frieze from my home and considered the exhibition complete.
In the summer, the Chicago Chapter of the "Society of Architectural Historians," asked to meet at ArchiTech in October. When I told them that the Wasmuth Portfolio show would be on the walls then, their R.S.V.P.s filled up quickly. During the reception, I relayed the story of the Portfolio to a rapt audience. I would have thought that they already knew about its effect on European Modernism but it turned out to be a revelation to most of them.
Time Out Chicago, a local tourist weekly that is found in hotel rooms and newsstands, came in to review the show. The reviewer, Lauren Weinberg, wrote, "...these prints represent a comprehensive monument to the first phase of the architect's career when the infamous homewrecker designed the most beautiful houses in the world."
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