Editor's note: The following essays were rekeyed and reprinted on July 9, 2007 in Resource Library with permission of Eaton Fine Art, Inc. The essays were excerpted from the illustrated catalogue for the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: The Seat of Genius, Chairs: 1895-1955 held February 28 - April 25, 1997 at Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, FL. If you have questions or comments regarding the essays, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the catalogue, please contact Eaton Fine Art at either this web address or phone number:
by Timothy A. Eaton
Please be Crated
by Penny Fowler
Growing Up Wright
by Mary Anna Eaton
by Timothy A. Eaton
Were it not for the evidence of his architecture, the legend of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 -1959) would nearly eclipse his life's work. A heroic and iconoclastic character, Wright's persona took on mythic proportions during his life and became even more fabled after his death No modern artist or architect has had such widespread admirers and detractors, regarding both his creative and personal life. Derided by praetorians as a foppish, egomaniacal proselytizer; dubious engineer; immoral womanizer and worse, Wright is praised by those more perspicacious as a brilliant and revolutionary engineer; innovative and original designer; humble student of nature; romantic nonconformist and messianic architectural visionary. The story of Frank Lloyd Wright continues to fascinate and unfold.
This exhibition and catalogue briefly survey the chairs of Frank Lloyd Wright. It would surely be a daunting task to mount a retrospective of Wright's chairs, as he designed well over two hundred different chairs, most for limited production, some for mass production, and others as unique, individual works. He also designed numerous variations of many of those chairs. Drawing on the works included in this exhibition, Penny Fowler, Administrator of Fine and Decorative Arts Collections, Frank Lloyd Wright Archives, discusses Wright's contribution to the art and design of chairs historically, technically and aesthetically.
Frank Lloyd Wright restlessly experimented with chairs; their design, materials and architectural function. He felt, rightly so, that no one chair design was suitable for all people in all spaces. Following his organic principles, Wright designed his chairs to serve the contextual unity of the site, its purpose and client needs, while maintaining a strict integrity of materials, forms and craftsmanship, yet functioning as an effective tool for sitting. He expanded the very idea of chairs by designing them to serve auxiliary functions such as partitions, enclosures and sculptural elements. His designs were so thoroughly specific that some designs were created only once, for individual people in specific spaces for specific tasks, while others were designed for groups: male, female, children, workers, administrators, etc.
Frank Lloyd Wright's chairs are for the most part elements of a whole, components of his buildings. We find them outside of this context by default, such as when they are saved from buildings which have been demolished, or when a building's ownership changes and furniture was dispersed, or for didactic purposes of comparison, such as in exhibition. In his buildings the chairs are part of a sum, yet even out of context they retain their identity, and radiate their sculptural quality as refined and elegant objects of exquisite design. Wright's chairs can be seen as metaphors for his buildings. They are diverse, organic, and in their originality, reflective of his vast genius. Wright was the first to admit that he was not always successful in creating a comfortable piece of furniture for sitting His chairs do, however, brilliantly demonstrate his analytical, though artistic, approach to problem solving and dedication to a singular ideal of unity unparalleled in the history of architecture.
The life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright has been the subject of no fewer than one hundred monographs and innumerable compendiums on architecture. Yet strange and unfounded myths and misconceptions about his work abound in the public's mind. Many of the misconceptions have to do with the functionality of his buildings; whether his forms took precedent over the structure's purpose; if their construction was sound; if his designs provided for the necessary amenities required for comfortable and efficient living, such as the adequacy of the closets, furniture, light fixtures, doors or windows. These propositions are cant and to a degree fallaciously rooted in a lack of experience with Wright's creations. In her essay, Growing Up Wright, Mary Anna Eaton reflects on her life as a resident of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home. Though but one voice of experience, she gives eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of Wright's high-minded, spiritual and functional unity in architecture. She recounts a building wherein dwelling endows pleasures and efficiency, freedom and responsibility, privilege and enlightenment.
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