Presented by Deputy Curator Christopher Herron and chosen from the collection assembled by Founding Director & Curator Hugh Grant, this special exhibition is included with admission and does not require a separate ticket.
Frank Lloyd Wright Inside the Walls features decorative art objects from Kirkland Museum’s permanent collection designed by Wright (1867–1959) for 11 architectural projects, spanning 50 years of his 70-year career.
This exhibition is one part of Kirkland Museum’s larger celebration of the genius of American architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright in 2022. There are many ways to join in and learn more!
Frank Lloyd Wright is the most influential and well-known American architect of our time. Known for his iconic buildings, Wright also designed furniture and accessories for the inside of his structures in order to fulfill his vision of a complete work of art. By exhibiting furniture, tableware and art glass with historic photographs of their original settings, visitors are invited to consider how each object reflects the unified vision—the total work of art—Wright designed.
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is excited to announce the significant gift of a unique lamp, constructed from two pieces of art glass (1903–1904) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This exhibition will be its first time on public display as a lamp. Renée Albiston, Associate Museum Director, says, “Kirkland Museum’s decorative art collection celebrates good design. The gift of this lamp, which is a combination of two pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright, speaks to the importance of good design and the reimagining of beautiful objects for everyday use.”
THE DONOR’S STORY
In 1964, an art collector and Wright enthusiast, Bertie Slutzky, purchased two art glass pieces at a Chicago antiques store. She recognized the glass as works by Frank Lloyd Wright. A local metalsmith joined the glass pieces together to create a table lamp, which Mrs. Slutzky presented to her son, Louis Newman, as a graduation gift. In celebration of Bertie Slutzky’s dedication to art and learning, Mr. Newman and his husband, Justin Ferate, generously donated the lamp to Kirkland Museum in 2018.
In order to verify that the glass was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Museum contacted Wright glass expert and author Julie Sloan, who was able to identify and authenticate the pieces of the lamp. Sloan said, “It’s so exciting for long-lost pieces of Wright’s decorative arts to appear like this!” She will discuss the lamp further in a lecture on October 13, 2022, organized by Kirkland Museum.
In 1907, Wright curated a selection of his work for the Chicago Architectural Club, exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. Sloan found that both glass pieces from the lamp were included. They were likely leftover from Wright’s recently completed Susan Lawrence Dana House in Springfield, Illinois (1902–1904). Despite continuing research, where these pieces went after the 1907 exhibition and how they ended up in a Chicago antique store in the early 1960s remains unknown. Wright chose the art glass—now in the lamp—for his 1907 exhibition, and this lamp is now a highlight in Kirkland Museum’s exhibition.
In 1902, Wright visited the Larkin Company, a successful soap manufacturer in Buffalo, New York, to discuss designing headquarters for Larkin as well as residences for many Larkin executives. Wright’s association with Darwin D. Martin at Larkin resulted, over time, in more than 20 other designs, including a residence for William R. Heath, a Larkin attorney.
All of Wright’s buildings from this era were done in his Prairie Style, characterized by strong horizonal lines, cantilevered roofs and open floorplans. Earth tone colors dominate. Wright juxtaposed the horizonal lines of the architecture with the use of tall chair backs to divide his innovative open floor plans. Dining chairs like this example acted as screens to create an intimate space for families to eat together.
This table is from the lobby of the Frank L. Smith Bank, still in operation as a bank under a different name. Though very similar to Prairie Style dining tables of the period, this table was made especially tall, presumably for bank patrons to stand at when filling out deposit slips and paperwork. One of only two banks designed by Wright, the Frank L. Smith Bank has a home-like interior with a fireplace, warm-colored brick and an abundance of oak trim.
The Prairie Style home Wright designed for his attorney, Sherman M. Booth, is in the Ravine Bluffs subdivision in Glencoe, Illinois. Wright eventually designed six homes, as well as their furnishings, for this neighborhood. Thin vertical wood slats are a repeating motif throughout the house.
This newly acquired window was designed for the Avery Coonley Playhouse, a secondary building used as a kindergarten and performance space on the property of the Wright-designed Coonley House. Wright created a clerestory, a continuous band of more than thirty windows just under the roofline, to fill the room with light. This is the only building in Wright’s career where no two windows are the same and where he used bright primary colors.
Covering a double city block, Midway Gardens was a multi-venue performance and dining space, with an open-air plaza where patrons could eat, drink and be entertained. Wright was commissioned to design the structure and all the furnishings and decorative elements from murals to napkins rings, a total work of art. He also designed the logo for the site and used it on the tableware. The square pattern on the border of the dishes was designed to mimic a similar border on tablecloths and napkins.
Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to replace the old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo with new construction meant to bridge Eastern and Western styles. Reinforced concrete and brick walls and terra cotta tile floors were paired with carved Japanese Oya stone. Wright had admired Japan for years and collected Japanese woodblock prints. He lived in Japan for five years while overseeing the hotel’s construction, which was completed in 1922. One of Wright’s greatest achievements, the hotel exemplifies his vision of a total work of art.
The Peacock Chair got its name because it was used in the Peacock banquet room of the hotel, as well as other public spaces. The hexagonal form of the seat back is mimicked in the vaulted ceilings of the hotel. The square seat mimics the building’s geometric architecture.
Wright designed two sets of dinnerware for the Imperial Hotel. The gold checkerboard rim on the formal dining room china mimics the design of the hotel windows. The Cabaret Dinnerware was for less formal dining. Wright worked on the Coonley Playhouse and Imperial Hotel projects at the same time and introduced the circles and primary colors into both projects.
The hotel survived the Great Tokyo Earthquake shortly after opening in 1923 but was heavily damaged and the Peacock Room was later destroyed by bombing during World War II. Eventually falling into disrepair, Wright’s hotel building was closed in 1967. Prior to demolition, the main entrance and lobby were disassembled and rebuilt at the Museum Meiji-mura in Inuyama, Japan.
Wright designed over 40 pieces of furniture for his SC Johnson & Son Administration Building (1936–1939), manufacturer of household cleaning products, notably wood paste wax. The building is still the SC Johnson global headquarters for brands like Windex and Ziploc. The structure includes an expansive Great Workroom with huge columns—commonly called “lily pads”—with round tops that support the ceiling and taper as they near the floor. The circular design of the columns is echoed in the chairs and desks Wright designed for the space.
Wright’s home for Robert D. Winn is one of four he designed for a cooperative community called Parkwyn Village. The walls for all four homes were constructed of inexpensive 12 x 16-inch modular concrete blocks accented with mahogany trim and—for the Winn house specifically—a large, curved wall of windows overlooking the landscape.
With their block construction and heated concrete floors, Usonian houses like these were meant to be affordable to middle class families, in part by relying on the homeowners and community members to aid in building the homes. Wright’s furniture designs for the Winn house mimic the modular nature of the exterior concrete blocks.
The full dining set is part of our exhibition, with a single chair example pictured here. Broad Margin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian home for sisters Charlcy & Gabrielle Austin, was completed in 1954. Built into a tree-covered hillside, the home embodies Wright’s idea of blending the structure into its environment. The Austin House was named Broad Margin by Wright after a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: “I love a broad margin in my life.”
Built with the sisters in mind, the home is small, with the shared spaces placed around a central fireplace. It uses typical materials for a Usonian design—heated concrete floors, wood trim and modular furniture. The field stones used in the poured concrete walls and the cypress wood found throughout the home and furniture were locally-sourced.
Wright dreamt of building a skyscraper and eventually fulfilled his dream in the prairies of Oklahoma. Harold C. Price commissioned Wright to build the tallest building of his career—the oil company’s headquarters.
Price Tower is a 19-story reinforced concrete structure finished in copper and gold glass. The building is composed of rotating geometric shapes with four fins that cantilever out from the central core. Wright used a series of triangles and squares in the floorplan, also used in the design of the chairs. The hexagonal backrest and seat are six triangles rotated and fit together.
“The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is pleased to support Kirkland Museum’s exhibition, and I look forward to giving a guest lecture,” says Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “Wright’s visionary designs were all about unifying landscapes, buildings, and the other elements of design in a total work of art that had the power to make our lives better. Kirkland's upcoming exhibition will reveal how his design principles are still relevant—and needed more than ever—in our lives and in the future."