Frank Lloyd Wright and the Three Golden Ages

Frank Lloyd Wright
East Elevation Research Tower for S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc. (detail)
Cyanotype on heavy paper, 1945 (Blueprint)
Provenance - City of Racine Building Commission, Wisconsin
H 36 1/4 x W 46 1/4 inches (full sheet)

Frank Lloyd Wright
Charles R. Perry residence
Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, 1915
Square chop, lower right no initials
H 12 3/4 x W 20 5/8 inches

Frank Lloyd Wright
Plan for The Goblin Playhouse (detail)
Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, 1926
12 x 17 inches

Hedrich-Blessing
Fallingwater
Photographer - Bill Hedrich
Gelatin-silver exhibition print on mount
Negative 1937 Print 1999
H 15 1/4 x W 19 1/4 inches

Hedrich-Blessing
Fallingwater (Tower)
Photographer - Bill Hedrich
Gelatin-silver exhibition print
Negative 1937 Print 1999
H 23 x W 18 1/2 inches

September 4, 2009 – December 19, 2009

The career of Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most magnificent of any architect’s in history. It was so long and varied that historians have divided it into "Three Golden Ages."

The first was the "Prairie" period. Primarily consisting of residential designs, this period introduced a new American Modernism to the pioneers of European architecture who were the first to recognize Wright as a world class artist.

Frank Lloyd Wright
House For John C. Pew
Stone option (detail)
Graphite and colored pencil on tracing paper, June(?) 1940
Titled and identified lower left
Initialed and dated in red square chop
H 13 1/2 x W 28 inches
Pedro Guerrero
Taliesin West Exhibition
Gelatin-silver print on mount
Signed lower left recto.
Stamped, signed, titled and dated on verso
Negative 1940 Print 1983
H 14 x W 11 inches

The Second Golden Age came with his 1920s California work and his revival into the American consciousness in the 1930s. His response, then, to the new "International Style" was the invention of his own version of rational building design that placed him and his drawing of "Fallingwater" on the cover of Time Magazine.

His Third Golden Age was his theatrical "Expressionistic" late period. New York’s Guggenheim Museum is the most famous result of that form.

ArchiTech Gallery has assembled original drawings and plans that showcase each of Wright’s Golden Ages. 1907 and 1915 design drawings for important Prairie Houses will be exhibited with his 1910 Wasmuth lithographs from Berlin. Original blueprints from Racine’s 1936 Johnson Wax building and its 1945 Research Tower along with vintage photographs of Arizona’s Taliesin West will represent the Second Golden Age.

Pedro Guerrero
Taliesin East
Gelatin-silver print
Titled and dated on label verso
Negative 1940 Later print
H 8 x W 10 inches
Pedro Guerrero
Romeo and Juliet Windmill at Taliesin East
Gelatin-silver print
Identified on label verso
Negative 1940 Later print
H 10 x W 8 inches

And, to represent the Third Age, original colored pencil renderings from the 1950s will be shown as well as vintage photographs of the earliest model and the exhibition pavilion of the Guggenheim Museum.

"Frank Lloyd Wright and the Three Golden Ages" opens in a commercial exhibit of original drawings, photographs and blueprints Friday, September 4th through December 19th, 2009.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Column Details for S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc. (detail)
Cyanotype on heavy paper, 1945 (Blueprint)
Provenance - City of Racine Building Commission, Wisconsin
H 36 1/4 x W 46 1/2 inches (full sheet)
Frank Lloyd Wright
Dwelling for Mr. Hunt LaGrange, Illinois (Perspective, 1 of 3)
Graphite on tracing paper, May 9th, 1907
H 11 x W 12 inches
Titled, signed and dated on 1st Floor plan
Three drawings in sale

Notes on the Exhibition:

This show is a real roll of the dice. I had planned to come up with a more low key (read low cost) exhibition that would have more entry level prices. A sort of "Greatest Hits" of ArchiTech that would recycle works from past shows. The last year and its financial meltdown had reset the market downward and I seem to want to stay in business.

But a funny thing happened on my way to raid the vault. A little background:

Frank Lloyd Wright
Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium
Graphite and Colored Pencil on Tracing Paper, Oct. 30 1959
Initialed and dated in red square chop
H 10 1/2 x W 36 inches
Frank Lloyd Wright
Church For Milwaukee Helenic Community (Annunciation Church)
Graphite and Colored Pencil on Tracing Paper, Apr. 20, 1956
Initialed and dated in red square chop
H 23 1/2 x W 27 1/2 inches

I have always had a few clients that, once bitten by the collecting bug, turned into connoisseurs themselves. One of them had turned into a vacuum cleaner of sorts, and, following my advice, began buying great drawings from around the country that threatened to turn him into an important collector. In the last few years, he would often show me what he was thinking about buying first, and, if my opinion agreed with his, spend real cash for acquisition and conservation.

Soon, his hoard outstripped his wall space. He still had the bug but had decided it might be a good idea to start parting with a few choice morsels so he could continue to buy. We came up with an idea. Maybe the market would be ready for a commercial show of Wright’s drawings that ran the gamut from his early Prairie designs to his last works. Maybe.

It also occurred to me that 2009 was the fiftieth anniversary of Wright’s death. Hmmm.

Pedro E. Guerrero
Taliesin East living room
Gelatin-silver exhibition print
Signed lower right recto
Stamped, dated and signed on verso
Negative circa 1950 Print 1983
H 16 x W 20 inches
Pedro E. Guerrero
Early Model of Guggenheim Museum (detail)
Four gelatin-silver print contacts, 1953
H 10 x W 8 inches

I still owned a large collection of vintage photographs, from early Prairie prints to Guerrero’s images of Wright’s late work. And in that mix could be the Hedrich Blessing photographs that included the famous Bill Hedrich shot of Fallingwater.

In the flat files, there’s always a rich selection of Wasmuth lithographs from the Prairie years. If we added those to my client’s preliminary drawings and final renderings, the combination would make a pretty comprehensive, museum quality exhibition. But the prices set for his rare drawings in particular would test the market only a year after the worst of the recession hit. Was this the time?

Chicago had not been as badly affected as other cities but ArchiTech has a national clientele. The local market, surprisingly, is not consistent enough to keep the wolf from the door. Was it too early?