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Press Release - Huntington Acquires 13 Important Pieces of Frank Lloyd Wright Furniture

October 18, 2012

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), (left to right) Arthur Heurtley House Reclining Armchair, ca. 1902; Husser House Dining Suite, 1899; Avery Coonley House Oak Spindle Side Chair, ca. 1908. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), (left to right) Arthur Heurtley House Reclining Armchair, ca. 1902; Husser House Dining Suite, 1899; Avery Coonley House Oak Spindle Side Chair, ca. 1908. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

 

SAN MARINO, Calif. —The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced today the acquisition of 13 important pieces of furniture designed by seminal American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959).  The highlight of the group is a nine-piece dining room suite designed in 1899 for the Husser House (which since has been destroyed) in Chicago, a commission that marked a crucial turning point in Wright’s career. With that project, Wright began to conceive of interior space that was more open and flowing than in his earlier commissions, breaking down the notions of architecture that had prevailed until that point.

 

The Huntington also acquired four chairs from four other signature Wright houses in Illinois: the Avery Coonley House, the Arthur Heurtley House, the Little House, and the Ward W. Willits House. All 13 pieces of furniture have been on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art at The Huntington since 2009, on long-term loan from the Joyce and Erving Wolf family.

 

“It’s difficult to measure the significance of this acquisition,” said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “Wright’s work is indispensible to understanding the history of modern architecture and design in this country. And since many of his important early projects, like the Husser House, have been demolished, the need to make their design components available to the public has become pressing. Consequently, we’re thrilled to have been able to add these works to the permanent collection at The Huntington.”

 

Wright is considered one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. In the 1890s, when heavily ornamented Victorian tastes still dominated the interiors of the day, Wright was at the forefront of a group of architects who were beginning to design structures in which furnishings with a more streamlined design played important roles. In addition to developing plans for more than a thousand buildings of various types, Wright designed furniture, leaded-glass windows, light fixtures, metal ware, and textiles—objects made to harmonize with the buildings for which they were intended.

 

While Wright went on to design innovative buildings from New York to Los Angeles—including Hollyhock House and the Ennis House in Los Angeles, and the Millard House (La Miniatura) in Pasadena—many of the themes that characterize his achievement were laid down in his early work. The Chicago-area designs reflect most strongly his philosophies of using natural materials and the integration of architecture and interior furnishings with the site. All of the objects acquired by The Huntington date to this pivotal period in Wright’s career.

 

The desire for beauty in commonplace objects, respect for natural materials, and interest in simplicity link Wright to the Design Reform and Arts and Crafts Movements, strongly represented at The Huntington by its William Morris Collection, selections of which are on view in the Huntington Art Gallery, and by the work of Charles and Henry Greene, displayed in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The Huntington also holds dozens of images of Wright’s later work by midcentury architectural photographer Maynard L. Parker.

 

“The Husser House dining suite and these four distinctive chairs by Frank Lloyd Wright are as stunning today as they were a hundred years ago,” said Jessica Todd Smith, chief curator of American art at The Huntington. “They have become a favorite, dramatic feature in the American art installation here.”

 

The Huntington’s American art collection will expand into 5,400 square feet of additional gallery space in 2014. “To know the Wright furniture is now ours allows us to move forward with plans for the reinstallation of the galleries with confidence—knowing these historically significant, top-quality examples of turn-of-the-20th-century design will be here in perpetuity,” she added.


 

List of Newly Acquired Pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959), Avery Coonley House Spindle Side Chair, ca. 1908. Oak, 37 x 20 x 14 inches. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art.

Avery Coonley House Spindle Side Chair, ca. 1908. Oak, 37 x 20 x 14 in. 

 

Throughout his life, Wright had an abiding interest in the natural world, and the materials he chose for his furniture often reflected that interest.  In the Coonley House chair, the long, flowing grain of the oak serves as a rich counterpoint to the chair’s rather spare, geometric form.


 Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959), Arthur Heurtley House Reclining Armchair, ca. 1902. Birch and elm, 37 x 32 x 30 inches. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art. Arthur Heurtley House Reclining Armchair, ca. 1902. Birch and elm, 37 x 32 x 30 in.

 

Wright designed this dynamic reclining armchair around 1902 for the Heurtley House in Oak Park, Ill. The arms taper outward to a triangular form and are supported by uprights set on an angle, which mirrors details of the floor plan of the house itself.


 Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959), Husser House Dining Suite, 1899. Oak table, 28 x 60 x 54 inches, and eight chairs, each 52 inches high. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art.Husser House Dining Suite, 1899. Oak table, 28 x 60 x 54 in., and eight chairs, each 52 in. high

 

The highlight of the acquisition is the nine-piece dining room suite designed for the home of Joseph W. Husser in Chicago, Ill. With the Husser House, Wright’s domestic commissions took on a more horizontal form, with wings extending out from a central core. This important transitional house stretched in harmony with the great sweeping spaces of the Midwest prairie and was part of the genesis of the so-called Prairie School of architecture. The Husser House Dining Suite is strikingly geometric and rectilinear. The chairs have high backs with vertical slats that also appear on the sides of the base of the table, establishing a unity of design. The high backs create a space within an architectural environment, forming vertical accents in the sweeping horizontal interior. The edge of the table bears a carved, triple-row checkerboard pattern, which did not appear again in Wright’s work until his Heritage-Henredon furniture lines of 1955.


Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959), Armchair from the Little House, ca 1903. Oak and leather, 37 x 32 x 30 in. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art.

Little House Armchair, ca. 1903. Oak and leather, 37 x 32 x 30 in.

 

Wright’s increasing commitment to planar structure in his seating furniture is evident in this chair.  From the broad expanse of its flat armrests to the smooth and beautifully figured rectangular planes of its sides and back, the chair is a masterwork in simplified geometric form.  Wright connected the various parts of the chair though his use of horizontal bands which serve both to link the chair’s disparate parts into one unified whole and to enliven its otherwise austere planar structure.  Early members of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Littles were among Frank Lloyd Wright’s most significant clients.  In the furniture he designed for their home, Wright was clearly interested in creating a strong and richly meaningful aesthetic statement.


Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959), Armchair designed for the Ward W. Willits House, ca 1902. Oak, 45 x 23 x 20 inches. Purchased with the Virginia Steele Scott Acquisition Fund for American Art.

Ward W. Willits House Armchair, ca. 1902. Oak, 45 x 23 x 20 in.

 

By 1902, Wright had moved on to a new, more robust interpretation of the Husser chair concept, which can be seen in this example of the chairs designed for the dining space of the Ward W. Willits House in Highland Park, Ill., in about 1902.


 

CONTACTS:   Thea M. Page, 626-405-2260, tpage@huntington.org

 

                          Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140, lblackburn@huntington.org

 

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution digital images available on request for publicity use.]

About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found at huntington.org.

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The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Summer hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Admission on weekdays: $20 adults, $15 seniors (65+), $12 students (ages 12–18 or with full-time student I.D.), $8 youth (ages 5–11), free for children under 5. Group rate, $11 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends: $23 adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, $8 youth, free for children under 5. Group rate, $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of each month with advance tickets. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org.

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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