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.
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.”
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.
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
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
List of Newly Acquired Pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140, email@example.com
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[EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution digital images available on request for publicity use.]
About The Huntington
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