SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
announced the acquisition of 13 important pieces of furniture designed by seminal American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (18671959). 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 Wrights 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 (which also has been demolished), 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.
Its difficult to measure the significance of this acquisition, said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. Wrights 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, were 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 textilesobjects made to harmonize with the buildings for which they were intended.
While Wright went on to design innovative buildings from New York to Los Angelesincluding Hollyhock House and the Ennis House in Los Angeles, and the Millard House (La Miniatura) in Pasadenamany 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 Wrights 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 Wrights 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 Huntingtons 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 confidenceknowing these historically significant, top-quality examples of turn-of-the-20th-century design will be here in perpetuity, she added.