Frank Lloyd Wright saw the galleries and museums of Chicago as prison houses of gesture and anecdote, all cast in forms of photographic artificiality. He told one audience,” nature is never right for a picture, that is, not ready made.” To another group he sardonically said, ” If you see a picture in which perhaps a cow is looking out at you so real, so lifelike, don’t buy the picture- buy the cow!” He had still more deeper and personal reservations. His revolt against the anecdotal in the work of such contemporaries as the preposterous Frederick William MacMonnies or the vacuous Kenyon Cox is quick and sure. But it is obvious that his distrust of the fine arts extended far beyond these pallid American expressions. In fact, as time goes on, his distrust extends to the whole tradition of Western art.
Long before Wright saw Renaissance art at first hand, he was almost prudishly reacting against its “sensuality and extravagance.” In 1908 he is urging us with a warning, a warning that is more ethical than aesthetic: Our aesthetics are dyspeptic from incontinent indulgence in “Frenchite” pastry. We crave ornament for the sake of ornament; cover up our faults of design with ornamental sensualities that were a long time ago sensuous ornament. We will do well to dismiss this unwholesome and unholy craving and look to the simple line; to the clean though living form and quiet color for a time, until the true significance of these things has dawned for us once more. The old structural forms which up to the present time, have spelled “architecture” are decayed. Their life went from them long ago and new conditions industrially, steel and concrete and terra-cotta in particular, are prophesying a more plastic art wherein as the flesh is to our bones so will the covering be to the structure, but more truly and beautifully expressive than ever.Read More:http://www.learn.columbia.edu/courses/arch20/pdf/art_hum_reading_51.pdf
Two years later, as a forty-year-old husband and father living near Florence with a woman not his wife, Frank Lloyd Wright stood face to face with the great artists of the Renaissance . He was stunned by their sensualism: I have had the privilege of studying the work of that splendid group of Florentine sculptors and painters and architects, and the sculptor-painters and painter-sculptors, who were also architects: Giotto, Masaccio, Mantegna, Arnolfo, Pisano, Brunelleschi, and Bramante, Sansovino and Angelo.No line was drawn between the arts and their epoch. Some of the sculpture is good painting; most of the painting is good sculpture: and in both lie the patterns of architecture. Where this confusion is not a blending of these arts, it is as amazing as it is unfortunate. To attempt to classify the works severely as pure painting, pure sculpture, or pure architecture would be quite impossible, if it were desirable for educational purposes…Read More:http://www.expo98.msu.edu/people/wright.htm
Despite its magnificent power and virtuosity, it was a “corrupt” art, confusing the “curious with the beautiful.” Even worse, it was itself corrupting, leading to the “sensuality and extravagance of later periods.” Out of the Renaissance had come the “debased” styles of baroque, rococo, Louis XIV; out of it ultimately had come the eclecticism that had submerged his own Chicago. Whatever its original intentions, however great its potentials, the Renaissance for Wright was a “soulless blight, a warning, a veritable damnation.” Strong words these, with more than an echo of Cotton Mather. They reveal a very important aspect of Wright’s personality. For despite a private life which, even then, was feeding many a lurid newspaper story, and despite a succession of designs that must rank among the most sensuously powerful in America- despite this, he remained at heart a Puritan. Here in Florence he was face to face with the fountainhead of that neoclassic current which had overwhelmed Louis Sullivan and even now threatened Wright. His rage is understandable. It must have seemed to him and not without reason that he alone, among the American architects, was fighting to establish an idiom of his own and was not, like them, a “parasite, feeding on past greatness.”
Was Frank Lloyd Wright also a member of the Society of the Spectacle? A sort of correlate with capitalist society through a weird theism of material, material glorification. The cult of materials. The physical. A kind of business artist, a celebrity artist, a servant of the society of the spectacle: After all, there was a preference here for appearance over reality a celebration of appearance at the expense of reality. How else can one explain the Guggenheim except as an act of rage against the society that feeds him and his ego and he in turn in his own idiosyncratic way reinforces those values
ny reality; a society of the spectacle that hangs in stasis with no external and internal reality, like much of Wright’s work a series of codified appearances that teases out inherent esthetics, natural esthetics in many cases. What we have left is another legacy of cultural code, one among many, another squeaky wheel needing a lube job, and maybe ultimately of no special consequence.
( see link at end) …Wright said of himself that “he couldn’t live, move and have his being. so it seemed, without a heart to heart comrade.”" And yet his mistrust for his own dependence on such soul mates helped produce the lurches in his domestic life for which he eventually became infamous. The consummate designer of domestic space, who invariably made the hearth and its fire a metaphor for the sacred family circle. fled that circle when he feared that it threatened his own freedom. For ordinary people who watched Wright’s behavior from afar, inconsistencies such as these often looked like irresponsibility-or worse, dishonor. Even today. when one inquires ‘about Wright’s reputation in his home state of Wisconsin , one usually hears. first. that he abandoned his family and, second. that he was not a man of his word-not a man whose honor could be consistently trusted. ”You know.” people say with considerable feeling almost half a century after the fact, “the man didn’t pay his bills.”
It would be easy to regard such personal inconsistencies as mere peccadilloes that fade into irrelevancy when set against Wright’s undeniably brilliant artistic achievements. Certainly there is much ro be learned by moving beyond the distractions of his formidable personality to confront his buildings directly. The trouble. unfortunately. is that Wright himself clearly believed his architecture to be an organic expression of the very personality that. in many ways. seems so problematic. Indeed, his affection for the inconsistent hobgoblins that strike terror in little minds was everywhere apparent in his professional practice. Proclaiming the need for a new “organic” architecture, he argued that buildings should respond to the natural conditions of their sites and yet one of the most important innovations of his so-called Prairie style was to introduce shallow-pitched roofs into northern climates where winter snow accumulations threatened the integrity of any roof not steep enough to shed its load by force of gravity.
The leakiness of Wright’s roofs is nothing short of legendary, even to this day. Wright espoused a deep devotion to the “nature of materials.” arguing that each should be employed only, in ways that were consistent with its innermost qualities, and yet he repeatedly pushed those materials to the extreme limits of their tolerance. to the verge of failure and beyond. He treated people in much the same way. Although he claimed that an architect should design each house to reflect the individuality of its owner, in fact, he behaved as if the owner’s individuality mattered far less than the architect’s.’ In his view clients simply did not understand their own needs, and so the architect should reeducate their tastes to bring them in line with his own. “lt’s their duty,” he declared, “to understand.
T0 appreciate, and conform insofar as possible to the idea of the house. ” And so we have famous stories of houses with ceilings so low that anyone much taller than Wright who stretched truth and height alike when he claimed to be five feet-eight inches tall-would regularly bump his head, and of homeowners who, after inviting Wright to spend the night, awoke to discover their living-room furniture completely rearranged, or even discarded, to match his own vision of the room. … Read More:http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/cronon_inconstant_unity_passion_of_frank_lloyd_wright_1994.pdf