Snow at Taliesin

Photograph taken by Edmund Teske. Taliesin in winter with snow and ice.
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Edmund Teske took this photograph in the winter of 1936-37. He was in the Breezeway at Taliesin, looking northeast towards the living room.

This week, a winter storm is crossing the United States. This storm reminded me of one of the “At Taliesin” newspaper articles written by apprentices in the Taliesin Fellowship.

This article is in At Taliesin: Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship, 1934-1937, ed. by Randolph C. Henning. It’s on p. 241-42 of the “At Taliesin” book:

AT TALIESIN, February 20, 19371

In winter the sharp lines of the horizon along the ridges of our surrounding hills disappear and in the soft light of evening the valleys merge into the hills and the hills vanish into the sky.  Trees upon the hills are patterned tracery.  Pods of weeds, close by, are sharp edged black spots upon the white: staccato notes in the prevailing rhythm of quiet.

Snow: sharp, keen, icy, in billowing drifts or in long horizontal ledges, brings harmony to the landscape of our Wisconsin farmland: farmland that in summer is fenced in and fenced up and out by farm after farm of farmers who have worked out countless ingenious ways to characterize their acres of land.  The boxed-in boxes of farmhouses, styes, coops, pens scattered about, hit and miss, over the countryside mar the land’s native beauty.

          We view – in winter – Wisconsin’s hills as we saw the Arizona desert stretching off toward distant mountains: untouched, whole, clean.

          What man could not do to the Arizona desert because of nature’s protection, the winter snow has buried in Wisconsin.

As the hot desert sun decorates simplicity by sending color into the myriad lichens upon the patterned rock faces of the desert floor, so our winter sun flashes light and fire into the ice-jeweled thistles showing above the frosted earth in our own valleys.

And as the saguaro-cactus stands in heroic silhouette against the sunny southern sky, the ice clad Wisconsin trees crackle and shimmer: miraculous against the cobalt above.

What we went in search for to Arizona we have here around us: this harmonious union of natural things.  A union here made supreme and impervious to harm by ice and snow: white and blue – silver and black.  Again contrast and accentuation – in the distance a red spot – the Wisconsin barn.

            EUGENE MASSELINK

First published December 20, 2022
The photograph at the top of this post was published in Architectural Forum magazine, January 1938, volume 68, number 1, p. 3.


Notes:

1 You read Masselink talking about Arizona, but everyone is in Wisconsin. That’s because the land where Wright will build Taliesin West has not been found yet. That will happen in November of 1937.

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