if I haven’t told you already, I’ve never tried to figure out why Frank Lloyd Wright made any changes at Taliesin.
Well: the fact that his house has a kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms is self-explanatory…,
but I’m talking about experiments or changes. Like Wright adding the skylight in the “Little Kitchen” to show Solomon Guggenheim how the natural lighting at his museum would work.
For years, there was a door just to the left of where you entered the Living Room. It came out of the kitchen (known now as the “Little Kitchen”).
That door from the kitchen to the Living Room was there all the way back to the Taliesin I era (1911-1914). At that time the kitchen’s doors opened into the hallway and the living room.
The drawing from 1911, below, shows the main entry, kitchen and Living Room. You can see where the doors were at that time:
Here’s another drawing from 1925 (after the second fire) to show you the same doorway:
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, drawing #2501.001.
In 1943, Wright got the commission for the Guggenheim Museum and then prepared for Guggenheim’s visit to Taliesin.1 Wright made many changes to Taliesin at that time. I’ve always thought that perhaps Wright made changes in order to entice the new client.
It might be part of the other changes Wright made in the early 1940s that I wrote about over a year ago.
these are slightly here I’m writing about different changes in this part of the room in the early 1940s.
These were changes related to the connection between the Little Kitchen and the Living Room.
Here’s a photo with an arrow pointing at the door into the Little Kitchen.
In the fall of 1937, Ken Hedrich (of Hedrich-Blessing photographers) took photos all over Taliesin and the Taliesin estate; while brother Bill took photos of that new Wright building designed over a waterfall.
By the way: I always struggle to remember which Hedrich brother took photos at Taliesin (Ken) and which one took photos at Fallingwater (Bill). I almost think I should tattoo “Ken Hedrich took the Taliesin photos” on my arm…. Although today I had to look for the answer from my own blog (the post “Hillside Drafting Studio Flooring“)…. So I’ll just keep this website and blog going for… well until I’m in my late 90s at least.
Wright expanded the Little Kitchen in 1943. When that work was complete, the large door near the fireplace no longer went outside; it just opened into the kitchen.
Since he didn’t need the door Living Room any longer, Wright just had the apprentices veneer the original door with stone. They did a pretty good job matching, too. You wouldn’t really know it have been a door there unless you already knew.
Here’s a photo with stone where the door was, and the shelf in place:
After he removed the wooden door and veneered it with stone he put in the shelf you can see there. I have never seen a photo with the stone, but no shelf.
While he might have just wanted that shelf there to draw your eye, or complete the design or match the trim on the south wall (that you see on the left-hand side of the photo).
since a wooden door had been in the southwestern corner of the Living Room since 1925, the shelf under the bottom of the cabinet might really have been put there just to keep visitors from trying to exit the old way: the now non-existent door.
If you’d been a guest a few times at Taliesin, maybe you’d gotten used to getting a snack at night from the kitchen while staying in the Guest Bedroom? So, perhaps that shelf kept you from walking smack dab into a wall?
If you ever took a tour at Taliesin from 1994 until 2018, you walked into the Living Room and that corner was drywalled with gold paint on it. So the corner looked like what you see below:
The photo above is what that corner looked like when I first started working at Taliesin.2 And there were more rugs on the floor. That’s not original either. They’re rugs from the collection, but they weren’t there. Bruce Pfeiffer (former Wright apprentice and the original Curator of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Archives) used to say that many rugs in the Living Room made it look like an Asian rug shop. Well, former Wright apprentice John de Koven Hill was the one who “okayed” their location. Since “Johnny” joined the Taliesin Fellowship long before Bruce he outranked him, I guess.
Since the gold in that corner was determined not to be original to Wright’s lifetime, the drywall was removed. “Stilfehler” took a photograph of the corner on a tour and loaded it onto Wikimedia Commons:
First published August 26, 2023. The photograph at the top of this post is also in the Maynard Parker collection at the Huntington Library. It’s online here.
1. I thought for years that Wright did all these changes in anticipation of Guggenheim’s visit. You would, too, if you’ve read Working With Mr. Wright: What It Was Like, by Curtis Besinger. But in 2012, the diary of Priscilla Henken was published. This was a daily diary that Henken wrote in from October 1942 to late August 1943. On page 195 of the diary, July 18, 1943, Henken wrote that the Wrights, who had been away for days from Taliesin, were back and that: “The contract is for a million dollar museum for non-objective art, sponsored by Solomon Guggenheim….” So: that changed things.
2. By the way: the photo shows the very end of the inglenook in the Living Room (it’s under the metal Asian statue). That’s got gold, too. Was that original? Yes it was. And I’ve been told it’s gold leaf.
My May 2004 photograph looking at Taliesin’s entry and entry foyer.
I find humor regarding Wright’s placement of his own home’s front door, so my post today is going to be about that.
I say “humor” because of how Wright is praised on his placement of the front doors of his homes. That he placed the entrances in ways that create a journey of surprise to visitors as they seek them out.
Therefore, his houses do not usually have the front doors smack dab in front of you.
Ok, well there was that one time.
And he was young! The house (the Winslow) was his first independent commission in 1893. He was 25 or 26. Haven’t we all done things as we’re learning the ins and outs of our own lives?
Well, THAT’S an apartment building. You gotta make the entry really large to help people to go in —
Those are all photographs of Wright buildings, but I’m trying to make a point.
. . . . Against my fictional self.
But, seriously: I find the history of Taliesin’s “front door” funny because, when he first designed his home in 1911, when you arrived at Taliesin’s first courtyard, a door was one of the first things you saw, but it wasn’t the front door.
Let me back up and show you:
So, in 1911, you would drive past Taliesin’s waterfall, and along the carriage path up the hill, and stop under the roof of the Porte-Cochere, in the photo below.1
This photograph was taken by Wright’s draftsman, Taylor Woolley, in the late fall or early spring, 1911-12.
And once you stopped under the roof, you could get out of your vehicle and walk into the “forecourt”. And here, you saw this door, behind the vertical wood strips there at the low wall near the middle of the photo:
And yes, behind the vertical pieces of wood are bug screens. Even though Wright supposedly hated them. I think it took only one summer in Wisconsin, with the Taliesin pond, for Wright to understand that the mosquitoes in Wisconsin can be pretty nasty.
Knowing me, if I were invited to Taliesin in 1912 I probably would have walked right up to that door, figuring that was the main house entry. But that’s not where Wright designated the front door. No; apparently Wright’s planned trip for visitors to the main, formal, Taliesin entry was that they would walk straight from the Porte-Cochere, through the forecourt, and up three steps and under the roof on the left that you see in the photo above.
The photo below I think shows you the straight shot he wanted you to take.
The continued walk to the door:
You go up those steps and under that roof. And on your left was another door. Which was not the front door.
Here’s why I think this is funny: in many of his designs, I get the impression that there is just one door that he intentionally leads you to. But at his home, he’s got these other doors and I think I’d get frustrated after awhile.
Although under the roof, you could see the river
I think he hoped to draw you to the view in the distance to see the Wisconsin River.
And, then you’d see the front door. It would be on your right.
The best view of the door is actually in a drawing:
I’ve never seen a photo of that door on the outside during Taliesin I or II.
You can only see the door at that time from the inside, at Taliesin’s living room. You can see one view on the other side of the inglenook which I wrote about in my last post, 1940s Change in Taliesin’s Living Room.
But the other thing that is really interesting was that when you walked through Taliesin’s “front door” at that time, you walked right into the Living/Dining room of Taliesin.
And before that, you walked passed the kitchen.
This caught my eye starting about three months ago:
Here’s one thing Wright wrote about kitchens in 1907:
… Access to the stairs from the kitchen is sufficiently private at all times, and the front door may be easily reached from the kitchen without passing through the living room.
“The Fireproof House for $5,000”, in Frank Lloyd WrightCollected Writings: 1894-1930, volume 1. Edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, introduction by Kenneth Frampton (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York City, 1992), 81-2.
So, he’s not paying attention to this, in his own home. At that time at Taliesin, the only way to get to the front door would be by walking past the kitchen. And, if you were inside the kitchen, the only way to get to that front door would be by going through the living room/dining area.
So, Wright keeps the door in the same place, but changes how you get there. And, for almost 15 years, he had you drive east of the living quarters to get arrive at the front door. An aerial photograph showing the road is below:
From the book, The Fellowship: The Unknown Story of Frank Lloyd Wright & the Taliesin Fellowship, by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman (Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2006). This image was published in the page opposite page 1.
That road in the aerial brought you to the steps on the way to the front door that you see below in this 1929 photograph.
These steps took (and take) you to Taliesin’s entry. When this photograph was taken you, would walk up the three sets of steps and the door into Taliesin was to the right of the chimney.
Here’s what former apprentice Edgar Tafel wrote about his first experience walking into the house:
At Taliesin, we went through a Dutch door, its top half swinging open. Below, flagstone, and all around us natural stone. The ceiling was low, sandy plaster just above our heads. Wright led the way into his living room. What an impression that room made! It was my first total Frank Lloyd Wright atmosphere. How I was struck by those forms, shapes, materials! It was heartbreaking – I had never imagined such beauty and harmony.
This comes from page 20 in Apprentice to Genius: Years With Frank Lloyd Wright, the book I recommended last year.
In 1943, Wright changed the entrance to where it is now:
I mentioned this book when I wrote about books by apprentices.
He described in in the chapter, “Spring and Summer, 1943”:
It seemed that some students from Harvard had complained to Mr. Wright when visiting Taliesin that they had had difficulty finding the entrance. He was going to correct this.
… These new doors were visually on the center of the garden court, and made a stronger connection between the interior of the entry area and the court.
Curtis Besinger. Working with Mr. Wright: What it was Like (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1995), 147.
Re: “students from Harvard”:
When I gave tours, if I had time after bringing people to the front door, I’d tell them about the Harvard students. I often added that “Wright said Harvard took good plums and turned them into prunes.”3
The formal entry was to the right of the two tall birch trees in the center of the photo. Although people usually went inside through the door to the left of the two tall birch trees.
Although the students from Harvard possibly influenced Wright to take away some of the FIVE DOORS that he had on that side of the house. Seriously: take a look at drawing 2501.048. It shows Taliesin’s living quarters, 1937-43.
First published March 26, 2022.
Another word I’ve learned while working at Taliesin. Porte-Cochere: a “carriage porch” and “a covered carriage or automobile entryway leading to a courtyard.” The Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, 4th ed. (2006, Cyril J. Harris, ed., McGraw Hill, New York, 1975).
If you click on the drawing, you’ll see it’s characterized as “Taliesin II”. That’s wrong. Architectural details in the drawing show that this was actually 1911-14, Taliesin I. It just hasn’t been corrected. If you know anyone close to the Avery library who wants to contract with me as a consultant to correct these dates on Taliesin drawings, I’m all up for it; please give them my contact information. Thx.
As always, I learned the “gist” of that quote, but I can’t find the actual quote itself.
Wright wrote something about the same in his book about mentor Louis Sullivan, Genius and the Mobocracy. Wright while writing about university education, says that the “creeping paralysis” in ” higher learning” takes “Perfectly good fresh young lives—like perfectly good plums… destined to be perfectly good prunes.”
That’s in the Frank Lloyd Wright: Collected Writings 1939-49, volume 4, 343-344.
I like the way I first heard it, rather than how Wright wrote it. Maybe he said it someplace else.
Looking (plan) north at the door to the alcove of Taliesin’s Drafting Studio.
Recently, I came across what I wrote to myself during Taliesin’s Save America’s Treasuresproject in 2003-04. It reminded me of one of the “finds” during that project. That’s what I’m going to write about in this post.
This other “SATs” project was carried out by Taliesin Preservation. The project’s purpose was to construct a drainage solution to the Taliesin residence. The Taliesin residence is at the “brow” of a hill (Taliesin, meaning “Shining Brow” in Welsh), so all the water had to get from the top of the hill to the bottom.
What – Wright didn’t think about rain going downhill?
Wright initially installed drainage at Taliesin. However, because he continuously changed Taliesin—and he never used gutters—the water, eventually, went through the building.
Not an ideal circumstance
One of the things I discovered in preservation is that water, in its liquid and solid form, is the most pernicious substance. It can expand, creating pressure. In humidity it can encourage mold. It can turn plaster into mush and wooden beams into fibrous soggy filaments.
Taliesin had all of these things and more.
Taliesin’s Save America’s Treasures project was designed, then, to move water, ice, and snow around the building, while not completely rebuilding or destroying it. Therefore, in order to do this, all of the flagstone in the main court was removed, and drainage was added under it to move the water around it. In addition, concrete walls were constructed under the main building, to help the drainage. This removed stone included that in Taliesin’s Breezeway (that’s the area under the roof between his home and his studio). So, the construction firm that worked with Taliesin Preservation removed the stone, while the Preservation Crew removed a door and door jam of the alcove in Taliesin’s Breezeway. A photograph of that door at the alcove is at the top of this post.
When the crew member removed the door and frame, he found a window hidden in the stone column on the west (or on the left in the photo above).
A completely unexpected find
We had no idea the window was there.
Although, things being “uncovered” and “found” during this project happened so much that when the crew member found this window, I was like, “Oh, yes. Of course. Something else. Thanks, Frank!“
How he found the window was by removing the door jamb from the stone pier. As it turned out, the top foot (or so) of the stone pier was hollow, with a 1′ 3″ window tucked inside.
I’ll show a couple of photos to explain. First, is a photograph showing the alcove with the door removed:
Looking (plan) north into the alcove outside of Taliesin’s Drafting Studio. You can see where the frame was removed. The found window is at the top on the left. I took this photograph.
Next is a photo looking at the column with the window:
Looking (plan) northwest at the column with the window. To the right of the window is where the door to Wright’s drafting studio usually is.
Then a close-up looking at the window:
I took this photograph of the newly discovered window (with a red frame) in November 2003. The stone on either side hid the window. The wooden board has the word “Spring Gr…” written on top of it.
The newly discovered window explained some things:
We had already noticed a gap between the top of the pier and the ceiling above it. We had wondered if there was a problem at all. But this window proved that the pier had never supported anything in the ceiling.
So: Wright had the pier built, then at some point he decided he didn’t want the little window there anymore. Therefore, he just had his apprentices enclose it by slapping some stone on one side, then on the other. It was probably the simplest solution.
After finding this, I embarked on my usual activity:
I looked for evidence of this little window in floor plans, elevations, and photographs. Although, the pier is underneath a deep overhang, thus any glancing photographs of the area didn’t show a tiny window like this.
And, while I’ve noted that Taliesin’s drawings are unreliable, they can be helpful.
For that reason, I looked at drawings hoping to catch something. One of those drawings was a Xerox. It’s a hand-drawn floor plan, with written measurements alongside everything (maybe Wright had one of his early apprentices do this early in the history of the Taliesin Fellowship).
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Drawing #2501.035.
Looking at the drawing with a magnifying glass I saw “1′ 3″ window” written and it was pointed right at “our” window. I’ve put a close-up of the drawing to show it, below (with the words 1′ 3″ highlighted):
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Drawing #2501.035.
I saw this notation on the drawing at the end of the day, when I was alone in the office. When I saw it, I just started laughing. This amazing thing that we found. . . and there it sat for years, unnoticed, in a drawing.
After laughing, I wrote up the information, and sent that, as well as the scans showing photos, floor plans, and elevations, and my new photos, in an email to my supervisor.
That day was a hell of a lot of fun.
Published September 31, 2021.
I took the photograph at the top of this post on May 14, 2004.
The photograph above shows the dining room areas, first built before 1920, then used by the Wrights and the Taliesin Fellowship. The area dining rooms were on the left, with the kitchen located behind the tower on the right.
I have had the goal of figuring out the history of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin, for awhile. Well, a lot. It’s almost like it’s, I dunno, a career or something.
… [O]ne evening at twilight as the lightning of an approaching lightning storm was playing and the wind rising I came down from the evening meal in the little detached dining room on the hill-top to the dwelling on the court below to find smoke pouring out of my bedroom. Again—there it was—Fire!
Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography, in Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings: 1930-32, volume 2. Edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, introduction by Kenneth Frampton (1992; Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York City, 1992), 294.
The door he was coming out of was to the left of the stone pier. You can’t see the door because it’s behind all of that foliage. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Image/IM38788
There’s a tree coming out of the roof on the left hand side of the photograph. That tree was there for close to a decade (don’t worry: the tree didn’t stand inside a room).
Continuing on Taliesin’s history
Taliesin’s second fire happens in 1925, then, after ups and downs in his career over the next seven years, Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife, Olgivanna, founded the Taliesin Fellowship in 1932. The apprentices in the Fellowship did a lot of work at Taliesin in the 1930s so they could have places to live and eat.
(I wrote about one of them, Edgar Tafel, and his book, Apprentice to Genius, in this post).
Here are the changes in the dining room in the 1930s:
Eventually, the main Fellowship dining room was at Hillside. But, in those early Fellowship years, while the group still ate at Taliesin, Wright added a chimney with two fireplaces to the existing dining room. Abe Dombar, then a Taliesin Fellowship apprentice (along with his brother Bennie; they both became architects) mentioned this in his “At Taliesin” article on March 23, 1934:
…. Additions were made… and the little dining room soon grew to be the big dining room. The apprentices that were there helped to make it grow. The low ceiling of the old dining room now projected out into the new part to form a deck….
And then they built a corner fireplace on the far side by the windows.
On preparation for an issue of that magazine devoted to his work, that fall, Wright dispatched young photographers Bill and Ken Hedrich (of the photography firm, Hedrich-Blessing) to photograph Taliesin and his other recent work. This magazine issue was released the next January. Among other things, that issue of Architectural Forum included unique photographs from the Taliesin estate, as well as the Johnson Wax world headquarters, and that little Wright building known as “Fallingwater”.
During his session, Ken Hedrich took a distant photograph of Taliesin, which showed the building without that tree in the roof. I don’t have that one to show, but here‘s a photograph Ken took on a roof looking over a courtyard with the dining room in the background. It ends at the chimney, and has no tree through the roof.
So, I’m figuring this stuff out: “Ok, the chimney’s built, then the tree is eliminated. Got it.”
He was involved in this during his first fall in the Fellowship:
I was also involved in one other construction project that fall, a remodeling of the Taliesin dining room…,
One morning, having finished his breakfast in the nearby little dining room, Mr. Wright1 came into the Fellowship dining room and announced that he wanted to put a clerestory in the ceiling to let more light as well as the morning sun into the room…. He directed some people to start knocking off the plaster on the ceiling along the east side of the ridge…. He made a rough drawing to indicate how he wanted the clerestory built….
Curtis Besinger. Working with Mr. Wright: What It Was Like (1995; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England), 26.
Even though he wrote his memoir years after his time at Taliesin, I trust Besinger’s memory on when this construction took place. That earliest experience at Taliesin makes a strong impression.
Here’s the conclusion to this information:
By looking at things written contemporaneously (as well as in memoirs), and by using definitively dated photographs (the Teske and Hedrich-Blessing photos), I was able to figure out when the chimney was built (1932-33); then when the tree disappeared (1936-37); then when the clerestory was constructed (1939).
In my nonstop refining of the dates of Taliesin’s changes, I looked at all the photocopies, took a pencil, and re-dated them accordingly. Figuring out these photographs has helped me to figure out changes; and on the other hand, figuring out changes has helped me figure out photographs.
1 While it’s slowly changing, people who knew him and worked with him referred to him as Mr. Wright. I was taught that specifically when I started giving tours. But, as I was completing grad school at that time, I carried the lesson on referring to an artist. First introduce them by their full name and thereafter just use their last names. I tried to call him “Frank Lloyd Wright” otherwise, but I can’t guarantee it.
Photograph taken in 1943. From Taliesin’s Breezeway looking (plan) south at Wright’s apprentice, Curtis Besinger. He’s in Taliesin’s Garden Court, sorting through flagstones that would later be put on the ground in the courtyard.
In my goal of researching Taliesin’s history, I examined Wright’s correspondence looking for anything that might give information about changes Wright made to the building. This research uncovered something about materials at Taliesin, and that is below.
Wright didn’t write out most changes he wanted at Taliesin:
If Wright built Taliesin for a client, he would have written things in detail. But he didn’t, since this was his own home. So, despite the fact that Wright lived at Taliesin for almost 48 years, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of correspondence between Wright and construction personnel, or between him and those in his office where he told them what he wanted done. I couldn’t even find things for when he was out of the country.
In contrast, when he was at Taliesin, things weren’t written down because he was there to give directions.
Some of what I did to figure things out:
Once I realized I couldn’t get information that way, I started poking around in any other direction I could. I read letters between Wright and visitors, workers, apprentices… basically, anyone I could think of who worked for Wright, or visited him at his home. Newspaper and magazine articles are good, and photographs are great, too.
For anything written, I hoped someone would mention something in a letter, like when they came this or that was being constructed or expanded. Ideally this would include a detailed description of everything in the room, along with measurements, please.
Through this method, I discovered a piece of correspondence written in April 1942, from Herbert Fritz, Jr. to Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Herb” Fritz (whose father was a former draftsman for Wright1) was born in 1915, became Wright’s apprentice for 3 years (1938-41), followed by a purchase of land near Wright’s home. Fritz became an architect and practiced almost until he died in 1998.2
Herb wrote to Wright several months after he bought that land (which he later named “Hilltop”). He was designing his home there, and the land had stone that he could work, but he needed to be able to move it.
So, Fritz offered a trade:
“In return for the use of the tractor,” Fritz wrote, “I would like to give you a cord or two of rock for each hour”3 that he needed the vehicle.
I was totally jazzed. First, this was exactly what I was hoping for. Secondly, this answered a question I’d had about Taliesin for years. I had noticed, in archival photographs, stonework changing at Taliesin in the early 1940s. So much work, that when I noticed a change I could almost count on it having occurred some time during World War II.
But I’d never come across anything that explained it.
Herb’s letter arrived when Wright was out of town, so there’s no written reply. But there must have been a verbal agreement between the two men. Nothing else explains that amount of stone and when all those changes were made.
Fritz offered a “cord”; that’s a lot
In volume, that is. It’s: 4 ft x 4 ft x 8 ft; or 128 cubic feet / 3.62 cubic meters (here’s a link showing a cord).
I don’t know exactly how much stone Wright acquired through this, but it must have been quite a bit. The photograph at the top of this page shows an apprentice while making a change: Wright added a level of stone in the Garden Court on top of the existing one.
And in 1945, photographer Ezra Stoller took photographs at Taliesin for a Fortune magazine article on the two Taliesins that came out the next year. The easiest way for me to figure out changes is by using dated photographs. One of those photographs Stoller took is below from a book I own4:
The photograph shows one of the changes at Wright’s drafting studio. The south wall of the studio is to the right of the bell. It has the vertical, glass, doors. Wright had his apprentices build a new stone patio in front of those glass doors.
Why Fritz agreed to this:
While this find totally excited me, I couldn’t figure out why Fritz did it. He had to have known that Wright would take full advantage of such an offer in exchange for the use of Taliesin’s farming tractor. So, since I was at Taliesin West after this find, I asked “Bruce” Brooks Pfeiffer for ideas about it.
Bruce, former Wright apprentice who was born in 1930, noted that the request made sense because of World War II. The United States’ entry into the war began a period of gasoline and rubber rationing. Yet, because Wright’s tractor was a farm vehicle, it wouldn’t have been subject to it.
This stone from Fritz helped Wright transform Taliesin from a year-round Wisconsin residence into a home occupied mostly during the state’s warmer months. This way, Taliesin could fully convert into his summer home, while Taliesin West in Arizona could truly become his winter home (I wrote about this before, in “Did Wright Ever Live in Wisconsin in the Winter?”).
Originally published June 13, 2021. The photograph at the top of the page was taken by Priscilla or David Henken and was published in Taliesin Diary: A Year with Frank Lloyd Wright, by Priscilla Henken (W.W. Norton & Company, New York City, London, 2012), 170.
2 He shows up a few times in the Meryle Secrest biography on Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, he described how he saw Wright in dreams sometimes, and it’s with his memory that Secrest ended the biography.
3 April 1942 Herbert Fritz letter to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York), Microfiche ID #F055C01.
4Masters of Modern Architecture, by John Peter (Bonanza Books, New York, 1958), 47.
This is a nice companion to “Apprentice to Genius”. Besinger became a Wright apprentice in 1939 and stayed until 1955. He brings you year by year through his experience at Taliesin in Wisconsin in the summer, and Taliesin West in Arizona in the winter. He also discussed projects through the years, like the Unitarian meeting House in Madison. Additionally, he talked about activities in the Fellowship: movies the group saw, and about playing and practicing music. And the author wrote about the effect of World War II on the group.
See the book below (A Taliesin Diary, by Priscilla Henken), for the day-to-day Fellowship life during World War II.
Cornelia was an early Taliesin apprentice, and this book contains a collection of her remembrances. Her memories are unique and often humorous. In addition, the book includes interesting photos from her collection.
Picturing Wright shows Wright’s openness. “Pete” was 22 years old, with no experience, when he asked Wright if he could work for him. Wright, who was 50 years older, saw Peter’s talent and gave him all the work he wanted.
Most books by apprentices were written years later, but this was an actual diary kept at the time. Priscilla and her husband, David, were in the Fellowship (1942-43) and she wrote in her diary every day. What she saw and felt give a unique perspective on daily life in the group, and on Wright and his family. The book includes photographs taken by the Henkens when they were apprentices, that have not appeared elsewhere.
Nisbet was an apprentice under Wright in 1951-1953. His “Taliesin Reflections”—short scenes—are mixed with profiles of people in the Fellowship (Gene Masselink, Wes Peters, Jack Howe, and others). When Nisbet went to work as an architect, he employed lessons from Wright in his practice. The book has original illustrations and photographs.
In this book, “Pete” writes about growing up, as well as his career. He worked not only with Frank Lloyd Wright, but with two other major 20th Century artists. He photographed the sculptors: Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson. Also, Guerrero writes about his work in the magazines House Beautiful, House & Garden, and Vogue among others (while always working at Wright’s request).
Charles Paterson was in the Taliesin Fellowship from 1958-60. Truthfully, I purchased the book only for its Taliesin Fellowship connection. I read it in its entirety during the Covid-19 lock-down. So, that’s one thing to be grateful for in the year 2020.
Paterson’s life begins in the 1930s in Austria. Then, his father helped him and his sister escape to Australia during World War II. The three were alive at the end of the war and reunited in the United States. Yet, Paterson’s study under Wright was one stop before he moved to the raw Colorado town of Aspen, where he became an architect.
And all of this is without mentioning Paterson’s uncle, architect Adolf Loos!
The editor found as many of the weekly “At Taliesin” newspaper as he could. Then he typed them up and edited them into this book. The “At Taliesin” articles were written in the 1930s and show Wright and his apprentices as they lived them. The apprentices worked as entertainers, cooks, laborers, and farmhands. Also, imo, the book shows why these kids would move to rural Wisconsin to live and work with a man old enough to be their grandfather. And like it. The book contains photographs found almost nowhere else.
Never in my life have I been given a more sensitive and comprehending tour of anything, anywhere. Listening to her talk about Wright and looking at everything she pointed out, I felt as if my eyes had opened to twice their normal size.
—Terry Teachout — Culture Writer, Wall Street Journal, Author, Libretti, and Playwright
Whenever I have a question regarding anything Taliesin-related Keiran Murphy is the first person I turn to.
—Randolph C. Henning — Architect and author
… her knowledge of Frank Lloyd Wright is close to astonishing. Over many years she has simply absorbed him—and his beloved Taliesin—into her bones.” “I am in awe at her willingness—her delight—in sharing what she knows with others.
—Paul Hendrickson — Senior Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania and Author
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