Window panel from Francis Little House billiard room

MAKER:
Designer

Frank Lloyd Wright ( American, 1867 - 1959 )


Manufacturer

Temple Art Glass Company

DATE:
1912–1914
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General Description

These windows originally stretched along one side of a billiard room in Francis W. Little's summer home along the shore of Lake Minnetonka in Deephaven, outside of Minneapolis. The Little House was one of Wright's largest homes in his signature "Prairie" style, developed around the turn of the century. Like his other such houses, the Little House was an expansive horizontal structure with a flowing floor plan containing a central fireplace, integrated furnishings and fixtures, and a spare, modernist sensibility uncluttered by ornamentation. The living room, sitting room, screened pavilion, and library formed an interconnected area for formal gatherings, socializing, and musical performances. These public spaces were positioned at the highest elevations to capture the best views of the lakeshore and property.

The house included nearly 300 windows, each with a repeated geometric motif to provide rhythm and pattern to the views of nature beyond. Years later, Wright explained, "[Windows] are treated as metal 'grilles' with glass inserted forming a simple rhythmic arrangement of straight lines and squares made as cunning as possible so long as the result is quiet." In addition to "grilles," he referred to his window designs as "light screens." Both terms reveal a belief that windows should structure a view of the exterior world but not act as a substitute for nature.

Wright likely befriended Francis W. Little through their activities with the Art Institute of Chicago. Little, a successful lawyer and utility company owner, was one of the Art Institutes's founding members, and Wright's work was exhibited there in 1901. Little purchased land on Lake Minnetonka in 1907, and began discussing possible designs with Wright the following year; however, it was not until Wright's return from Europe in 1910 that he began developing a scheme for the lakeside home.

Francis Little died in 1923, and by 1951 his daughter and son-in-law resided in the Deephaven home year-round. When the Little family decided to raze Wright's design in 1971 to build a new home, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased components from the house and reassembled the living room in their galleries. The Allentown Art Museum installed the Little's library, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts owns a ribbon of windows originally in the hallway leading to the master bedroom.

Excerpt from

Emily Schiller, DMA unpublished material, Label text [1974.8.1-14], 2013.

Fun Facts

  • Fourteen windows were originally purchased from The Metropolitan Museum of New York in 1974. Because the original installation had 13 windows with one offset in the Sitting Room of the Francis Little House, an additional window matching the offset (1974.8.14) was commissioned by the museum to create a symmetrical installation.

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