Artists & Designers

Frank Lloyd Wright Between the Wars

At the height of his career as arguably America’s most progressive architect, Frank Lloyd Wright made a break with the past and sailed for Europe in 1909, leaving his wife and family behind and his practice in the hands of associates. Returning the next year, Wright soon moved from Chicago to a new home and studio in Wisconsin that he called Taliesin. From this rural retreat, Wright continued to work on commercial buildings and suburban residences in and around Chicago but found that the so-called Prairie School style he had created was losing favor. With increasingly less work in the Midwest, he secured the commission for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and worked on and off in Japan from 1916 to 1922. When he returned permanently to the United States in 1922, he opened an office in Los Angeles, where he designed a series of homes featuring decorative block-like patterning on the concrete walls.

Returning to his native Midwest in the mid-1920s, Wright eventually shifted his energies to the creation of so-called “Usonian” houses, which were to be constructed of inexpensive materials like plywood and thus affordable to the middle class. Although few of his Usonian homes were ever constructed, he did use some of the ideas developed for them in the few commissions he received in the 1930s and in the construction of his own Taliesin West outside Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1947.

Of the houses he designed in this period, the Edgar J. Kaufmann residence “Fallingwater” of 1935 is his most famous and perhaps his greatest masterpiece. That same year he was hired by Mr. Stanley Marcus, future head of the exclusive Neiman Marcus department store, to design a home in the Lakewood section of Dallas for him and his family. Daringly beautiful in many ways and hopelessly impractical in others, the Marcus house was never constructed; however, the presentation drawings and a rich collection of letters from Frank Lloyd Wright survive to document the commission.

Adapted from

Charles Venable, wall text from the 11/18/2001 to 5/20/2002 exhibition“Art Deco and Streamlined Modern Design, 1920-1950”

Web Resources

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Learn more about Taliesin in Wisconsin.