358
358
Frank Lloyd Wright
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE PAIR OF "WEED" VASES
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 389,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
358
Frank Lloyd Wright
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE PAIR OF "WEED" VASES
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 389,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important 20th Century Design

|
New York

Frank Lloyd Wright
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE PAIR OF "WEED" VASES
patinated copper
29 1/8  in. (74 cm) high 
circa 1895-1900
executed by James A. Miller and Brother, Chicago
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Provenance

Cathers & Dembrosky, New York
Edgar Smith, New York
Private Collection, California
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Literature

John Lloyd Wright, My Father Who Is on Earth, New York, 1946, p. 24 (for an anecdotal account of Wright's Weed Vase design)
Robert Judson Clark, ed., The Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1876-1916, Princeton, 1972, p. 68
Isabelle Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, Arts & Crafts in Britain and America, New York, 1978, p. 182
David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, New York, 1979, p. 20 (for a period photograph showing a Weed Vase in Wright's Oak Park studio, circa 1898), pp. 20, 33, 70 and 192-193 
Brian A. Spencer, The Prairie School Tradition: The Prairie Archives of the Milwaukee Art Center, New York, 1979, p. 51
Tod M. Volpe and Beth Cathers, Treasures of the American Arts and Crafts Movement 1890-1920, New York, 1988, p. 134
David A. Hanks, Frank Lloyd Wright: Preserving an Architectural Heritage: Decorative Designs from The Domino's Pizza Collection, New York, 1989, pp. 24-25 
Judy Rudoe, Decorative Arts 1850-1950: A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London, 1991, p. 252
Thomas Heinz, Frank Lloyd Wright: Glass Art, New York, 1994, pp. 224-225 
Diane Maddex, 50 Favorite Furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright, New York, 1999, p. 102
Wendy Kaplan, The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe & America: Design for the Modern World, New York, 2004, p. 265

Catalogue Note

"Father Liked Weeds"
By David A. Hanks

Probably designed shortly after the start of his independent practice in 1893,[1] this vase is one of a small group of copper objects that provides the most direct link between Wright’s work and the Arts and Crafts movement. Actively engaged in the reform movement of his day, Wright was a charter member of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society founded in 1897. Since Wright’s death in 1959, there has been a growing appreciation of his incredible achievements as one of, if not the most innovative American architect of the twentieth century. In Wright’s own home and studio are many visual reminders of the progressive movement of his day, including an inglenook in the living room with a craftsman-inspired motto "Truth is Life" above the mantel. Wright’s friendship with a key figure in the movement—Charles Robert Ashbee, the founder of the Guild of Handicraft—began about 1900 when they met over the supper table at Hull House in Chicago. Their correspondence shows a shared passion for improving the quality of design, but while Ashbee was concerned more for the individual craftsman and was less enthusiastic about the machine, Wright accepted both and championed the machine over handcraftsmanship. He used this vase design in his own Oak Park studio (fig. 2) as well as other prairie interiors after 1900 (including the Susan Lawrence Dana house and Browne’s Bookstore). The dark patinated copper harmonized with the fumed oak furniture he designed, creating a unified interior with a feeling of reposé. Like the tall-backed chairs, the vases added a vertical emphasis in the otherwise horizontal orientation of Wright’s interior architecture.

The vase was made by sheet-metal producer James A. Miller, for whose “sheet-metal medium” Wright had great respect from the time they met. Wright complained at the time about the “total lack of suitable materials in the market. Suitable fabrics, hardware, furniture and all else has yet to be especially made. All available is senselessly ornate.”[2] According to his son, John Lloyd Wright, whose statue as a child appears in both views, he “was not satisfied with the bric-a-brac of the day, so he designed his own.” [3] As architectural historian Vincent Scully wrote, “Wright began to redesign every inch of the American environment, shaping a whole new world of form entirely by himself.”[4]

James A. Miller and Brother advertised as “Roofers in slate, tin, and iron and makers of cornices, bays, and skylights, etc. in copper and galvanized iron,”[5] and Wright turned to Miller as a manufacturer who could produce his designs for small objects or for architectural elements. “At that time I designed some sheet copper bowls, slender flower holders, and such things, for him, and fell in love with sheet copper as a building material.”[6] 

A pair of these vases, referred to simply as “flower holders,” was included in Wright’s 1902 exhibition of his work at the Chicago Architecture Club (fig. 1). The form is quite rare and a matched pair has not been seen at auction in almost two decades. The use of the vases to hold “weeds” and other wild fauna was Wright’s way of bringing nature indoors; he later gave them the name “weed vases.” Regarding the motif, his son explained, “Father liked weeds!”[7]

Other examples of this model are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the British Museum, London.

[1] A drawing for the vase is one of nine for flower holders in the Wright archives at the Avery Library, Columbia University. While these drawings are not dated, Bruce Pfeiffer wrote that the sketches were probably done over a five- or ten-year period, showing the transition from the influence of Louis Sullivan to more geometric designs. Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph: 1887–1901 (Tokyo: A.D.A. Edita, 1986), 110–11. The vases appear in photographs in his houses beginning around 1900. The earliest use may have been in Wright’s own studio of 1895, as a 1900 photograph shows one of the vases. 

[2] Quoted in Edgar Kaufmann and Ben Raeburn, eds., Frank Lloyd Wright: Writings and Buildings (New York: New American Library, 1974), 102.

[3] John Lloyd Wright, My Father Who Is on Earth (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1946), 24.

[4] Vincent Scully, Foreword, in David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1979), xiv.

[5]Catalogue, Ninth Annual Exhibition (Chicago: Chicago Architectural Club, 1896).

[6] Frank Lloyd Wright, “Sheet Metal and a Modern Instance,” from the series “In the Cause of Architecture,” The Architectural Record (October 1928).

[7] John Lloyd Wright, My Father Who Is on Earth, 24.

Important 20th Century Design

|
New York