Lot 88
  • 88

Frank Lloyd Wright

200,000 - 300,000 USD
435,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • An Important and Rare "Sumac" Window
  • iridized glass, opalescent glass and clear glass in brass-plated “colonial” zinc cames
  • 61 3/8  x 20 3/8  in. (155.9 x 51.8 cm)
designed for the Susan Lawrence Dana House, Springfield, Illinois


Nels E. Johnson, Vice President of Linden Glass Company, Chicago, by 1942
Marguerite Phillips, Chicago, circa mid 1940s
Thence by descent
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Chicago Architectural Club 20th Annual, including Exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright, Art Institute of Chicago, March 29-April 26, 1907


Frank Lloyd Wright, "In the Cause of Architecture," Architectural Record, March 1908, p. 165 (for a period photograph of the present lot exhibited in the Chicago Architectural Club 20th Annual, including Exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1907)
Grant Carpenter Manson, Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910: The First Golden Age, New York, 1958, p. 9 (for the design)
David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, New York, 1979, pl. 6 (for the Dana House windows)
Kelmscott Gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago, 1981, n.p. (for the Dana House windows illustrated in a period advertisement by Linden Glass Company in Architectural Record)
Thomas A. Heinz, Frank Lloyd Wright, New York, 1982, pp. 32-33 (for the windows in situ at the Dana House)
The Early Work of Frank Lloyd Wright: The "Ausgeführte Bauten" of 1911, New York, 1982, pp. 37 (for the design in situ) and 101-103 (for the present lot exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, 1907) 
Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., Frank Lloyd Wright at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1982, p. 4 (for the present lot exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, 1907)
Tod M. Volpe and Beth Cathers, Treasures of the American Arts and Crafts Movement 1890-1920, New York, 1988, p. 155 (for the Dana House windows)
William Allin Storrer, The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion, Chicago, 1993, p. 68 (for the windows in situ at the Dana House)
Thomas A. Heinz, Frank Lloyd Wright Glass Art, London, 1994, pp. 46-48 and 214 (for the windows in situ at the Dana House)
Donald Hoffmann, Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana House, Mineola, 1996, pp. 82 (for the windows in situ at the Dana House), 84 (for a design drawing and an illustration of the windows in situ at the Dana House) and 105 (for the present lot exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, 1907)
Maria Constantino, The Life and Works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Philadelphia, 1998, p. 56 (for the windows in situ at the Dana House)
Julie L. Sloan, Light Screens: The Complete Leaded-Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright, New York, 2001, pp. 228-231 (for a discussion of the Dana House, the windows in situ and for the above design drawing)
Kathryn Smith, Wright on Exhibit: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architectural Exhibitions, Princeton, 2017, pp. 19 and 26 (for the present lot exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, 1907)

Catalogue Note


The rediscovery of these extraordinary “Sumac” windows is one of the most exciting moments in recent Frank Lloyd Wright scholarship.  While these windows are well known to scholars and collectors through a series of historic photographs documenting Wright’s work in the 1907 Chicago Architectural Club 20th Annual exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, their whereabouts were unknown until now.  Since the early 1940s, the present windows, along with several other Wright pieces executed by Linden Glass Company, descended through two Chicago families.  These families, the Johnsons and Phillips, were neighbors and close friends residing on North Magnolia Street in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.  By the early 1940s, and presumably earlier, the windows were in the possession of Nels Ernest Johnson (1871-1954).  Johnson worked for the Linden Glass Company beginning around 1886 and by 1911 he was Vice President of the firm.  Later in the 1940s, when the Johnson Family moved from their home, the windows passed possession to the Phillips family.

In the 1907 Chicago Architectural Club exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Wright presented 38 projects representing the pinnacle of his Prairie-period work.  Dozens of drawings were displayed both framed and unframed.  Models representing Unity Temple (Oak Park, Illinois, 1905-1908), the Larkin Company Administration Building (Buffalo, 1903-1906), and Lincoln Center (an unrealized project) were presented on pedestals.  Photographs were scattered on a table to be perused at the visitor’s leisure.  Several pieces of pottery that Wright had designed for Teco Pottery were also displayed.  Wright livened up the gallery with touches of color and sparkle by including at least three windows: the two “Sumac” windows (lots 88 and 89) designed for the Susan Lawrence Dana House and his famous “Tree of Life” window designed for the Darwin D. Martin House.  Wright also displayed two lamps designed for the Dana House, a single-pedestal table lamp and one of the box-shaped lanterns for the Reception Room fountain. Only a brief checklist of the exhibition was published listing the commissions but not the objects. However Wright did commission the Fuermann Brothers, his favored architectural photographers, to document the show.

Kathryn Smith, author of Wright on Exhibit, calls this one of the most important exhibits of Wright’s extensive career.  One of the important results of the exhibition was an article called “In the Cause of Architecture” that Wright published in the March 1908 issue of Architectural Record.  It was the first of a series of sixteen articles under this title that he wrote for the magazine until 1928.  The March 1908 article set out Wright’s philosophy of organic design and reproduced the Fuermann Brothers’ photographs from the 1907 Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, in addition to nine photographs that document the Dana House commission.

While the initial perception is that the two present “Sumac” windows displayed in the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition are identical to those installed in the Dana interiors, there are notable differences in their scale and linear composition when closely comparing the two window groups.  The exhibition windows are wider and taller by approximately one inch than those in the Dana House.  The upper pendant that is composed of three vertical bands of small squares has twenty squares in the exhibition windows, whereas the Dana windows have nineteen.  Vertical rectangles of clear glass in the upper corner by the shorter chevron device and above it are wider in the exhibition windows.  Additionally, the diagonals of the two large chevron devices do not intersect the horizontals at the same position in both groups.

It remains unknown when these windows were produced, but given these subtle differences in linear design and scale, it is likely that they were executed expressly for exhibition purposes.

The superior craftsmanship of the present windows could only have been achieved by Wright’s preferred stained-glass producer, Linden Glass Company. Opened in 1884 by Frank L. Linden (1859-1934) and Ernest J. Spierling (1856-1931) as the Spierling & Linden Decorating Co., the partnership provided interior decorating services, including murals and stained-glass windows. Shortly after this, Nels Johnson came to work for them as a decorator. By 1890, the firm was doing business as the Linden Glass Co., as well as continuing as Spierling & Linden, when it moved from 333 Wabash Avenue to 1216 Michigan Avenue.  In 1892, Ernest J. Wagner (1858-1939) became the manager, remaining until the firm’s closure. Around 1905, the company erected a building designed by noted Chicago architect Howard van Doren Shaw (1869-1926). In 1906, the year the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo was completed, Linden was the largest stained-glass employer in Chicago, with 50 workers. By 1910, the name had changed to the Linden Co, and Nels Johnson was named Vice President.  In each incarnation, the firm produced a wide range of decorative arts in addition to stained glass.  A member of the Chicago Architectural Club, the firm often exhibited glass, mural, or interior designs at the annual exhibitions.  Linden created more glass for Wright than any other firm, including the Ward Willits House (1901), the Darwin D. Martin complex (1903-1905), the Avery Coonley complex (not including the Playhouse; 1907), the Frederick C. Robie House (1909), and possibly Midway Gardens (1913-1914).  The company closed in 1934 with the death of Frank Linden.

The Susan Lawrence Dana House (1902-1904) in Springfield, Illinois, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest and most decoratively ambitious Prairie-period buildings.  It also includes his most complex leaded-glass window program, with many different designs spread across over 250 windows in a unified theme.  The windows offered here share the same overall complex design of two of the doors in the Dana House Reception Room, which flanked a “Moon Children” fountain and pair of small windows.  Wright recalled the doors and windows of the Reception Room as the “finest of all” his glass designs.  Warm amber, gold, straw, and moss green draw the visitor into the room to be encircled within a jewel box of windows, doors, skylights, and lamps.  In the evening, when all the light is within the house, the resplendent glass reflects hues of pink, blue, green, and gold from its brilliantly iridized surfaces.  Each door panel is of a different design, but the pair matches each other in mirror image.  Wright’s studio in Oak Park, Illinois, produced a very detailed drawing for the two pairs of doors that flanked the reception room fountain.  Identified as “C” and “D,” under each is written “two like this (one to be reversed),” meaning that two pairs of doors were to be fabricated, but the design of one pair was to be a mirror-image of the other pair.  The windows offered here reproduce the “D” window twice, once in reverse.

The Dana House is one of only two houses by Wright for which he identified a floral inspiration for his leaded glass designs.  In this commission, the windows represent cascading sumac leaves.  Typically, the floral subjects associated with many windows today were not acknowledged as such by Wright.  The Dana windows illustrate well his exhortation to "...go to the woods and fields for color schemes. Use the soft, warm, optimistic tones of earths and autumn leaves.... They are more wholesome and better adapted in most cases to good decoration." Fabricated with tiny brass-plated zinc cames in an unusual triangular profile called “colonial,” the composition is delicate and intensely intricate.  Every joint is mitered, a time-consuming process of notching the unusual came. These windows have a greater proportion of colored glass to clear than most of Wright’s windows because in their interior location there was less need to see through them (they divided the Reception Room from a hallway).  Because they receive little direct outside light, their surface color is more important than other Wright windows.  For that reason, the colored glass is coated with an iridized treatment created by subjecting the glass sheets to metallic fumes in a furnace, in the same process used by Louis Comfort Tiffany to create his famed favrile glass. The glass for Wright’s windows was purchased by his studios from New York and Indiana glass houses.  These are the same materials used by Linden Glass in the windows of the Darwin D. Martin House.

The remarkable aesthetic quality, extraordinary glass selection, and skilled execution of the present windows make them masterworks in their own right, but they are enriched even further by their storied provenance and important exhibition history.  Few Wright windows of such complexity and historical significance have come to market in recent decades.

Julie L. Sloan, Stained-Glass Consultant, North Adams, MA