Included within the 400-lot Bonhams & Butterfields Fine Books & Manuscripts auction on February 14, 2010 is a massive archive of photographs, correspondence and select building plans related to groundbreaking architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. Assembled by Professor Henry Russell Hitchcock for the landmark 1942 treatise In the Nature of Materials, which he co-authored with Wright, the archive offers an exceptionally rich documentation of the architect’s work including notes for images of many buildings that no longer survive (est. $20,000-30,000).
Highlights from the archive include approximately 600 rare black and white photographs of Wright’s buildings and interiors; many derive from the architect’s own photographic collection. Several of the interior photographs show the original furnishings and the houses in daily use – papers strewn across desks, tables set for dinner, and toys on the floor. Families can be seen standing proudly in front of their new homes. A number of photographs record buildings that no longer survive, including one of Wright’s own homes, Taliesin I (burnt beyond recognition in 1914), Midway Gardens in Chicago (destroyed in 1929), and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (demolished in 1968).
Although the most of the photographers are uncredited, several have been identified as from Oak Park, IL, and noted architectural photographers Samuel H. Gottscho, Jamaica, NY, and G.E. Kidder-Smith of New York, have been identified. Several of the images boast annotations on verso and are either stamped “Property of F.LL. Wright” or inscribed “FLLW.”
Hitchcock and Wright’s book, In the Nature of Materials, was intended to be a sort of ex post facto catalogue of the 1940 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect – described by the man himself as “the show to end all shows.” The Great Depression, Wright’s prolonged absence from the country, and his turbulent personal life had resulted in a dearth of commissions for the first half of the 1930s. At the time of the MoMA show, he was still at the opening of his “second career,” which had been revived by the Kaufmann house (Fallingwater) and the Johnson office building.
In the Nature of Materials, published in 1942, was swiftly acknowledged as a standard work on Wright and remained in print for nearly a quarter century. Hitchcock had risen to prominence through the 1920s and early 30s, cementing his reputation with the 1932 International Style show at the MoMA, co-curated with the architect Philip Johnson. The year after the book’s publication, Wright was commissioned to design a permanent home for the art collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation – a project that occupied him for some fifteen years but resulted in one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in the world.
The February 14, 2010 auction is timed to coincide with the California ABAA Book Fair, held this year in Los Angeles, and will be simulcast from the firm’s Sunset Boulevard location to the San Francisco gallery. For Fair attendees, Bonhams & Butterfields has gathered together a wide variety of highlights in literature and Americana as well as a fine selection of imprints on Hawaii and the South Pacific.
Additional items of note from the Valentine’s Day auction will include two broadsides of John Wilkes Booth’s performances at the Boston Museum, featuring “The Marble Heart,” which was the show Lincoln saw Booth perform in D.C. in November of 1863 (est. $1,000-1,500); a fine example of Peter Force’s 1848 printing of the Declaration of Independence (est. $25,000-30,000) and a rare Abraham Lincoln letter thanking those who helped celebrate former President Washington’s birthday in 1862 (est. $50,000-80,000); a copy of Charles Darwin’s first published work, A Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle, 1839 (est. $20,000-30,000) and an archive of over 1000 theatrical scripts, plus contracts and correspondence from the files of the American Play Company/Century Play Company, a major American theatrical agency of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection includes material by A.A. Milne, Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Willams, among many others (est. $120,000-180,000).
The illustrated catalogue will be available online for review and purchase at www.bonhams.com/us in the weeks preceding the sale.
Previews: February 5-7, San Francisco (timed to coincide with the Walter Larsen Book Fair); February 11-13, Los Angeles (timed to coincide with the California ABAA Book Fair)
Auction: February 14, Los Angeles, simulcast to San Francisco