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Wright wrote a lot about Olgivanna in his autobiography, particularly the 1932 edition. I'm thinking of what he wrote in the 3rd book, about ending up in jail, but also giving Olgivanna's background, and later talking about living at his home with her, Svetlana and Iovanna. But as for Wright talking about her later, nothing jumps out at me.
Then again, not many artists that I can think of (off-hand) wrote extensively about the relationships with their partners. Salvador Dali had Gala, who appeared in his work, and Christo (it is now acknowledged) works with his partner, Jean-Claude, and the women in Picasso's life appeared in his work - but he didn't talk about them professionally. There are probably more artists who talk about what their partners bring to their work - or whose partners are acknowledged to have a big influence - but there aren't many leaping to the fore for me (at the moment).
As for the "what if"s - in The World of Wright, Mamah's murder is one of the big "what if"s (if she hadn't been murdered, he wouldn't have met Miriam, and he would have skirted lots of problems in the 20s even if his house still burned to the ground in 1925 - that's the least of it).
Yet, all of the downtime in the 20s (caused in part by, I believe, the fallout from Miriam) did lead him to design some amazing stuff, on paper anyway. Lemonade from lemons, I guess.
those are my thoughts.
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Ooh! ooh! ooh! Palli, what a great and profound observation!!!Palli Davis Holubar wrote:The partnership that was Wright and Olgivanna has to fleshed out from the accounts of many individuals. Olgivanna talks about Wright but I haven't found instances of Wright speaking of her or the relationship...now it isn't like I have been looking... so I am curious if others have some references from him.
PrairieMod, I am not contesting the connection between Larkin and Unity, but pointing out that the different programs for the two masterpieces should be taken into account before assigning one or the other aesthetic superiority. Larkin is "4 corner stairwells with an atrium." That's how simple it is. And yet it contains an extraordinarily complex program for the processing of Larkin work. Every house of worship has, by contrast, a simple reason for being, and a simpler parti, usually of the pavillion type, which makes it easier to comprehend at a glance, and thus easier to assess as art. That Larkin is a "Temple for the worship of Work" makes it all the more assounding an accomplishment. You will never hear me utter anything negative about either of those two wonderful buildings (nor Johnson); they are principal among those things that set Frank Lloyd Wright so high above the competition. Olga was not.
I may be extremist, but I believe there has long been a tendency to overrate Olga's contributions, nor do I believe all the tales she told about her fabulous past. And there's the end of it for me.
She did much to provide the most stable working environment he had enjoyed since Oak Park. She probably wasn't the cook, but I suspect, Wright may not have eaten regularly if there had not been a woman in his life. Olgivanna had been the administrator for the Gurdjieff Prieure for a period and somehow (although unclear to me how) Richard Lloyd Jones and his wife knew her well and actually wrote Wright the equivalent of a recommendation for her, commending her organizational, etc. skills to FLW.
But, Palli and I both think the Taliesin Fellowship would have happened under Mamah should she have lived. I was also impressed by Nancy Horan's book, however weakly written, because it presented Mamah as a thinking person in her own right. As an early feminist she had a more nurturing relationship with FLW and other staff (not including the cook). Her studies with Ellen Kay would have brought her and FLW in contact with the Scandinavian tradition of folk schools, cooperative "high" schools that teach life and craft skills to adult individuals in a residential setting, with all members contributing to the cleaning, cooking, and entertainment of the group. This tradition started in the 1830's and is still working today to teach boat building, weaving, and other skills more appropriate to today's world. Geritt Reitveld's school was a fellowship, in fact. I suspect these schools were known to Wright and Mamah through Kay and they probably served as a model for the Taliesin Fellowship years later. Her death ruptured the natural continum of Hillside. The Fellowship would have been blessed with a different sense of community.
In 1929, Wright was discussing with the founder the Amsterdam School and author of a book on Wright, Hendricus Wijdeveld, the possibility of the Dutch architect directing a school- one of the "little experiment stations in out of the way places" he later referred to in the 1930 Princeton lectures-. Wright prefaced the idea of a school in a letter to Wijdeveld by saying he had thought of another way of making money for Hillside.
It has been postulated that, in 1911, in order to keep the incipient Taliesin from being ensnared in any divorce proceedings with Catherine, FLW formally made it a residence for his mother, but in fact it never was that nor intended to be so. In the early 20s, shortly before Anna's death, FLW and his sisters were in a battle royal over who should take the sick old lady in, and FLW was adamantly against having her at Taliesin. (From unpublished letters between FLW and Jane Porter.) By granting Catherine the Oak Park establishment, he further exempted her from any claim on Taliesin. So the sly old fox was in control of things, which makes me all the more suspicious of the claims that he was used by Olga and the Gurdjieff crowd.
PS: Michael and I share a computer now and Michael can't remember his password which, of course, was automatic on the computer at work. Does anyone know how to fix forgotten passwords here.
Palli, it would be my guess that Catherine had as much input in the design of the Oak Park remodel as Mamah had at Taliesin, Miriam in the rebuilding of Taliesin, or Olga in the re-rebuilding of Taliesin, remodeling of Hillside, Ocatillo, Suntrap, Taliesin West or the Biltmore Hotel suite: None. Not sure what you mean by "PR facilitator." As John Lloyd Wright told it to H. Allen Brooks, FLW met Mamah in Chicago on a rainy day, and moved in on her forthwith. Rather than the usual routine of the "man of the family" approaching FLW to commission a house, it was FLW who talked Edwin Cheney into moving to Oak Park so FLW could be closer to Mamah, with whom he had a long-standing affair (worst-kept secret in Oak Park) years before leaving for Europe. I believe there is no record to suggest that Mamah had any substantial influence on the design of her house ... or did not.
My favorite story about how casual FLW was about meeting the practical needs of a client is when he was called by an early client to meet her at her recently completed house (no name connected to this). FLW arrived, was met by a maid, who told him madame would see him upstairs. He began climbing the stairs, and eventually all 5'8" of him hit his head on the too-low clearance. "Madame," standing at the top of the stairs said, "That's what I want to talk to you about!"
I never heard JLW's account. Too much drama about individual relationships that, IMO, we don't know much about and can't know much about. All we really know is the social milieu and some hint of the midwestern version of the anxiety class issues spawned in creative individuals and women without means.
PR reference: Catherine was very effective networking among her friends arranging speaking engagements for her husband and creating what we would call today a "buzz" about him. He was charming tea time fare.
Surely, you jest.What man in his right mind would build a house for his loved one without telling her?
There is no doubt in my mind that FLW built Taliesin for a sense of place- his place- his life. Yet the chronology seems to place Mamah as the woman of interest in Wright's life during this period and Wright was not long without a woman to aid and comfort his life.
Do you think Wright treated the Cheney commission with, as you say, "a bit more loving attention" because it was: a smaller house; or the challenge of a form of "duplex"; or he was enamored with Mamah; or he owed the man/husband Edwin; or did it come at a conveniently slack moment to the drafting table; or ______?
While I am not mythmaker about lives I did not experience, I think assuming Wright and Mamah were living a tawdry and superficial love affair is as unsubstantiated as any pot-boiler version of love at first glance.Too much drama about individual relationships that, IMO, we don't know much about and can't know much about. All we really know is the social milieu and some hint of the midwestern version of the anxiety class issues spawned in creative individuals and women without means.
About Catherine, I will have to rethink my readings in that earlier period of Wright's career and the social context of Oak Park. It is not society from which I was bred.
In the Autobiography Wright refers to Mamah after the fire. He calls her "she for whom Taliesin had first taken form."
See Neil Levine's discussion on Wright's regard of Taliesin and the hill as a physical representation of Frank and Mamah. If that's not persuasive, read Wright's rapturous description of their life together in Fiesole and then compare it to the hillside villa he built within a year of returning from Italy. Why wouldn't he want to continue their life in that manner, and also get away from the judgmental city? With her!
As for Olgivanna, Wright (on Page 273 of the 1943 edition) says flatly, "Taliesin III was built by and for Olgivanna, Iovanna and Svetlana." He built the Bird Walk after Olgivanna said she would like to walk among the He raised the roof to add rooms for his growing family.
For information on Mamah and Ellen Key, the newest is the first-ever English translation of Key's 1898 essay on modern, progressive home design, "Beauty for All" (Skonhet for Alla) which helped launch the modern design movement in Scandinavia. It is the first text in "Modern Swedish Design: Three Founding Texts" (Museum of Modern Art, 2008). This essay, promoted by Karl Larssen and others, is credited with everything from Orrefors glass to Ikea -- and probably was the DNA for Target's latest campaign, "Design for All."
A note mentions that Key's later feminist works were translated -- from German, not Swedish! -- by Mamah Borthwick. It notes that Mamah "signed the guestbook at Strand (which had opened for visitors at the end of December 1910) on June 9, 1911." Wright sent Key a Japanese print, which still hangs in Strand, which was the name for her home. And yes, Mamah remained in Europe for a while in 1911 after Wright returned to Oak Park to straighten out his affairs and build Taliesin on the Q.T.
A cache of letters from Borthwick and Wright to Key was unearthed recently in a Stockholm archive. They were written up by Alice T. Friedman in a journal article. The last letter from Mamah was written on July 13, just four weeks before she was murdered. She wrote in English.