Russel Wright 1904–1976
Born in Lebanon, Ohio in 1904, Russel Wright transformed the American home with his designed objects. Wright briefly studied at Princeton Law from 1922-1924; however, after becoming enamored with the Broadway plays of New York, he soon left law school to work in the design office of Norman Bel Geddes. It was though the theater scene that Wright met his wife, Mary Einstein Wright whose business acumen would shape Russel’s creations. In 1937, Wright designed the iconic American Modern dinnerware. The ceramic line came in a variety of soft pastels and earth tones with biomorphic shapes influenced by the surrealist Jean Arp. Thanks to the savvy marketing of Mary Wright, American Modern was a commercial success that was so popular that it frequently sold out in stores. George Nelson attributed the designs of Wright as responsible for the American “shift towards the modern in the 1930s.” Wright’s mantra was “good design is for everyone” and in 1949 he created a new dishwasher-safe line. In 1950, the Wrights published their Guide to Easier Living, which laid out how to entertain guests in a suburban home. He began to experiment with the new medium of plastic, and his Flair line of melamine dishes was released in 1959. In 1965, he retired from designing and moved from New York to his summer home in Manitoga. Wright passed away in 1976. The Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design in New York honored Russel Wright with a retrospective of his objects in 2001. His work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, New York, among many others.