Frank Lloyd Wright’s extraordinary collection of architectural drawings, the Wasmuth Portfolio, was printed in Germany in 1911, exposing Europeans for the first time to his work. Critics agree that the distribution of this publication had a profound effect on architects world-wide, especially on young “modernists” like Gerrit Rietveld. Three exterior lamps designed by Wright for the Frances Little House II, on the shores of Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka, foreshadowed Northern Europe’s explosive De Stijl architecture and furniture, made famous by Rietveld.  —Mark McDonald

The Last of the Prairie Homes 

The Francis W. Little Home

From 1912 to 1914, Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built a summer home for Francis W. and Mary Little in Wayzata, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis on Lake Minnetonka. Wright had previously built a home for them in Peoria, Illinois in 1903 and the Littles wanted him to create another home that was spacious, luxurious and celebrated the natural beauty of the landscape. The house turned out to be one of the last Prairie homes that Wright would build in the Midwest, and was one of the most expressive and exemplar of the style that he had pioneered.

Exterior of the Francis W. Little home, seen from Lake Minnetonka. Photo: Wayne D. Peterson. Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mrs. Little at the entrance to her house.

As is typical of his buildings, the whole is contained within even the most minute details and elements. Wright's focus on visual harmony and spatial continuity is beautifully seen in the Little house; each side of the living room was composed of windows, letting in ample light and views of the lake, while also unifying the interior and the exterior as one organic space. This is emphasized by Wright's use of rich oak throughout the interior, its furnishings, and the doors seen here.

Re-construction of the living room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

As is the case with many of Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest works, the Francis W. Little house was destroyed in 1972, with elements of the home going to the Allentown Art Museum, The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, and, most notably, the living room was purchased by and re-installed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Below is a video tour of the room, as it is presented at the museum today.

Buildings, too, are children of Earth and Sun.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Mark McDonald

The Founder of Mid-century Design

Mark McDonald has always been at the epicenter of the world that is mid-century design, to a large extent, it is a world he created. For over forty years, Mark has pioneered whole fields of collecting, providing the scholarship and creating the market for mid-century furniture, studio jewelry, ceramics and Italian glass.

Fifty/50 store front; Ralph Cutler, Mark Isaacson and Mark McDonald

In 1983, Mark opened Fifty/50 with partners Mark Isaacson and Ralph Cutler. This groundbreaking gallery defined collectors’ taste. At the time, modern works were still largely overlooked; Mark and his partners collected and presented the rarest and most interesting pieces, often working with the makers themselves, to create compelling exhibitions accompanied by catalogs documenting the work. 

Fifty/50 opened its doors with an exhibition of Eames design; Mark McDonald and Ray Eames

In the 1990s, Mark opened Gansevoort Gallery, where he continued to curate collections and exhibitions of lasting impact. Over the years, he established relationships with artists and their estates becoming the go to authority on the designs of Art Smith, Ilonka Karasz and Leza McVey, among others. His enthusiasm for the material extended beyond the gallery floor to the back room where lucky visitors got to flip through Mark’s impressive design reference library and discuss the importance of works with him. 

Art Smith with his Spiral necklace design; Mark hosted an exhibition on Art Smith at Gansevoort Gallery. His support of the artist extended to the Brooklyn Museum to which Mark donated several Smith pieces for their collection.

A connoisseur and wealth of knowledge, Mark became a resource for prominent collections across the globe—private and public alike. He inspired a generation of collectors and dealers introducing designers and their production to an audience that continues to grow. In 2002, Mark closed Gansevoort and established 330 gallery in Hudson, New York. Now, semi-retired, Marks splits his time between New York and Florida. He still collects, curates, supports, and shepherds the scholarship of mid-century design.

Frank Lloyd Wright

During his seventy year career as an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright created more than 1,100 designs, half of which were realized and a large portion of which came about later in his life. Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin in 1867. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1885 to study civil engineering, completing only two years of the program. After working for Joseph Silsbee on the construction of the Unity Chapel in Oak Park, Illinois Wright decided to pursue a career in architecture and he moved to Chicago where he began an apprenticeship at the famed architectural firm Adler and Sullivan, working directly with Louis Sullivan until 1893.

After parting ways, Wright moved to Oak Park. Working from his home studio, he developed a system of design developed from grid units and rooted in an appreciation of natural materials that would come to be known as the Prairie School of Architecture and would change the landscape of American design forever. Wright devoted himself to teaching and writing during the 1920s and 1930s. 1935 marked the beginning of an immense surge of creativity and productivity as he began work on his most celebrated residential design, Fallingwater. In the 1940s and 1950s Wright focused on his Usonian designs that reflected his belief in democratic architecture, offering middle-class residential options. In 1943, Wright took on his most demanding commission, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The museum, which would open its doors six months after his death in 1959, would be called his most significant work.

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Auction Results Frank Lloyd Wright