Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wright or Wrong But Always Frank

© Roy R. Behrens

The following story, told by Bauhaus painter Josef Albers, is quoted in Achim Borchardt-Hume, ed., Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2006, p. 109—

I remember when the Bauhaus exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York opened [in 1938]: very late, 11 or 12 when all were gone except a few from the Bauhaus. [Walter] Gropius, [Herbert] Bayer, [Albers' wife] Anni, me. Appeared Frank Lloyd Wright. In a Havelock [a cloth covering the back of the neck] and Wagnerian velvet cap (with a challenging older lady) telling us very loud, "You are all wrong." And who was it later saying: "Frank Lloyd Wright?—he is always frank, and not always right."


From Edgar Tafel, About Wright: An Album of Recollections by Those Who Knew Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: John Wiley, 1993, p. 89—

[In the late 1940s] When he arrived at the foot of a hill, which was the proposed site [for a home about 30 miles from New York City, in Usonia], Wright emerged briskly from the car and led us up the steep hillside—the client, the Usonian development member, an ex-apprentice, and myself [a young builder named Robert Chuckrow] following. Wright pronounced the site fine for the house. He then proceeded some 50 feet farther, relieved his bladder, and came back to the group. There was a silence, nobody knowing just what to say. Then Wright pointed his cane at the spot where he had been and said, "Something meaningful will grow there."


Also from the Tafel book is this story about a similar incident a few years later, on p. 68—

In the 1950s [American playwright] Arthur Miller and his then wife, Marilyn Monroe invited Wright to Connecticut to look at land they'd bought for a house. As the playwright recalls, "It was Marilyn's idea to bring Wright up, and one day the three of us drove up. Wright went to sleep in the back seat. I got a speeding ticket for going 48 in a 45 mph zone. It was a gray afternoon by the time we got up there. We had smoked salmon and a few cold things. Wright warned me against pepper but I had a little anyway. He and I walked up to the high ground where there was an old orchard above a pasture, which faces north but has an endless view over the hills. He took one look and then peed and said, 'Good spot,' and we walked down."

See also: Roy R. Behrens, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT and Mason City: Architectural Heart of the Prairie (2016).