Frank Lloyd Wright’s First Commercial Venture of Textiles and Designs On View at The Met

Frank Lloyd Wright’s First Commercial Venture of Textiles and Designs On View at The Met

May 20, 2019–April 5, 2020

The Met Fifth Avenue, Antonio Ratti Textile Center

The renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) launched the first commercial venture of his long and eminent career in 1955, creating affordable home products for the general consumer. The exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright Textiles: The Taliesin Line, 1955–60, which opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 20, 2019, will feature printed and woven textiles, wallpapers, and mahogany vases from the line, many of which were recently acquired for The Met collection.

Urged on by the editor of House Beautiful magazine, Elizabeth Gordon, he agreed to design a line of fabrics and wallpapers for F. Schumacher and Co., furniture for Heritage-Hendredon, paint for Martin-Senour, rugs for Karastan, and accent pieces made by Minic Accessories. These designs were featured in the November 1955 edition of House Beautiful, which was completely devoted to Wright and his work. Of the five lines, only the textiles and wallpapers, furniture, and paint were ultimately produced. The designs for the fabrics and wallpapers were based on Wright’s architectural vocabulary and inspired by specific buildings, photographs of which were included in the Schumacher sample book.

This installation features the sample book Schumacher’s Taliesin Line of Decorative Fabrics and Wallpapers Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1955), and nine examples of the fabric it introduced. Only 100 copies of the sample book were printed, and these were available only to authorized dealers. The book includes samples of printed and woven designs and wallpaper. Additionally, all of the pages have been newly photographed and can be viewed on The Met’s website for the first time, as can all 29 pieces of Wright fabric that are in The Met collection. To help create the designs, Wright enlisted his apprentices, members of the Taliesin Fellowship, and one apprentice, Ling Po (1917–2014), was credited with the designs of several of the printed textiles. All were made “under the direction and supervision” of Wright.

While the furniture and paints were not strong sellers, the vibrant textiles and wallpapers were successful, and designs from the original line remained in production for more than a decade. The appeal of Wright’s designs remains evergreen, and Schumacher released an updated version of the Taliesin Line in 1986, and again in 2017 in honor of Wright’s 150th birthday. In addition to the textiles that reflect the signature Wright aesthetic, the installation also includes two examples of Wright-designed wooden vases that were made in a very limited number and never reached the open market, and a 1954 photograph of the architect by Yosuf Karsh.

In conjunction with this exhibition, there is an installation in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Galleries,Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for Francis and Mary Little, on view through July 28, 2019, with a second rotation of works on view July 30–November 12, 2019. Inspired by the recent acquisition of drawings, blue prints, building specifications, and letters that add to the existing archive at the Museum, this installation explores the working relationship with Wright’s patrons Francis and Mary Little. The architect built two houses for the Littles—in Peoria, Illinois, and Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. A total of 34 works on paper related to the Little commissions will be shown, ranging from Wright’s iterative sketches to monumental and highly detailed presentation drawings. Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for Francis and Mary Little is curated by Femke Speelberg, Associated Curator, Drawings and Prints.

Visitors may also explore the Living Room from the Francis W. Little House, 1912–14, in galley 745. A permanent installation at The Met since 1982, The Frank Lloyd Wright Room was originally the living room of the summer residence of Frances W. Little, designed and built between 1912 and 1914 in Wayzata, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The room epitomizes Wright’s concept of “organic architecture,” in which the building, setting, interior, and furnishings are inextricably related. For more information about the room, and to explore its history and features, visit The Met’s website.

Frank Lloyd Wright Textiles: The Taliesin Line, 1955–60 is curated by Amelia Peck, Marica F. Vilcek Curator of Decorative Arts in The American Wing and Supervising Curator of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center.