Friday, January 16, 2009


Being an ongoing series of postings on missing artifacts from Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House complex [not the hapless passengers of Oceanic Flight 815].

This week: over a barrel

The "barrel" chair is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most successful furniture designs for the Martin House--and one that he "recycled" for a number of later houses, including his own beloved Taliesin. These lightweight, elegantly curved chairs seemed to be a favorite of the Martins as well: a number of family photos show individuals relaxing and reading in these chairs. The somewhat whimsical term "barrel" stems from the roughly cylindrical shape of the chair, its slats resembling the staves of a wooden barrel.
R: Darwin D. Martin posing with his son, Darwin R., in one of the barrel chairs, 1912. Photo by Muller, courtesy of the University Archives, University at Buffalo.
There was a compliment of perhaps eight barrel chairs originally produced for the Martin House - used in the living room, library and reception room. Only two of these chairs remained in the house in the University at Buffalo era; tragically, one of them was stolen in December, 1990, prompting the University to close the house and suspend public tours. To date, there are no leads on the identity or whereabouts of the perpetrator.

One original chair remains in the Martin House collection, secure and appropriately stored at the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites collections facility at Peeble's Island, New York (near Albany). Another original barrel chair is held in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.

As always, we welcome any and all information regarding the loss of this important piece of furniture. Anonymous tips will be gratefully considered.

Somewhere out there, someone's enjoying this comfortable Wright-designed chair (a rare category indeed!), but the guilt might be making them squirm...

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