Thursday, February 19, 2009

Signed by the Author

The last few postings about the inscribed San Marcos in the Desert print brought to mind another important item inscribed to the Martins by their architect, Frank Lloyd Wright: a copy of Wright's 1932 Autobiography. The frontispiece of the book bears the following memorable dedication to Darwin and Isabelle:
To Darwin D. Martin and his wife - hero and heroine of this tale - with esteem - affection and gratitude from their Architect. Frank Lloyd Wright
At the time that Wright's An Autobiography was published, Darwin Martin had to admit that he didn't have six dollars to spare to buy a copy. Wright apparently thought that the Martins deserved one his few complimentary copies in thanks for their long-standing patronage, and sent them one with this personal inscription. Wright was known for buttering-up his supporters, but this particular sentiment rings true. He must have realized that, without the Martins and their financial backing, he wouldn't have received the Larkin Administration building commission, built Taliesin, or published the Wasmuth portfolio. In that sense, Darwin and Isabelle Martin truly were the unsung heroes of Wright's "tale" - his life and work.

The Martins' inscribed copy of An Autobiography resides with an architect and Wright collector in the Pittsburgh area. It is our hope that the book might return to Buffalo eventually, to join our growing collection of rare books and manuscripts, including the inscribed San Marcos print, an original copy of the 1901 Ladies Home Journal with the "Home in a Prairie Town" article, and Darwin Martin's treatise on the Larkin Company cardex system, "The First to Make a Card Ledger" - not to mention the wealth of rare documents held by the University Archives at the University at Buffalo. Such documents add an invaluable dimension to our understanding of the tale of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Martins, and the remarkable products of their association.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

San Marcos Addendum

Following up on the last post about the San Marcos in the Desert print, one of our erudite volunteers made the following observations regarding the context of Wright's personal history:

I suspect that the "in exile" refers only to FLLW who had been forced to leave Taliesin when the bank foreclosed on the mortgage. In a June 1928 letter written in Phoenix, Wright complained to Martin that, although Chandler had seen his drawings for San Marcos and was eager to start, he had no place to work and materials he needed were owned by the bank.

Wright was literally exiled from his beloved retreat of Taliesin, cut off from his comfortable workspace and the tools of the trade. This instance also brings to mind all the other ways in which Wright was "in exile" at various points in his life: in exile from his father, from "Lieber Meister" Louis Sullivan, from Catherine and his children, from both the academic and modernist camps of turn-of-the-century architecture, etc. Wright may have cultivated the persona of outsider, the standard-bearer of the Lloyd Jones motto of "Truth Against the World," but he certainly had plenty of circumstances to support this stance.

(thanks Anita!)