Wednesday, December 19, 2012


1. Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.
2. Edgar Tafel (photo by Al Sabatini)

Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. never attended college, instead he studied painting in Europe and in 1933 joined Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin Fellowship for a year before returning to his family's department store business in Pittsburgh. Possessed of an exceptionally  keen eye for design, in 1940 Kaufmann became the head of the Department of Industrial Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In that capacity one of his tasks was to locate and select objects for the Museum's collections. On May 20, 1947, while lecturing in Buffalo, he wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright about the status of Wright's Buffalo buildings, with an eye toward finding likely specimens. Following a discussion of the Larkin Building he wrote:

"I visited the Martin and Heath houses. The first is almost as shocking as the [Larkin] office building and parts of it are already being demolished. The furniture is not in the house. The Heath house is up for sale and by the owner whom as you know, installed a picture window opposite the fireplace; and I'm hoping to get for us a pair of the leaded glass doors from the bookcases which were removed in order to insert this window. I hope you will agree that they are among the glass designs of that period most likely to look well isolated from their original surroundings. I'm sorry to say that the Heath house too has been pitifully neglected, although it remains entirely liveable." 

Both New Yorkers and Taliesin Fellows, it is obvious that Kaufmann visited the Martin House with Edgar Tafel when the photograph (#5. below) was taken, probably by Tafel. According to Tafel, Wright distinguished them as Edgar "Son-of-Tafel" and Edgar "Son-of-Fallingwater." Rumor has it that some of the Heath furniture was acquired by an apprentice to Wright from Buffalo who turned it over to Wright when the house was altered by a subsequent owner. And there it remains today.

3. Heath House door as installed at Taliesin today (photo: JQ)
5. The Martin House interior with Edgar Kaufmann barely visible at the right (Edgar Tafel photo)
4. Heath House window alongside the birdwalk at Taliesin (photo: JQ)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About when was picture #5 taken? The house looks pretty intact with some furniture, books, etc.