Displaying Art Prints the Wright Way

August 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

Print Table in Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

The concept of designing furniture solely for displaying art prints has fascinated me since I first saw the two print tables at the Dana-Thomas House. I have always known that our print tables are not unique to the house, and I have wondered how many others still exist and where they are. Recently I decided to try to find the answers to those questions.

I started at Wright’s Home and Studio where I had seen another print table. David Bagnall, the Curator/Director of Interpretation for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, told me that he knows of five existing tables. There are two at the Dana-Thomas House, one at Wright’s Home and Studio, and one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. According to the Met’s website, the print table displayed in the Museum was designed for Francis W. Little’s summer house on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota (1912-1914). Like the tables in the Dana-Thomas House, the Little House table is made of oak.

The fifth print table was offered by Christie’s Auction House in New York in June of 1988. The catalog preceding the auction stated that “According to Wright-family tradition, the architect’s print table, one of two made for his combination home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, was the prototype for all of his print tables.” Unfortunately, no one bid on the poplar table at the 1988 auction. I contacted Carina Villinger, Head of Department/Vice President of the 20th Century Decorative Art and Design Department at Christie’s, and she was able to track down the current owner of the table. Ms. Villinger forwarded a letter that I wrote to that individual asking for information about the location of the table. That was six weeks ago, and I have had no response. Despite that brick wall, I am pleased to have this much information.

I’ve also discovered that Frank Lloyd Wright created other furniture to exhibit art prints. He mounted a Japanese print show in 1908 for The Art Institute of Chicago and designed unique easels and print stands to display the collection. Currently The Art Institute is presenting an exhibition entitled “The Formation of the Japanese Print Collection at the Art Institute: Frank Lloyd and the Prairie School.” Included in the exhibit are photos of that 1908 show with the Wright-designed furniture. Similar stands are seen in archival photos of Taliesin in 1911. They are stunning! I look forward to a trip to Chicago before the Art Institute exhibition closes November 4 so I can get a closer look at the photos. Maybe I’ll find out if there are any print stands still around.


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§ 2 Responses to Displaying Art Prints the Wright Way

  • We have just received a folding oak print table as a donation to our non-profit antique store. The donor thought it was by Frank Lloyd Wright but had no documentation. It matches exactly the photos I have found online and in reading your website I find that there were in fact multiple tables made. Do you have suggestion has to how I would proceed to evaluate this piece? Also do you have any knowledge of the print table being reproduced? Very exciting.

    • susanandme says:

      That is exciting indeed. I would recommend that you contact the two people who were most helpful to me in my research for authenticity. They are Carina Villinger, Head of the 20th Century Decorative Art and Design Department at Christie’s Auction (cvillinger@christies.com) and David Bagnell, Curator for the Frank Lloyd Preservation Trust (dbagnall@gowright.org). I think they could give you some direction. I have seen at least one company on line that reproduces the print table. They are Prairie Woodworks Inc. at prairiewoodworks.net. Keep us posted on what you find out. Roberta

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