Susan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Japanese Prints
September 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
While I was thinking of wood block prints last week, I was reminded of a transaction between Susan and Frank Lloyd Wright that wasn’t as satisfactory as the building of the Lawrence House was. The inventory of Susan’s possessions taken in preparation for the 1943 auction lists “one collection of Japanese prints.” I suspect those were the prints I refer to in Chapter 16 in Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:
Despite the fact that [Susan] felt that [Frank Lloyd Wright’s] aunts lacked good business sense, she gave many gifts and loans to them over the years [to maintain their Hillside Home School]. When the school closed, Frank Lloyd Wright bought it for $1 and assumed financial responsibility. At the time of the closing, Susan held a note with $2,000 principal and $1,400 interest due on it. Wright offered a settlement that was considerably less and sent her some art prints presumably in payment.
In response, Susan wrote a letter on December 22, 1916, to Frank Lloyd Wright. In part it read:
I hardly thought you would class me with the others [ investors] by offering me 50 percent. It hurt and surprised me…The prints came tonight. I am going east in three weeks. I will take them to Boston and have Spaulding look them over and give me an estimate on them.
Susan was referring to William Stuart Spaulding who, with his wife and brother, held at that time the most extensive collection of Japanese prints in the country.
Some of Susan’s prints “came home” in 2007 when the Barker family returned to the site five prints which members of the family obtained in 1943 (The prints are currently in storage). Three of them are originals by the famous and popular print artist Suzuki Harunobu. The other two are inexpensive reproductions made for the 20th century tourist trade according to Linda Suits, former curator of the Historic Sites Division of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. I can’t help wondering if Susan was once more “hurt and disappointed” after Spaulding’s appraisal of the prints Wright sent her as payment.