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Frank Lloyd Wright and Ukiyo-e

Frank Lloyd Wright (born Frank Lincoln Wright, June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1,000 projects, which resulted in more than 500 completed works. Wright promoted organic architecture (exemplified by Fallingwater and Graycliff), was a leader of the Prairie School movement of architecture (exemplified by the Robie House, the Westcott House, and the Darwin D. Martin House), and developed the concept of the Usonian home (exemplified by the Rosenbaum House).
Though most famous as an architect, Wright was an active dealer in Japanese art, primarily ukiyo-e woodblock prints. He frequently served as both architect and art dealer to the same clients; "he designed a home, then provided the art to fill it". For a time, Wright made more from selling art than from his work as an architect.
http://img.f.hatena.ne.jp/images/fotolife/d/dancyotei/20041213/20041213140705.jpg
(Tokaido 53‐tsugi (東海道53次) / Image)

Wright first traveled to Japan in 1905, where he bought hundreds of prints. The following year, he helped organize the world's first retrospective exhibition of works by Hiroshige, held at the Art Institute of Chicago. For many years, he was a major presence in the Japanese art world, selling a great number of works to prominent collectors such as John Spaulding of Boston, and to prominent museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He penned a book on Japanese art in 1912.
http://image.rakuten.co.jp/miyage/cabinet/kaiga/fs-29-i.jpg
(Tokaido 53‐tsugi (東海道53次)-Start Point / Image)

In 1920, however, rival art dealers began to spread rumors that Wright was selling retouched prints; this combined with Wright's tendency to live beyond his means, and other factors, led to great financial troubles for the architect. Though he provided his clients with genuine prints as replacements for those he was accused of retouching, this marked the end of the high point of his career as an art dealer.[55] He was forced to sell off much of his art collection in 1927 to pay off outstanding debts; the Bank of Wisconsin claimed his Taliesin home the following year, and sold thousands of his prints, for only one dollar a piece, to collector Edward Burr Van Vleck.
http://www.geocities.jp/kukawasaki/image4.jpg
(Tokaido 53‐tsugi (東海道53次)-Kawasaki / Image)

Wright continued to collect, and deal in, prints until his death in 1959, frequently using prints as collateral for loans, frequently relying upon his art business to remain financially solvent.

The extent of his dealings in Japanese art went largely unknown, or underestimated, among art historians for decades until, in 1980, Julia Meech, then associate curator of Japanese art at the Metropolitan Museum, began researching the history of the museum's collection of Japanese prints. She discovered "a three-inch-deep 'clump of 400 cards' from 1918, each listing a print bought from the same seller—'F. L. Wright'" and a number of letters exchanged between Wright and the museum's first curator of Far Eastern Art, Sigisbert C. Bosch Reitz, in 1918 to 1922. These discoveries, and subsequent research, led to a renewed understanding of Wright's career as an art dealer.

By TS on Jun 19, 2011
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