“Now Lewis do you advocate that a man should shun the master and take the slave in order that his own individuality may not suffer eclipse?”
Strong, impassioned, and revealing letter from Wright to his longtime friend, the architecture critic Lewis Mumford, defending his architectural philosophy after the appearance of Mumford’s article in the New Yorker evaluating Wright’s life and work.
Written on The Plaza, New York letterhead (from December 3 1953), the letter reads in full:
Read your “appreciation” in the plane coming in last night—both glad and furious—
Read? Insults my clients and myself—I may be vain but I am not stupid—neither are my clients--
He harks back to the view that an individual should go to ‘a style’ for his home, be the guest of a style rather than the guest of a great architect—? Yes?
Good argument for the communist against Democracy--
He should talk to my clients. So you talked to one—one Paul Hanna. From him you got a false impression—at least so he says and so say I.--
Just one word slipped[;] the word ‘my’ was actually ‘your’ in reproving him for mixing his metaphors in living. As reprehensible as mixing them in writing. Your house said I—My house said you--
Well, I see the misquotation in the New Yorker article—in effect—
Now Lewis do you advocate that a man should shun the master and take the slave in order that his own individuality may not suffer eclipse?
If so, viva ‘Le International’—The communist wins over the Democrat? No, you don’t mean that—you mean that the master is so vain in the power of his works that he sacrifices his client on the altar of his virtuosity. The answer to that is from the clients themselves.
They will be heard from because your imputation via Sir Herbert Read will make them all boiling mad. It is an unjust insult to their intelligence—(and mine).
But love to you just the same. You will learn better now—.
Affection no end
Mumford and Wright had a famously tumultuous relationship that lasted over 30 years. Although Mumford, in his two-part New Yorker essay (“The Sky Line: A Phoenix Too Infrequent”) that prompted this letter, praised Wright as “the most original architect the United States had produced” and “one of the most creative architectural geniuses of all time,” Wright chose to focus on his criticisms, in particular the charge that Wright could be inflexible with respect to his clients’ wishes. In defending himself in this letter, Wright demonstrates his powerful personality and reveals some of his deeply held beliefs on the role of the architect.
Reprinted in: Frank Lloyd Wright & Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence, ed. Pfeiffer and Wojtowicz. New York: np, 1953. Three pages on two adjoining sheets, 5 x 6.25 inches. In fine condition, with a couple small ink and pencil notations to top right corner of first page. An outstanding letter with important content.
Price: $8,500 .