“Despite his success as a regional architect poised for increasing recognition, Wright experienced around 1908 a midlife crisis. He not only felt creatively exhausted from an intensive decade of work; he was emotionally drained, having fallen in love with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who, with her husband, had been Wright’s client in Oak Park. Wright’s temporary solution to his dilemma was to take the opportunity to publish his work in Germany, departing in 1909 with Mrs. Cheney as his companion. The Wasmuth Verlag of Berlin produced for him Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright, a two-folio monograph summarizing his buildings and designs, and Frank Lloyd Wright: Ausgeführte Bauten, a small picture book showing executed work. The two publications are said in every standard architectural history to have had an immediate influence on the exponents of modernism in Europe, in particular Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; but whatever success they had in Europe was incidental to his purposes. Not only did Wright pay to have them published; he intended to sell them via direct mail as primers for a new democratic American architecture.” – Anthony Alofsin, American National Biography, p. 17
RARE FIRST EDITION OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S MAGNIFICENT WASMUTH PORTFOLIO, COMPLETE WITH ALL 100 LARGE FOLIO PLATES.
Known the world over as the Wasmuth portfolio, the immensely influential Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe (1910) was a project conceived by Ernst Wasmuth—a Berlin publisher of high-end art books who “intended to publish a complete portfolio of Wright’s work to that date […] that would become a collector’s item” (Secrest, Biography, p. 203). In contrast to the compact Frank Lloyd Wright: Ausgeführte Bauten, the Wasmuth portfolio is a grand expression of Wright’s architectural vision, containing 100 lithographs of his most successful projects completed by 1910, including: Unity Temple, I.L.; the Robie House, I.L.; the Westcott House, O.H.; and the Cheney House, I.L. (the project on which he met his lover Mrs. Mamah Borthwick Cheney).
The extraordinary portfolio showcased here presents an exceptional opportunity to own first-rate architectural drawings compiled by Wright himself and crafted in exquisite detail by Wasmuth.
The Wasmuth portfolio is rare in any form, with many partial copies surviving today. Wasmuth produced only 650 copies, 500 of which were sent to Wright for circulation in the U.S. A fire on August 15, 1914, however, at Wright’s home and studio, Taliesin, caused the destruction of over 400 of these copies, with Wright noting that only 30 damaged portfolios were salvaged. Thus, less than 200 copies are speculated to exist, fewer in fine or complete condition.
Le Corbusier is one of the known owners of the portfolio, and its influence on twentieth-century European architects, namely Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was immediate. However, in addition to encapsulating Wright’s burgeoning impact on the history of modern architecture, the portfolio captures a tender moment in Wright’s life, sitting at the centre of his affair with Mrs. Cheney. The voyage to Germany to collaborate with Wasmuth offered Wright a glimpse at life with his newfound partner. Such joy, tragically, was short lived. The aforementioned Taliesin fire was in fact an act of arson, committed by one of the house’s servants, that took the life of Mrs. Cheney, her two children as well as four others. Thus, any copy of the Wasmuth portfolio carries a deeply sentimental weight amidst a complex personal history.
The portfolio includes 72 high-quality plates and 28 tissue overlays. Each plate and overlay is embossed in blind with “FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT” and a sigil of two squares one in another. The plates are printed on either a bright, eggshell-coloured paper or a darker paper that allows white highlights and darker shades to be added. Two plates (I: The Winslow Villa in River Forest, Illinois; and LXII: The Richard Bock Atelier in Oak Park, Illinois) are decadently lined in gold, adding a further dimension of depth to the drawings.
Note: The text booklet is often lacking but is here present, though incomplete and in an unusual state, perhaps indicating a trial or unsold version. Containing an Introduction by Wright in German, but with pp. 1–4 as unfolded folio sheets, missing pages 5–16 (three sheets). The rest of the pamphlet folded in booklet form. With Index from pp. 21–30; Acknowledgement from Wright on p. 31; all in German.
ALSO WITH (as an extra): Wright, Frank Lloyd. Ausgeführte Bauten. Berlin: Ernst Wasmuth, 1911. Often known as "Little Wasmuth" this small format edition was published after the large portfolio. With color frontispiece of Unity Temple and black and white illustrations throughout. Original stiff wrappers. Fragile front wrapper split and almost detached. Text in German.
Anthony Alofsin, ‘Wright, Frank Lloyd’, in American National Biography, 24 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), XXIV, pp. 15–20.
Meryle Secrest, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1992).
WRIGHT, FRANK LLOYD. Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright. Large oversized folio (25 x 16 inches) sheets (72 plates with 28 tissue overlays), housed as issued in two cloth folding cases with original ties (all but one attached). Text and plates loose as issued. Some general light wear to portfolio cases.
One of the overlays (LVIII) detached, one small tear in another. Plates remarkably clean and extremely rare as such, since a significant percentage of extent copies have missing or damaged plates.
The list of all plates is available upon inquiry.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND INFLUENTIAL ARCHITECTURAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. RARE.
Price: $70,000 .