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"With deep respect and warm love still, as from one Master to another -" Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis Mumford spar over his New Yorker article of the architect's work and life
[Taliesin, Wisconsin & Philadelphia], 1931-1953. 7.75" x 5.5" to 8.5" x 13". "An archive of four pieces, 9 pages, ranging in size from 7.75"" x 5.5"" to 8.5"" x 13,"" [Taliesin, Wisconsin & Philadelphia],1931-1953 featuring a telegram from Frank Lloyd Wright to Lewis Mumford November 29, 1953; a contemporary copy of a letter by Mumford to Wright, December 3, 1953; a Typed Letter Signed, ""Eugene Masselink,"" 1 page, Taliesin, July 1, 1936 to Lewis Mumford; and a draft typescript of a 1931 article by John Irwin Bright, ""Modern Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright"" with handwritten edits by Lewis Mumford. Light soiling, some minor marginal wear, light folds and creases, else very good.The collection features a testy exchange between Wright and Mumford over the latter's assessment of Wright's work, published in The New Yorker over two issues toward the end of 1953. Mumford had written to Wright on November 23, 1953 to let him know that he had completed ""one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted: a criticism of your life & work in architecture."" (Pfeiffer, Wojtowicz, eds., Frank Lloyd Wright & Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence, 2001, 240) The first installment appeared in The New Yorker that week, and the second piece appeared two weeks later on December 12, 1953. Five days later, on November 29, Wright responded in a telegram to Mumford: ""DEAR LEWIS: THOUGH I HAVE NOT SEEN THE ARTICLE I AM GLAD YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE REALLY QUALIFIED TO CRITICIZE STOP IT IS THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MOMENT AND WILL PROBABLY BE USED AS MY EPITAPH AFFECTION= FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT= ""Mumford's task was daunting to say the least. He attempted an even handed assessment of Wright's work, and in doing so, raised the issue of the architect's stubbornness, especially when it came to accommodating his clients. His first article opened with praise for his work and achievements, observing that by ""almost universal acclaim, Frank Lloyd Wright is the most original architect the United States has produced, and ???what is even more important ???he is one of the most creative architectural geniuses of all time."" Later in that first installment, he confessed, ""Speaking with all reverence for a great master... Wright's dwelling houses sometimes put me off by persuading me that he is thinking not of the client's need but the architect's own desires and delights."" Making a veiled reference to the hexagonal Hanna House in Palo Alto (1953), which he found oppressive after spending a few weeks in the home, he blames Wright's willfulness on his mentor Louis Sullivan: ""The quality was one of the unfortunate bequests of the Romantic movement, for it turned the artist into a Wagnerian superman, if not a god, whose intuitions became divine judgments, whose instinctive preferences became dogmas, whose worked finally became law. Wright, fully aware of his own arrogance, has gaily defended it on the ground that arrogance is more decent than simulated humility."" (Mumford, ""The Sky Line: A Phoenix Too Infrequent,"" The New Yorker, November 28, 1953, 133-139). While flying to New York, Wright read Mumford's article and dashed off a letter from the Plaza: ""Ready you '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.... So you talked to one [client] ???one Paul Hanna. From him you got a false impression..."" (Pfeiffer, 242)Mumford replied from Philadelphia on December 3, ""I grieve that you have taken my New Yorker criticism so ill; for the best praise of a man's work is not which is unqualified, but that which remains after all qualifications. Once you have gotten over the shock of this report - in which I have dealt with your own life and work in the same loving but unsparing fashion I did with my own son's - I trust that you will be comforted by my writing, as perhaps the highest critical accolade that you have yet received. I wrote the second part of it two weeks ago, and finished revising the page proofs before your letter came; it will appear next week. Though it is in a sense an answer to your letter, it is an answer that anticipated it, by bringing out the essential differences between our respective philosophies of life. If the criticism of the second article strikes deeper and is even more painful, the praise, by the same token, rises higher. But on one matter I must set you right, if only to affirm Paul's unwavering loyalty to you. My judgment of your work has not been unduly affected by anything the Hanna's said to me, or by the fact that the Hanna house is the only house of yours I have lived in: it is based on the reports of other clients than Paul, and above all, on the evidence of your buildings themselves. What you say there is more unmistakable than any conversations, or even then your own well-considered works. With deep respect and warm love still, as from one Master to another -"" Both letters were published in Pfeiffer, Wojtowicz, eds., Frank Lloyd Wright & Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence, 2001.The archive also includes a draft of a review of Wright's 1931 book, Modern Architecture by John Irwin Bright,with edits in the hand of Lewis Mumford. The review appeared (without Mumford's suggested edits) in the August 1931 issue of The American Magazine of Art. The July 9, 1936 letter from Eugene Masselink, Wright's secretary at Taliesin, offers an invitation to visit Wright's Wisconsin studio with his family: ""Mr. Wright, I think, feels that 'urbanity' and urbanism might be getting the better of you and wants to reassure himself that New York is not the same poison to you as to all other men of genius.""Provenance: Lewis Mumford.Lewis Mumford and Frank Lloyd Wright first began corresponding in the 1920s, after Mumford had contributed an essay to the Dutch journal Wendingen in 1925 in which he discussed Wright's work as a continuation of a line of innovation begun by H. H. Richardson and Louis Sullivan as well as placing Wright in contrast to the European modernists like Le Corbusier. Mumford also characterized Wright's work as an ideal of form and expression ideally suited to the American landscape. An article along similar lines authored by Mumford for The American Mercury, elected a response from Wright in August 1926, in which the architect questioned the depth Mumford's understanding of his work. A set of exchanges culminated in their first meeting, a luncheon at the Plaza Hotel in New York, during the winter of 1926-1927 that would being a long and productive dialogue and friendship.This friendship, born of mutual respect and a love of argument, came under enormous strain in the years leading up the Second World War. Mumford, a liberal Democrat, viewed the rise of Nazism and Fascism anxiouslyâ??as he detailed in numerous articles and two full-length works: Men must Act (1939) and Faith For Living (1940) . Wright held a different view. His general distrust of empire compelled Wright to take a stand against American involvement in the escalating European conflict that stuck many as merely isolationistâ??a charge that the architect roundly rejected.The final straw for Mumford came in a broadsheet published by Wright: A Taliesin Square-Paper, subtitled as ""A nonpolitical voice from our democratic minority""), which declared ""HITLER IS WINNING THIS WAR WITHOUT A NAVY. We are facing a new kind of warfare that the British Empire, owing to traditional faith in a great navy, cannot learn in time even if we furnished the equipment... Our frontier is no longer England, nor in any sense, it is European. Our frontier is our own shores."" An infuriated Mumford shot back to Wright: ""You dishonor all the generous impulses you once ennobled... Be silent! lest you bring upon yourself some greater shame."" To this, Wright retorted: ""There is no good Empire, there never was a just war."" True to his principles, Wright remained steadfastly opposed to the Second World War, and war in general. Escalating the feud, Mumford published his response to Wright in the interventionist journal, the New Leader. The two did not speak for over a decade. The postwar period brought a thaw in their relationship, and Mumford remained a great admirer of Wright's work, despite their personal and philosophical differences. And Wright, despite Mumford's public shaming of the architect in print, continued sending New Year's greetings, unanswered by Mumford. However in the spring of 1951, Wright forwarded Mumford a copy of Sixty Years of Living Architecture, inscribed: ""In spite of all, your old F. Ll. W.""The gesture moved Mumford to respond and the two began the process of reconciliation. (Pfeiffer, 22-26)."
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