Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life
Ada Louise Huxtable
Penguin Books 2008
Prof. Richard Irwin
17 November 2011
Ada Louise Huxtable’s Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life is a thoroughly detailed biography with noteworthy insight into the astoundingly topsy turvey life of one of America’s greatest architectural geniuses: Frank Lloyd Wright. Currently the architectural critic for the Wall Street Journal, Ada Louise Huxtable hails from many other prestigious positions and accomplishments including being a former New York Times critic and winner of both the first Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism and the MacArthur Fellow. She has written several other books on American architecture including On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change and The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion. Her biography on Frank Lloyd Wright is both informative and entertaining; she not only reveals the long and harrowing journey and the victories and defeats of the rebellious and egotistical architect, but also gives a clear view at the times in which he was most active and the ways in which the country and the world were reacting to his architecture while adapting with everything from changing architectural tastes and styles to economic depressions and the World Wars. Beginning with his birth and childhood in Wisconsin all the way to his latter days of work and death in Arizona, Huxtable details the journey and evolution of his legacy and the tragedies that failed to hinder his art in coherent chronologic fashion.
Huxtable begins the first chapters of the biography with the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright and his beginnings as a child in Wisconsin. Huxtable also introduces the fact that Wright manipulated some details of his personal information throughout life to suit his ego and create his own elegantly presented persona, beginning with his birthday. Born truly in 1867, Wright later changed his birth date to 1869 which “made a case for a precocious talent with an impressively youthful, early success in Chicago in the 1890s,” and more importantly to Wright it “kept him shy of the dreaded 90-mark during his brilliant late work in the 1950s” (Huxtable 1). In these acts of self-benefit, Huxtable revealed the aesthetically egotistical side of Wright that I most certainly never realized was an active force in his life. From his birth, Wright was pampered and directed by his mother, Anna, who believed him to be destined for greatness. Upon conception, she decided that Frank would be a great architect one day and she was going to do everything in her power to help and guide him in that path, not only for his own benefit but for hers as well. She thought particular thoughts, played particular music, and hung artistically aesthetic pictures around his crib all to influence the newly born Wright towards a path of architectural nirvana. “He would deliver her from the despair and hardship of her life, make up for her thwarted ambitions; they would have a golden future together” (Huxtable 7). Huxtable describes Wright’s childhood as a bittersweet mixture of hard labor on his uncles farm and alienation from his father mixed with glorious Sunday mornings at the Lloyd Jones family Unitarian chapel followed up by emotionally restorative nights spent singing songs while his father played piano. She illuminates how even though he was a small and weakly child, he learned to “pile tired on tired” (Huxtable 14) working on his uncle’s farm and how that strength and stamina of mind and body stayed with Wright even up to the final days of his career which was alive and well until his death.
Huxtable then begins to describe the evolution of Wright’s journey to becoming an apprentice architect. He was given his first opportunity at a youthful age to assist in the design and construction of a family chapel and even added a windmill of his own design later which stood the test of time and physical stress...
Cited: Huxtable, Ada Louise. Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life. New York: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.
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