Frank Lloyd Wright’s obituary for Louis Sullivan

June 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday was earlier this week.  Wright had an incredibly complicated relationship with his mentor and original employer, Louis Sullivan.  Fired by Sullivan for moonlighting in the early 1890s, Wright smoldered.  There is a widely circulated story that he had a drunken Sullivan thrown out of the Cliff Dwellers’ Club after being asked for change during Sullivan’s decline.  Once Sullivan died, in 1924, Wright’s tone changed, and with the father figure safely out of the way, he felt free to anoint him as America’s great lost hope.  

I came across the obituary for Sullivan that Wright penned for Architectural Record this week, and among the Whitmanesque language that both men were (in)famous for was this gem:

“Ah, that supreme, erotic, high adventure that was his ornament!  Often I would see him, his back bent over his drawing board, intent upon what?  I knew his symbolism—I caught his feelings as he worked.  A Casanova on his rounds?  Beside this sensuous master of adventure with tenuous, vibrant, plastic form, Casnova was a duffer…How often have I held his cloak and sword while he adventured in the realm within, to win his mistress; and while he wooed the mistress, I would woo the maid!  Those days!” 

Sullivan’s sexuality isn’t much of a mystery–his wife divorced him in 1916 for reasons that the Chicago Tribune declined to publish–but this quote does make you wonder whether 1) the office of Adler & Sullivan was more interesting than we’ve been led to believe, or 2) both mens’ private lives were far more boring.

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