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Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

by Meryle Secrest

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The widely admired biographer of Bernard Berenson (“A triumph”—Washington Post; “A perfect riot”—Michael Holroyd; “Astonishing”—London Sunday Times) and of Kenneth Clark (“Splendid, enthralling”—The Wall Street Journal) gives us now a complete and complex portrait of an


The widely admired biographer of Bernard Berenson (“A triumph”—Washington Post; “A perfect riot”—Michael Holroyd; “Astonishing”—London Sunday Times) and of Kenneth Clark (“Splendid, enthralling”—The Wall Street Journal) gives us now a complete and complex portrait of an American titan, Frank Lloyd Wright.
            Meryle Secrest shows us Frank Lloyd Wright in full scale—the brilliant, outrageous, fascinating man; the giant who changed modern architecture; the standard-bearer for the new, quintessentially American vision, the artist who never, during a seventy-year career, abandoned his principles of design; the radical, the Bohemian—the visionary who was one of the central figures of the twentieth-century American culture, society and politics.
            Meryle Secrest is the first biographer to have full access to the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives. Her life of the architect, more than five years’ work and illustrated with 121 photographs, is a stunning feat of biographical narrative, sustained analysis and compassionate insight. With her extraordinary grasp of the man and his art, she gives us Frank Lloyd Wright close up—a creature of boundless energy and indomitable appetite for experience, a man whose limitless belief in his own rightness carried him through bankruptcy, arrest, fire, divorce, and years of social ostracism. A riveting portrait of a genius. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this superb, subtle, demythologizing biography of Wright (1869-1959), we meet a shrewd yet gullible architect who fostered a view of himself as a misunderstood, embattled genius, a narcissist who unconsciously courted catastrophe while blaming the vengeful hand of fate as he overcame accidents, bankruptcy, lawsuits and hounding by his morphine-addicted second wife. Drawing on a trove of letters, Secrest ( Salvador Dali ) traces Wright's ``secret conviction of worthlessness'' to the contradictory influences of his freethinking, erratic Welsh mother and his jealous, spendthrift father, a New England minister. She discusses the dynamics of the architect's three marriages, recounts his clashes with Louis Sullivan and Lewis Mumford, and digs beneath his ``quasi-mystical Celtic beliefs'' to pinpoint the multiple influences on his fervent quest for an organic architecture. A definitive portrait of a mercurial titan. Photos. BOMC and QPB alternates. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Wright remains for many historians America's preeminent architect; although he died over 30 years ago, the force of his personality and the strength of his reputation endure untarnished. Several excellent biographies on Wright have appeared since his death, most notably Robert C. Twombly's Frank Lloyd Wright ( LJ 2/15/73) and Brendan Gill's Many Masks ( LJ 11/15/87). Secrest's book joins this select company and more than manages to hold its own: It is a spellbinding portrait of this complex, often contradictory architect. Drawing on the massive archives of the Wright Memorial Foundation, Secrest writes with authority and compassion about Wright's long and turbulent career. Her exhaustive scholarship provides fresh insights into Wright's personality, making this biography essential reading for anyone with an interest in American architecture. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/92; see also the review of Frank Lloyd Wright's Collected Writings , Vol. 1, p. 175.--Ed.-- H. Ward Jandl, National Park Svce., Washington, D.C.
Reprint of the 1992 edition rendered here with no additions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Engrossing story of the Balzac-scaled life of the great architect. Wright (1867-1959) was born in Wisconsin to a Welsh family of radical thinkers and was nurtured to be an architect by his mother, who told him he was destined for greatness. He dropped out of the Univ. of Wisconsin after two semesters to take a draftsman's job at a week, and soon was working for the master architect Louis Sullivan (inventor of the skyscraper). Within a year, Wright had become chief designer at Adler and Sullivan and also had married the first of his three wives. In the next 30 years, he was to abandon his wife and six children (and his phenomenally successful practice), calling marriage a "barnyard institution. I am a wild bird"; marry a morphine- addicted heiress and follower of Mary Baker Eddy who was killed by an axe-stroke to the brain by an insane servant; marry a Serbian beauty 30 years his junior who was an instructor for G.I. Gurdjieff; build his beloved house Taliesen (East) three times—it twice burned to the ground; time and again ingeniously raise prodigious sums of money and spend them in profligate excess; revive his career with the building of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo—the only major structure to remain undamaged in the largest earthquake of the century in 1923 in Japan; and go on to greater triumphs, culminating with the Guggenheim Museum in 1956. Secrest (Salvador Dali, 1986, etc.), who had access to the newly opened archives at Wright's Memorial Foundation, does a superb job in telling the human side of Wright's story. And without allowing it to overmaster her narrative, she provides clear architectural background to explicate Wright's designs, stature, and influence.Definitive. (Photographs—121—some seen.)

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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