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Book Review: Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, Illustrated By Vintage Postcards

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 04, 2012 02:48 AM
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by Eric last modified Mar 30, 2011

2011 is an important milestone year for Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin: The 100th anniversary of the home's creation. In the century that has passed, the "Shining Brow" has seen its share of triumphs, tragedies and transformations. Even though there have been many books written about Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin over the years, there is still so much we don't know about what is arguably the Architect's most personal creation. Luckily,...




 

 

Taliesin 2011 is an important milestone year for Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin: The 100th anniversary of the home's creation. In the century that has passed, the "Shining Brow" has seen its share of triumphs, tragedies and transformations. Even though there have been many books written about Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin over the years, there is still so much we don't know about what is arguably the Architect's most personal creation. Luckily, Randolph C. Henning has released a new book that helps dispel some of the fog surrounding the iconic building through an unlikely medium: historic postcards. Read more after the jump...

When I first sat down with my copy of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin: Illustrated by Vintage Postcards (published by the University of Wisconsin Press), I thought I would glance through it, get the gist and be able to move-on. However, the book adeptly grabs your attention from the first sepia-toned image and holds it page-by-page in its fascinating grip. The design of the book helps, by quietly featuring each postcard image at it's original size on the right-hand side, with Henning's engaging and informative text on the left side—often accompanied by an appropriate quote from Wright's own Autobiography to help give context. Additionally, Wright scholar and author, Kathryn A. Smith, provides a wonderful foreword that sets the stage for what is to soon-to-be enjoyed in the rest of the book.

Of course, it's the 53 postcards themselves that are the true stars of the book, many of which are images that have never been published before. Each one is a haunting window for the reader to view Taliesin frozen in eras of what once was and what, at times, you wish might never have happened. I speak specifically of the terrible fires and inhuman murders that tore through the building and its inhabitants. Scenes of the burned remnants of the once proud building and the local gawkers stomping through the ruins are shocking. Even though you likely know about these events prior to reading this book, the power of seeing these images puts you there in the midst of the smoldering debris and makes it real in a way that just reading about it never could.

However, the book is not all horror and heartbreak. The vast majority of these rare postcards reveal the building in its various iterations, allowing us to see this building and its grounds evolve and change through the years. I especially enjoyed seeing images of some of Wright's other buildings at the Taliesin estate, including one of my favorites: the Romeo and Juliet windmill he designed for his aunts in 1896. Also enjoyable is the procession of images detailing the changes at the Hillside Home School building from its early Shingle Style start through its later Prairie-era iterations.

I enjoyed reading Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin: Illustrated by Vintage Postcards in ways I have not enjoyed a book in a long time. Randolph Henning's book is a tour back in time of a place that continues to hold a special power over people to this day. I highly recommend getting a copy of the book, reading it cover-to-cover and then planning a visit to Spring Green this year to experience Frank Lloyd Wright's home firsthand for yourself. It would be the perfect way to fully appreciate the quiet majesty of one of the most special places on earth.

Image via The University of Wisconsin Press


 

 

 
 
 

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