The Romantic and Progressive Aspects of Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite occupation on a Sunday afternoon was to rearrange the furniture in his Oak Park house; photographs of these experiments still exist today. They show that during his first six years there, his living room, for instance, was filled with an eclectic assortment of furniture, ferns, oriental rugs, draped shawls and curtainsall of which demonstrated the influence of the Aesthetic Movement on his taste. Six years later, though, Wright had redesigned his dining room and the transformation was drastic. Gone were the decorations, the textile patterns and the subtle effects of draped shawls and curtains, and in their place was a severely simplified decor emphasizing the horizontal, by means of wooden moldings running around the room, and the vertical, with tall chairbacks composed of slats of wood that were his own design. The oak floor was bare, and the only decorative elements in the room came from the leaded-glass windows in a pattern abstracted from a flower, a perforated screen, and vases of flowers. By 1895, in other words, Wright’s taste had evolved from the consciously artistic toward a concept that was unified, simplistic, and uncompromising. 1895 is the earliest date one can give to this clear evidence of his departure from the Aesthetic to the Romantic Movement. The Romantic Period could be summed up as the belief that art exists to function as art. This idea became Wright’s starting point for the belief that emotion, true feeling and thought were all included in concepts of what was beautiful. That idea, as Thoreau would write, “the perception of beauty is a moral test,” was seized upon by Wright as he advanced the belief that man was a part of nature, not separate from it, and as he sought to teach, through his architecture, a moral response to beauty based on an awareness of nature. For the rest of his life, Wright would wrestle with the goal of the Romantic Periodto discover th…

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