The Martin House Art Glass Collection
January 26, 2015
Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably one of America’s premier designers of art glass. At the Darwin D. Martin House Complex alone, Wright executed nearly 400 examples of decorative glass—windows, doors, skylights, laylights, sidelights, and light fixtures—in sixteen primary patterns, all of which were fabricated by the Linden Glass Company of Chicago, Illinois.
Over the past year, many new windows of opportunities have opened as the Martin House continues to move forward with the recovery and reintegration of exquisite Wright-designed art glass—an essential component of the architect’s vision for what is today our historic house museum. Recent additions include, most notably, the replication and installation of our very first conservatory side awning window, an example of a pier cluster casement and a carriage house window, as well as three distinctive art glass doors gracing the cabinetry at the north and south ends of the Martin House unit room.
Conservatory Side Awning Window
Originally, the Martin House conservatory featured fifty-seven pieces of art glass—or “light screens” as Wright liked to call them—all in the same pattern with slight variations contingent on the door or window opening. The conservatory motif is defined by its graceful lines and geometric shapes alluding to the form of a flower, and which also refer back to the space’s design as an idealized, yet fully functional, greenhouse.
At one time, there were sixteen side awning windows in two groups of eight flanking either side of the conservatory’s central “nave.” Through the generosity of family and friends, the Martin House commissioned Oakbrook-Esser of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin—the authorized art glass studio of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation—to artfully recreate our very first side awning window as a special gift in memory of Julia Roberts.
Pier Cluster Casement Window
Art glass panels in the form of wisteria blossoms enclose six of the pier cluster units on the main floor of the Martin House. Serving as beautifully decorated casements that control the flow of heat from the concealed radiators located within the piers, these windows when fully opened also allow for remarkable vistas through the structure of the house and into the landscape beyond. Thanks to the generosity of Martin House volunteer, Tom Gunsher, a missing example of a Wright-designed pier cluster casement has been lovingly restored to perfection and is now in its permanent place.
Carriage House Window
Bands of windows wrap the entire second floor of the Martin House carriage house. Originally, these windows were all composed in a whimsical, geometric design of squares and rectangles. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Martin House can proudly celebrate the installation of another example of this exceptional pattern of art glass.
Unit Room Cabinet Doors
The signature “room” of the main Martin House is without question the multifunctional living space known as the unit room. Consisting of three spaces within a space—dining room, living room, and library—the unit room is remarkable for its intricate use of woodwork as expressed in its moldings, furnishings, and cabinetry.
Two built-in cabinets sit just below the Chicago-style windows at either end of the unit room in both the dining room and library. Each of these cabinets is adorned simply, but most elegantly, with three individual doors accented by art glass. Through a charitable gift by the Caerus Forum Philanthropic Fund, two of these doors were replicated for the Martin House dining room as a fitting tribute in memory of Burt Notarius, a devoted Martin House board member. In addition, the first of a total of three unit room cabinet doors for the library was made possible by a donation from Martin House volunteer, Nicholas Marchelos. Like the conservatory side awning window, these three examples of art glass, along with the pier cluster casement and carriage house window, were executed through the excellent artisanship of the Oakbrook-Esser Studios.
We are extremely grateful to these and all our donors who have given so selflessly on behalf of our art glass collection.We look forward to the year ahead as we advance ever closer toward our goal for the full restoration of our house, in partnership with each of you who serve as ambassadors of the Martin House legacy. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the Martin House through a donation to our art glass fund, please contact Mary F. Roberts, Executive Director, at (716) 856-3858 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Susana Tejada, Curator