About the Collection
There are four primary categories of Martin House collections:
- Furnishings and decorative objects, including a subset collection of Japanese ukiyo-e color woodblock prints
- Art glass of the Martin House Complex
- Artifacts and archival materials
- Digital collections
Furnishings and Decorative Objects
Frank Lloyd Wright designed some fifty-five pieces of furniture for the Martin House commission. This collection of custom furniture is among the most extensive produced in Wright's Prairie period (c. 1900 - 1913). The collection includes quarter-sawn oak tables, chairs and couches, built-in cabinetry with art glass doors, and massive bronze firewood boxes. Perhaps most notable is Wright's iconic barrel chair, first designed for the Martin House and later adapted by the architect for a number of his other projects.
In addition, the Martin House collection includes various furnishings and decorative objects "approved" by the exacting Wright. Among them is furniture by Stickley; a Steinway grand piano with custom oak veneer; Heintz Art Metal vessels and desk sets; Japanese ceramic vases and urns; and more than twenty Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints hand-selected by Wright.
Japanese Print Collection
Frank Lloyd Wright was fascinated by the art and culture of Japan, traveling there for the first time in the spring of 1905 as the Martin House was under construction. He dismissed those who would cite Japanese architectural influences on his own work, but embraced the inspiration of the Japanese print--its inherent abstraction of the geometries of nature were in keeping with his own design ideals. Wright soon became a major collector and dealer in ukiyo-e, color woodblock prints of the "floating world" of Japan. He prescribed such prints for many of his Prairie-era clients, including the Martin family. Twenty-four of these prints remain in the Martin House collection today, comprising works by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820), and others.
The Martin House Complex contains 394 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed panels of art glass or "light screens" as the architect liked to call them. These include windows, doors, pier cluster casements, skylights, laylights, and sidelights in sixteen distinct "families" of patterns. By far the best known art glass pattern is the "Tree of Life" window. So detailed and labor-intensive is their design that one light screen contains more than 750 individual panes of glass.
Artifacts and Archival Collections
Other highlights of the museum collection include an eclectic array of architectural fragments, books, photographs, and ephemera related to the Martin House, the Martin family, or Frank Lloyd Wright in general. The majority of these items were acquired by donation: from a copy of the Ladies Home Journal (February 1901)--containing the article “A Home in a Prairie Town” on Wright’s prototypical Prairie House design--to a set of first edition books by Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters.
The Martin House Complex maintains a growing collection of digital assets pertaining to the history of the house and its restoration. The digital collection includes restoration documentation from 1996 to the present, new photography of the site, as well as images which document Martin House art glass, artifacts, and historic conditions. An oral history collection is also being developed, which consists of digital audio interviews and/or transcripts with key individuals related to the Martin House project.
Some restrictions apply to the use and distribution of these digital collections. Please contact the Curator for more information.