Rudy Ciccarello of the Two Red Roses Foundation of Palm Harbor, Florida, recently announced the acquisition of four extremely rare and iconic high-back dining room chairs designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). The chairs were created in 1901 for the Ward W. Willits House, in Highland Park, Illinois; the four dining room chairs perfectly represent the Wright style and are part of a set of eleven dining chairs of alternating heights. Made of stained white oak with dark fabric seat covers, the chairs’ design feature the pattern of strong horizontal, vertical, and diagonal forms that make up the Wright style found throughout the house. The chairs retain their original finish and have never been restored, showing Wright’s original intent.
The chairs from the dining room suite remained in the Willits house from 1902 until the early 1950s when the house and its contents were sold. They have remained in a private Chicago collection until recently consigned to auction. Other examples are held by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the St. Louis Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
The Ward W. Willits residence is widely considered to be Wright’s first residential masterwork in the Prairie School style. The early, groundbreaking designs of the furnishings of this house were extremely influential both domestically and abroad, hastening a rethinking of domestic design in terms of sleek, modern geometric forms. The starkly simple and powerful Willits dining chairs – one of the most important designs by Wright – stand as icons of modernism.
The Willits dining chairs, along with other significant works by Wright and the Prairie School, will be on display in the forthcoming Museum of the Arts and Crafts Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida. The only major museum in the nation dedicated to this important movement in the history of American decorative arts (c. 1900 – 1930), the $90 million, 5-story, 144,000-square-foot building will open in Spring 2020.