When Phyllis Lambert Painted Frank Lloyd Wright in the Plaza Hotel

Philip Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright had a notoriously contentious relationship. Here’s Phyllis Lambert’s account (and painting) of their final encounter, before Wright’s death in 1959.

I went with Philip Johnson to go see Frank Lloyd Wright at the Plaza, and that’s when I did this drawing. Wright and Philip weren’t exactly cozy. A long time before that, Philip was going to give an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art to Wright, but he gave it to Mies van der Rohe instead. Wright, in turn, would ask him, “Philip, are you still building those glass houses and leaving them out in the rain?” So there was a kind of tension between them.

Wright was in New York and he called on Philip, who then called me. He said that he was asked to pay Wright a visit—to “make amends” before Wright died—and that he was terrified of going alone. He asked me to tag along, and I said sure. I didn’t pay very much attention to the conversation. I was looking and drawing.

Phyllis Lambert is the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Her exhibition about Montreal’s historic greystone buildings opens in October.

If you liked this article, you may also enjoy “When Frank Lloyd Wright Lived in the Plaza Hotel.


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