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Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect's Other Passion

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Julia Meech. Abrams, 2001. 304pp. £32

'What Wright liked to see hanging on the walls of his clients' homes were Japanese prints, ' says Julia Meech - especially if they were purchased from his own stock.

This carefully researched and beautifully illustrated book does indeed, as the subtitle claims, document 'the architect's other passion'.

Among Wright's possessions when he died were some 6,000 Japanese colour woodblock prints, and many Asian ceramics, sculptures, textiles and folding screens.

Whether they were all paid for is another matter - Wright relied on credit until the end. But his dealing in things Japanese, and compulsive collecting, dated back to his Oak Park days, and his clients could be prestigious.

Hiroshige's Sudden Evening Shower over Ohashi Bridge (see left) brought Wright $62.50 when he sold it to New York's Metropolitan Museum in 1918.

Meech does not try to examine the impact of Japan on Wright's architecture, the focus of Kevin Nute's valuable Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan (AJ 26.1.94); though she does point out its influence on his depiction of particular schemes - for instance, the stray branch entering Hiroshige-like at one side of the Wasmuth portfolio's Hardy House lithograph. Her aim is rather to portray this parallel career of Wright's with names, dates and prices.

The archive photographs Meech has chosen are revealing: whether staging himself or one of his rooms, key props for Wright were habitually Japanese (see right).

In deploying these images and artefacts so zealously, he stressed a fundamental kinship that made them more than decoration.'Ask to see the prints, ' he told his Taliesin apprentices, 'so that you may have the same refreshment and inspiration to your vision that I myself have had.'

Some 40 fine colour reproductions of the woodcuts indicate why Wright responded as he did.

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