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Frank Lloyd Wright

Lionel Hutz

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I think he is America's greatest artist in a major art form. He modestly placed himself as the most important architect since Palladio. I agree, and I can't think of any other major American artist, in a major art form, who might be the consensus "best in the world over the last 400 years in his discipline". Is there an American novelist, poet, painter, or composer looked upon as the best in his field over that time period?

I often make this point when the subject of FLW comes up in conversation. People are, almost invariably shocked at the contention, but usually can't come up with American artists in other fields who can contend as the best, worldwide, over 400 years.
It is an interesting argument and actually one that I have made as well. I think you would have to contend with a number of jazz musicians (being the uniquely american art form but there may not be consensus on "best in class") as well as Bob Dylan.

I think you would also have to contend with people who raise issues with leaks and engineering issues and the relatively narrow scope of portfolio which was constructed (being overwhelmingly residential).

I'd be tempted to offer Warren Buffett as well. Though most wouldn't consider investing as an art form Buffett makes the analogy regularly
 
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StephenHero

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The idea that America's greatest artist doesn't come from music doesn't seem right to me. America has been chasing European architecture and visual art for centuries, but America (with Britain obviously) has separated itself in musical innovation and talent for the last 100 years.
 

pasadena man

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It is an interesting argument and actually one that I have made as well. I think you would have to contend with a number of jazz musicians (being the uniquely american art form but there may not be consensus on "best in class") as well as Bob Dylan.

I think you would also have to contend with people who raise issues with leaks and engineering issues and the relatively narrow scope of portfolio which was constructed (being overwhelmingly residential).

I'd be tempted to offer Warren Buffett as well. Though most wouldn't consider investing as an art form Buffett makes the analogy regularly
Belated OP reply. We are on the same wavelength, I was considering some jazz musicians as possible contenders, but that would be within a new musical medium (jazz), that has only been around for roughly a century. Bob Dylan an interesting idea, his Nobel (first for a singer?) might bolster his chances. It's not a "provable" premise, and it's a matter of taste, but still I think Wright stacks up well as America's greatest artist, if you use his own criteria: "Best in the world in a major art discipline over the last 400 years".

I see and appreciate your point on Warren Buffet. I have had an opportunity to be in the room in a few business meetings with him, and my sense is the he sees investing as an applied art, rather than a traditional, major, fine, art. That is my inference though, and he is occasionally inclined towards mild, ironic, hyperbole.
 

pasadena man

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The idea that America's greatest artist doesn't come from music doesn't seem right to me. America has been chasing European architecture and visual art for centuries, but America (with Britain obviously) has separated itself in musical innovation and talent for the last 100 years.
I understand, and agree with your general point on Anglo/American musical achievement, but I am talking about an individual artist and career, using FLW's own self evaluation/criteria of :"Best in the world in a major art form over the last 400 years". By way of analogy, I think of Italian excellence in design, painting, and architecture, but not at the same level of excellence in engineering as, say, Germany. Still, one could make a case for the Italian Leonardo da Vinci as the outstanding European engineer of the last millennium.
 

pasadena man

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That's a bold claim, but it's really only with modern technology and economy that we can have architects able to complete 50+ works in their lifetime.

In the medieval era, we have The Alhambra, Cologne Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, Hagia Sophia. But do we even know who those architects were? Even if we do, those architects didn't create multiple grand projects.

Perhaps Gaudi could challenge FLW? Not as many works, but Sagrada Familia is better than anything that FLW did—in my opinion, though I admit it's hard to compare such different artists.

My personal favorite architect, Santiago Calatrava, I feel has completed more and better works than FLW.

BTW, my favorite FLW works are Fallingwater, Guggenheim, Taliesin, Ennis House. Though there are many more I haven't seen in person and my opinion might change when I do so. I recently visited Marin County Civic Center and found it kind of ugly.
 

pasadena man

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You're right that ancient builders were not as prolific, and the four buildings you mentioned might be superior to any individual building FLW did, but he built almost a thousand, with 5-20 of them among the most significant built in the world over that time period. Once again, it's not a provable thesis, albeit a provocative one, and one I personally believe .

Gaudi is hallucinatory to me, in a good way, his buildings almost seem to exist in another, Alice in Wonderland, world. Calatrava is certainly a striking sculptor/builder, as is Frank Gehry. I have not seen Calatrava's stuff in person, so I don't feel capable of having an informed point of view on his work.

I also agree with you on Wright's Ennis house. It's usually considered a bit of an oddity, with the concrete blocks and all, but on it's dominating LA hillside site it has an eerie, pagan, grandeur almost unmatched in American architecture to my eye.
 

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