The Pioneering Marion Mahony:
By 1908, Mahoney had been working for Frank Lloyd Wright for a decade. She had developed a smooth, free flowing style of rendering derived partly from Japanese woodblock prints, with lush vegetation flowing in and around floor plans and elevations. Her masterly compositions also made the buildings appear irresistibly romantic.
Mahony’s drawings, retraced in ink, formed much of what came to be known as The Wasmuth Portfolio, a compendium of Wright’s designs published in Germany in 1910. The portfolio established him as America’s reigning architectural genius, and it also influenced European Modernists like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.
Some have said that the specifics of Marion’s life fell victim to the primary scholarly effort to establish and fix the canon of “great men” whose genius-personalities, buildings and texts would become central to the story of architecture.
That Mahony spent her most productive years in Australia, where she and her husband designed a plan for the new city of Canberra in 1911, has also lowered her profile in the United States. But the Australians take Mahony as seriously as we take Frank Lloyd Wright.
One of those Australians, Christopher Vernon of the University of Western Australia, has written extensively of Mahony’s talent as a designer. Mr. Van Zanten goes so far as to say that Mahony, after Wright and Louis Sullivan, was “the third great progressive designer of turn-of-the-century Chicago.”
Wright, who more than most architects cultivated the image of the lone genius, never acknowledged Mahony’s contributions. Still, it is generally accepted that the rendering style through which Frank Lloyd Wright became known was Marion Mahony’s.
Marion Mahony: The Works of a Pioneering Woman Architect
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