Edgar J. Kaufmann jr.

The Kaufmanns were quite a remarkable family.  Edgar J. sr. ran the department store in Pittsburgh, which had been established by his uncles, Jacob and Isaac, classic immigrants from the anti-semitism of late nineteenth-century Germany.   He was a graduate of Yale and also commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design the executive offices on the top floor of the department store.   There is a photograph of him in the bedroom at Fallingwater with fishing rod in hand:-

Lilliane, the mother, Edgar’s first cousin (it was common practice amongst Jewish families to marry close relatives), ran the 11th. floor of the Department store as a boutique called Vendôme.   She wasn’t so keen on Fallingwater, writing to Wright, ‘I appreciated the architectural beauty of the exterior, the interior seemed to me cold, barren and monotonous’.   She died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1952:-

Edgar jr. was the loved only son, clever and studious (his manner, according to the obituary in the NY Times was ‘soft but utterly firm’).   He studied at the School for Arts and Crafts at the Austrian Museum of Applied Art in Vienna in the late 1920s and then painting and typography in Florence.   After studying under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin, he worked briefly as manager for home furnishings for the family firm.   In 1940, he wrote to Alfred Barr at MOMA suggesting that he should organise an Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition.   In 1963, he became an Adjunct Professor at Columbia.

So which of the Kaufmann’s was responsible for the stylistic originality of the design of Fallingwater ?   It was presumably Edgar sr.   Look at the photographs of them visiting Wright in the 1940s:-


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