|Isabelle or Dorothy Martin? (photo: UB Archives)|
The photograph above has long been identified as Isabelle Martin wearing a dress designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact it may be her daughter, Dorothy but that is beside the point. A document on Department of Art, University of California Berkeley letterhead with the title "Conversation with Darwin Martin, Jr., on April 12, 1979" but unsigned, includes the following:
[The] Conservatory was Mrs. Martin's idea: she loved flowers, and used them in abundance to give warmth to what she (or certainly he) considered to be a cold house. The photograph of her in a dress like a [John Singer] Sargent portrait: the dress is not by Wright at all (that's bullshit!); it is by Ivan Ivanovitch (??) a friend and student of Sargeant."
The document is intriguing given that Wright is known to have designed dresses for his wife, Catherine, and it enhances the idea that Wright would design everything if allowed by his clients. According to Daniel I. Larkin his grandfather had to stop Wright from designing the telephones and wastebaskets of the Larkin Administration Building.
I found Darwin R. Martin unreliable in our meetings when he visited Buffalo. He told me that Wright designed the Larkin R,S & T Building when it was definitely designed and built by the Lockwood, Greene and Company of Brooklyn which specialized in reinforced concrete framed "daylight factories." [see Reyner Banham, A Concrete Atlantis: U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture, 1900-1925 (1986)] He also said that the William R. Heath House was initially designed by William Heath and the contractor, Oscar S. Lang, but Heath brought in Wright to help them out. That is fiction. Martin Jr. and his sister had an intense dislike of Wright because he was the recipient of so much generosity from Darwin Martin -- possibly as much as $60,000 over the years. When Darwin Martin died during the Depression Wright ignored the destitute Mrs. Martin.
Who recorded this interview in April 1979 just a month before Darwin R. Martin passed away?