When Phyllis Lambert Painted Frank Lloyd Wright in the Plaza Hotel

Philip Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright had a notoriously contentious relationship. Here’s Phyllis Lambert’s account (and painting) of their final encounter, before Wright’s death in 1959.

ARCH250507.01Frank Lloyd Wright in his apartment at the Plaza Hotel at the time of the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1958
Courtesy Phyllis Lambert, CCA

Wright and Philip weren’t exactly cozy. A long time before that, Philip was going to give an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art to Wright, but he gave it to Mies van der Rohe instead. Wright, in turn, would ask him, “Philip, are you still building those glass houses and leaving them out in the rain?” So there was a kind of tension between them.

Wright was in New York and he called on Philip, who then called me. He said that he was asked to pay Wright a visit—to “make amends” before Wright died—and that he was terrified of going alone. He asked me to tag along, and I said sure. I didn’t pay very much attention to the conversation. I was looking and drawing.

Phyllis Lambert is the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Her exhibition about Montreal’s historic greystone buildings opens in October.

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