Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard W. Bock

As promised I will continue about the relationship between Richard W. Bock, sculptor, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

1897 marked the beginning of a long friendship and working relationship between Bock and Wright.  Wright, working in the Steinway building in Chicago, contacted Bock about a commission he was completing for a Mrs. Heller. Remembering Bock’s work on the Shiller Theater, Wright asked the sculptor to create a repetitive friezeto run all the way around the building.  Bock notes in his memoirs that at this time, Wright was still heavily influenced by Louis Sullivan and his work reflected the Sullivan style.

To further entice Bock to take the commission, Wright hired the artist to model a portrait statue of his son John. The architect was building a new home in Oak Park and hoped to install the statue in the children’s playroom. Bock, using the 4 year old child as his model, created an angelic two foot statue of the figure “Goldenrod.” The piece became a family favorite of the Wrights.

Wright moved his studio to the Rookery, owned by Edward C. Waller in 1898. The new building had plenty of space and Wright convinced the owner to allow Bock to set up his studio on the top floor. Soon after moving in, Bock began working on the pilasters for Wright’s new Oak Park studio.  After the pilasters, Bock created a sculpture of a man squatted and hunched over with his head down for the studio. Wright, wanting a say in everything would visit everyday requesting changes. Frustrated, Bock locked the studio door and made the architect wait for the finished product.

To add to his new studio and home, Wright commissioned Bock to create a sculpture of his young son, John Lloyd Wright as the figure Goldenrod. The four year old child proved to be a challenging model.With the assistance of the boy’s grandmother and his older brother Lloyd, they were able to keep the child still and occupied during the modeling. The finished product pleased Wright and he placed it in the children’s playroom.

Wright hired Bock to create a panel for the Isadore Heller home. This frieze panel ran around the entire building. Because it was small job, Wright commissioned the statue of son at the same time.  After these commissions Bock found himself too busy to do much work for Wright. Thought the two men remained family friends.

A few years passed and Wright called upon his old friend for assistance. He had hired a young scultpure to do works for the Dana house in Springfield, Illinois. However, the artist could not seem to agree with Wright. Knowing that he and Bock could work together he called Bock to create a standing figure for the entrance of the Dana house. The two argued over the design style. Bock claims that at this time, roughly around 1902, Wright was still heavily influenced by the Sullivan style. The architect went out of town and Bock completed the figure “Flower in a Crannied Wall”. Wright loved it! Supposedly he exclaimed “You have done it! Dicky, you have done it! This is going to make you famous.” Bock claims that the figure became the keystone to the Wright style, thus claiming to influence Wright’s unique architectural style.  Bock also completed the piece “The Moon Children” for the Dana house as well. This was started under another artist, but completed by him.

After the Dana house, Bock notes that Wright influenced him no matter how hard he tried to revolt against it. He admired Wright’s work and considered him a dear friend. The two families often visited and dined together. The men worked together on other projects. However the close working relationship came to end when Wright invited Bock to go to Japan with him. Bock, a family man, declined to join Wright on the long extended trip. Though they remained friends they were never worked together again or visited much afterwards.

A photo of the Dana House and the sculpture “Flower in the Crannied Wall” can be seen at www.dana-thomas.org

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