LOUIS SULLIVAN: His Life and Work by Robert C. Twombly

LOUIS SULLIVAN: His Life and Work

Email this review


Addressing an audience of students in 1899, Sullivan defined architecture as ""an art that should be, may be, and must be, the noblest, most intimate, the most expressive, the most eloquent of all."" This ardent, uncompromising artistry on the part of one of America's great architects--inventor of the skyscraper and Frank Lloyd Wright's teacher--led also to a bumpy personal and professional life and, ultimately, a lonely death in a Chicago hotel in 1924. Twombly has amassed his facts and figures, and this biography is solidly researched down to such small details as the probable Boston address of Sullivan's father's dancing school. Readers whose primary interest is in the history of American architecture during the crucial 18801920 period will be satisfied by this book's painstaking documentation and the generous amount of evidence Twombly summons to support his decisions on doubtful matters. (He convincingly reattributes back to Sullivan several buildings previously ascribed to Wright.) Nonetheless, racy biography is not Twombly's forte and--if solid--this book is unremittingly stolid as well. Twombly's psychological (as opposed to documentary) statements are too often unintentional examples of The Art of Sinking: ""When he [Sullivan] died in poverty, he was a bundle of nerves."" Troubled and colorful, self-made and self-destructive, the person behind the great architect still remains to be explored.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking