Tree of Life” (Art Glass Window) Structure

Masterpiece: “Tree of Life” (Art Glass Window), 1904
by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Darwin D. Martin House
Keywords: Shape, Line, Repetition,
4th Grade
Light Screens
1.5 hour
This Frank Lloyd Wright Tree of Life art glass
pattern is found in several variations in Frank
Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House. The
four-panel variation shown is found on the
central landing of the Martin House stairway.
Meet the Artist (taken in part from
the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
 Frank Lloyd Wright was born in
Richland Center, Wisconsin, on
June 8, 1867, the son of William
Carey Wright, a preacher and a
musician, and Anna Lloyd Jones, a teacher whose large Welsh family had settled
the valley area near Spring Green, Wisconsin. His early childhood was nomadic as
his father traveled from one ministry position to another in Rhode Island, Iowa,
and Massachusetts, before settling in Madison, Wisconsin in 1878.
 Wright's parents divorced in 1885, making already difficult financial
circumstances even more challenging. To help support the family, eighteen-yearold Frank Lloyd Wright worked for the dean of the University of Wisconsin's
department of engineering while also studying at the university. But he wanted to
be an architect and in 1887 he left Madison for Chicago, where he found work
with two different firms before being hired by the prestigious partnership of
Adler and Sullivan, working directly under Louis Sullivan for six years.
 In 1889, at age twenty-two, Wright married Catherine Lee Tobin. Anxious to build
his own home, he negotiated a five-year contract with Sullivan in exchange for
the loan of the necessary money. He purchased a wooded corner lot in the Chicago
suburb of Oak Park and built his first house, a modest residence reminiscent of
the East Coast shingle style with its prominent roof gable, but reflecting Wright’s
ingenuity as he experimented with geometric shapes and volumes in the studio and
playroom he later added for his ever-growing family of six children. Remembered
by the children as a lively household, filled with beautiful things Wright found it
hard to go without.
In 1893, Wright left Adler and Sullivan and opened his own architectural firm and
began his quest to design residential homes. Over the next 16 years, he set the
architectural standards for what became known as the Prairie style. Some of his
most important works of the time are the Darwin D. Martin house in Buffalo, New
York, among others. The window you are studying today is from the Martin house.
In 1911, Wright began construction on the first Taliesan near Spring Green,
Wisconsin which became his home, office and refuge.
The years between 1922 and 1934 were both architecturally creative and fiscally
catastrophic with many of his commissions not going into construction.
In 1928, Wright married Olga Lazovich (known as Olgivanna) and in 1932 founded
an architectural school at his beloved home of Taliesin. Unlike other architecture
schools, the “Taliesin Fellowship” was an apprenticeship program to provide a total
learning environment, integrating not only architecture and construction, but also
farming, gardening, cooking, and the study of nature, music, art and dance.
To escape the harsh winters in Wisconsin, in 1934, the Wrights and the
Fellowship rented space in Scottsdale, Arizona and in 1936, he acquired some
unwanted acreage of raw, rugged desert in the foothills of the McDowell
Mountains where he and the Taliesin Fellowship began the construction of Taliesin
West as a winter camp, a bold new endeavor for desert living where he tested
design innovations, structural ideas, and building details that responded to the
dramatic desert setting. Wright and the Fellowship established migration
patterns between Wisconsin and Arizona, which the Frank Lloyd Wright School of
Architecture continues to this day.
He was still actively involved with all aspects of work when, in April of 1959, he
was suddenly stricken by an illness which forced his hospitalization. He died April
9, two months shy of his ninety-second birthday.
During his seventy-year career, Wright created over 1,100 designs nearly half of
which were realized. These included commercial buildings, apartment towers,
recreational complexes, museums, religious houses, residences for the wealthy
and those of more modest income, furniture, lighting features, textiles, and art
glass. In creating what he called “architecture for democracy,” he redefined our
concept of space, offering everyone the opportunity to live and grow in nourishing
environments, connected physically and spiritually to the natural world.
In 1991, the American Institute of Architects named Wright the greatest
American architect of all time and Architectural Record published a list of the
one hundred most important buildings of the previous century. Twelve Frank Lloyd
Wright buildings appeared in this list, including Fallingwater, the Robie House, the
Johnson Administration Building, the Guggenheim, Taliesin, and Taliesin West. In
2000, the A.I.A. selected their top ten favorite buildings of the twentieth
century: Fallingwater topped this list, with the Robie House, the Guggenheim
Museum, and the Johnson Administration Building also among the select few.
Shape: an area which stands out from the space next to around because of a defined
boundary (line) or a difference of value, color or texture. Shapes are geometric or
organic; two or three dimensional.
Repetition: occurs when lines, shapes or colors are repeated regularly or irregularly.
Repetition creates balance and rhythm in a work.
Structure: in art refers to how lines and shapes work together in a relationship to form
a coherent whole. Stained glass is a visual definition of how structure needs to work to
maintain integrity of the piece.
Possible Questions:
o Do you know what this piece is? A stained glass window from one of FLW’s homes
he designed for Mr. Darwin Martin.
o What is the first thing your eye goes to? Why?
o What shapes do you see?
o Are those shapes repeated? Where?
o What do you find most interesting about it?
o How do those shapes hold the piece together?
o Do you think this window is beautiful? What parts make this window such a
beautiful work or art?
o What is the space? Answers may vary….but looking for the use of clear glass
o How did the artist bring structure into this piece? Interconnecting lines.
o What did the artist emphasize? The wheat.
o What do you think Mr. Wright is trying to communicate?
o What would you title it?
Light Screens
Materials Needed: 9x12 vellum paper, ruler, 9x12 drawing paper, colored sharpies,
student’s own pencils, circle templates, masking tape, black glue.
1. Give each student a drawing paper, vellum paper and ruler. Place a circle template
and a couple of packs of colored sharpies on each workstation.
2. Have students sign their name on back of drawing paper. Use the drawing paper
to sketch out designs for their “window” using freehand (i.e. not with the ruler or
template). As they sketch, have them think about their color palette and what
shapes they will fill in. Remind them to think about the structure of their window
and keep their designs simple with geometric shapes similar to Frank Lloyd
3. When finished with their sketch, have them overlay it with the vellum paper and
tape both pieces to their desk. Now, using their rulers and circle template,
students trace over their sketch with a darker line.
4. Next, use the sharpies to color in selected shapes. Remind them that not all
areas need to be colored; they can be “clear”.
5. Finally, outline the lines with the black glue and let dry.
Note: If possible, talk to the teacher about laminating these pieces so
they could be displayed in the classroom window.
Photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright and other works
Teaching architecture students at Taliesin
Detail of Window
Darwin D. Martin house, 1905, Buffalo, New York
Fallingwater, Kauffman House, 1935, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Museum, 1959,
New York
Marin County Civic Center, opened 1962, Marin, California
Gammage Theater on ASU Campus, opened 1964, Tempe, AZ