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Kaufmann, Edgard, Jr.

    Full Name: Kaufmann, Edgard, Jr.

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1910

    Date Died: 1989

    Place Born: Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Modern (style or period), and sculpture (visual works)

    Career(s): educators


    Columbia University architectural historian, Frank Lloyd Wright scholar. Kaufmann was born to parents who were both heirs to a department store fortune. At age 10, his parents took him on a year tour of Europe, developing in him his taste for art. Kaufmann declined to attend college, preferring to study painting and architecture in Vienna and Florence and department store design in Germany. This constituted his only formal education. He moved to New York in his early twenties to become a painter. In 1934 he entered the Taliesin studio of Frank Lloyd Wright at Spring Green, Wisconsin. Although he remained there only one year, Wright’s work so impressed his father that the elder Kaufmann commissioned the architect to design their summer home. Perhaps, today, the most famous building by Wright, the commission also renewed the architect’s flagging reputation. In 1935, Kaufmann returned to Pittsburgh to run a department in the family business, but this, also, lasted briefly. When the Museum of Modern Art installed a photo exhibit of Fallingwater, the wealthy foundering Kaufmann was offered a job at MoMA by its director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Kaufmann’s resources and enthusiasm for modern art made him an ideal choice for Barr, who’s mission was to develop taste for modern art among potential MoMA patrons. The following years, Kaufmann assumed a position of personal assistant to Barr, accompanying him on buying trips to Mexico and Cuba when World War II precluded european travel. Thoroughly under Barr’s spell, Kaufmann contributed unrestictedly to Barr’s art funds. During World War II, he served in photo-intelligence in Austrailia. Afterward he returned to New York. When the senior Kaufmann died in 1955, his son inhabited Fallingwater for eight years. In 1963 he donated the house and surrounding woods to the Western Pennsylvania Land Conservancy. The same year he was appointed adjunct professor of Art History at Columbia University, a position he held until 1980. In 1970, he organized the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, The Rise of American Architecture, the catalog of which remains an important contribution to architectural history. Among Kaufmann’s many benevolences included money for Alvar Aalto to design a room for the United Nations, major support for the Architectural History Foundation, and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed office of his father to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Kaufmann published comparatively little. His writings draw largely on his personal experience with architects and knowledge of art as opposed to archival research. His contribution lies in promoting modernist- designed useful objects as works of art.

    Selected Bibliography

    Taliesin drawings; recent architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, selected from his drawings. New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1952; and Hitchcock, Henry-Russell, and Scully, Vincent. The Rise of an American architecture. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Praeger, 1970; Introductions to modern design: What is modern design? What is modern interior design? New York: Museum of Modern Art, Arno Press, 1969; Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright country house. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986; 9 commentaries on Frank Lloyd Wright. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989.


    New York Times, August 6, 1989, Section 2, p. 29; The Independent (London), August 7, 1989, p. 10; The Daily Telegraph, August 9, 1989, p. 15; Marquis, Alice Goldfarb. Alfred H. Barr, Jr: Missionary for the Modern. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989, pp.


    "Kaufmann, Edgard, Jr.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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