Saturday, May 15, 2010

Glamourized House: Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House: An Annotated & Illustrated Bibliography

Click on images to enlarge.
Life Magazine, April 11, 1949, pp. 146-7. Richard Neutra, Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1947. Julius Shulman Job No. 093, 1947. From the Journal of Architectural Education, November, 1993, "Glamourized Houses": Neutra, Photography, and the Kaufmann House by Simon Niedenthal. From my collection.

The above iconic 1947 Julius Shulman image of Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House presaged the dynamic duo's entree into the Pantheon of modernist architecture and photography. Arguably the most iconic architectural photograph ever taken, it is by far both men's most published work. See the excellent article, "Julius Shulman in 36 Exposures" by Los Angeles Magazine editor-in-chief Mary Melton for a description on how the photo was made.

Shulman and Neutra circa 1950. From "A Constructed View: The Architectural Photography of Julius Shulman" by Joseph Rosa. From my collection.

The following February 3, 1947 Time Magazine article (excerpt) was the first significant publicity referencing Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House in Palm Springs and was a harbinger of the impending global publicity blitz orchestrated by Neutra and his primary photographer, Julius Shulman.

 Excerpt from the February 3, 1947 issue of Time Magazine

"The name Richard Joseph Neutra means nothing at all to most Americans. Of all architects who have made their reputations in the U.S., Richard Neutra ranks second only to lordly Frank Lloyd Wright. Last week publishers in Italy and South America were planning books about Neutra. And an issue of the French magazine L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, devoted almost entirely to him, had reached the U.S.
Neutra has done as much as any modern architect to prove that glass, steel and concrete are practical, if not cozy.

His wide, white houses perch perkily on the hills around Los Angeles where he lives, and they alter more distant landscapes too. He is versatile enough to have designed both a moated desert mansion for Movie Director Josef von Sternberg and an elaborate system of low-cost schools and hospitals for Puerto Rico. Neutra's buildings are pondered and imitated (especially in technical details of construction) by architects around the world. Says noted French Architect Marcel Lods in L'Architecture : "[He] is already a classic and will be more so tomorrow. Neutra offers us an infinitely precious message."

Inside-out House. To deliver that message, Vienna-born Neutra (pronounced Noytra) had come a long way from his first assignment in 1915: a tea house for the fortress of Trebinje, Herzegovina. Neutra came to the U.S. in 1923, sat at the feet of famed Skyscraper Architect Louis Sullivan, the father of modern, functional architecture and the teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Neutra met Wright at Sullivan's funeral in 1924. Soon afterwards, with his wife and mother-in-law, he paid a long visit to Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin. Neutra named his eldest son for Wright, went forth to preach the gospel of modern architecture on lecture tours which took him from Rome to Tokyo. He long ago fashioned a style of his own, and made mass housing his main interest.

Now, at 54, Neutra is designing a Palm Springs desert hideaway for Pittsburgh Millionaire Edgar J. Kaufmann, whose famed house in Bear Run, Pa.—designed by Wright—overhangs a waterfall. Compared with Wright's cantilevered castle-in-the-air, Neutra's Kaufmann house will be down to earth, with the low-flying flat roofs, glass walls and furnished terraces of a house turned inside out. To make life as smooth outdoors as in, the four courtyards will have walls and floors piped for summer cooling and winter heating."

Courtesy Neutra Archive, Dept. of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. From Christie's Richard Neutra: The Kaufmann House Auction Catalog below.

After reading the above letter from Neutra's most famous patron, Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr., one would not think that the Palm Springs desert house Neutra designed for him would end up being one of the most publicized in architectural history, but that is exactly what happened. Architectural Forum editor Henry Wright also penned Neutra a self-serving letter dated June 17, 1947 stating that Kaufmann had agreed with him that the house only be published in Life and Architectural Forum domestically. Neutra knew that this commission was his best work yet and wasn't about to let his client's wishes stop him from launching the most ambitious publicity campaign of his career. For a more in-depth analysis if the early publicity of the Kaufmann House see the Journal of Architectural Education, November, 1993, "Glamourized Houses": Neutra, Photography, and the Kaufmann House by Simon Niedenthal. 

Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, June 15, 1947. Fist publication with Shulman photos. From the Journal of Architectural Education, November, 1993, "Glamourized Houses": Neutra, Photography, and the Kaufmann House by Simon Niedenthal. From my collection.

To counteract this slow roll-out in the U.S., Neutra devised a campaign to publicize the house heavily overseas, drawing upon the dozens of editors he had courted with his previous projects. Per an agreement with Kaufmann, he did not mention the owner's name and disguised the location as being in the "Colorado Desert."

Beginning in June, 1947 through 1950 the Richard Neutra Kaufmann House with Julius Shulman photos was featured in Architects' Journal and Architectural Review, (Britain), Metron, Casabella and Domus (Italy), Marg (India), Arkitekten (Denmark), Architekt (Poland), L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui and L'Architecture Francaise (France), Baumeister (Germany), Revista de Arquitectura (Buenos Aires), Kokusai-Kentiku (Japan), and Arquitectura (Mexico), not to mention numerous articles with which it was grouped with other Neutra projects. Including the opening Life Magazine spread, Neutra's publicity quest was so successful that it catapulted him to the cover of Time Magazine's October 15, 1949 issue.  

 "Art: New Shells," Time Magazine, Oct. 15, 1949. Richard Neutra and preliminary floor plan of Kaufmann House. From my collection.


Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr. was in the U.S. Air Force Intelligence Service at the time the senior Kaufmann commissioned Neutra to design the house in 1946. When he returned from the service he was 'outraged' that his father had turned to an architect other than Wright. 

In his book Fallingwater, Kaufmann, Jr. states with the benefit of many years of detachment, "It fell to me to talk of the way this would appear in relation to Fallingwater. The Neutra house would be interpreted as a rejection of Wright, and Wright would be the first person to react. My father agreed to withhold his name from publication of the new house, and during Wright's lifetime it was known merely as "a house in the [Colorado] desert", as the local area, curiously, was called."  

In his essay text for the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition catalog "The Kaufmann Office: Frank Lloyd Wright" Christopher Wilk cites Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer's "Master Drawings from the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives", "Despite harmony between Neutra and Kaufmann and the bestowal of several awards upon the new house, the large number of unprotected windows and plate glass walls left the house too exposed to the desert sun. The Kaufmann's therefore turned to Wright for an alternate scheme in 1951." (See below).

Aerial perspective, Frank Lloyd Wright's Boulder House (unbuilt) for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufman, Sr., Palm Springs, 1951. Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. From 'Frank Lloyd Wright: Architect' edited by Terence Riley, Museum of Modern Art, 1994. From my collection.

In the above 'Boulder House' rendering, Wright condescendingly contrasts his bold grand organicism with his erstwhile disciple Neutra's seemingly much smaller "International Style" footprint seen in the upper right corner. The house was intended to be built on a lot near just north of Neutra's Kaufmann House at 470 W. Vista Chino and just a little east of Albert Frey's Raymond Loewy House at 600 Panorama Rd.  Hoffmann writes, "The house of boulders was never built, and perhaps was more nearly intended as a chance for Wright to show what he might have done had E. J. Kaufmann not gone to Neutra: the difference, that is, between "organic" architecture and the International Style, or what Neutra chose to call his "biorealism."

Wilk states, "His 'Boulder House' surrounded by desert rocks and with a plan based upon circular motifs (including a moat-like swimming pool) was not built, perhaps owing to Edgar Kaufmann's ill health - a prime reason for his spending more time in the desert climate - or difficulties with his marriage. Wright referred to the design as a rare and beautiful thing. One of my very best." This block of Palm Springs' Little Tuscany would have been an even more distinguished architectural neighborhood indeed if Wright's 'Boulder House' had only been built.

Bibliography Introduction
(excerpted from the bibliography retrievable at the link below)
All photos by Julius Shulman unless noted. Click on image to enlarge. Full credits given in the bibliography at the bottom link.

I would like to acknowledge Julius Shulman for the inspiration to create this bibliography. As I gradually became an avid fan and collector of material pertaining to Southern California modernist architecture over the last few years, I grew to appreciate the great importance of Shulman’s legacy in chronicling its evolution and growth. I also started to realize the ubiquitousness of his images in the architectural literature and on the covers of same. I approached him a few years back and asked if he had ever thought of doing a book which would collect all of the covers from books, shelter magazines, and architectural journals that his photos have graced. He liked the idea and invited me up to his idyllic Raphael Soriano-designed studio in the Hollywood Hills. After an introductory chat he told me to open the doors to his closet and pull down some of the dusty old 8X10 Kodak film storage boxes from the top shelf. They were stuffed to the gills with clippings and tear sheets he had saved over the years from various articles containing his photos. As we rummaged we found numerous covers he had long forgotten about and which I had never seen.

Thus began a journey on which there seems to be no end. Julius gave me much encouragement and allowed me free reign to browse, and catalogue his studio archives. He also graciously shared with me his assignment log book which contains over 7,000 records and counting as he continued to work beyond his recently-celebrated 98th birthday. He introduced me to important historians, film makers and archivists and regaled me with anecdotes on his assignments and clients. To date we have uncovered over 800 covers on which his photos have appeared. Julius has chosen the title “Julius Shulman Covers Up” for this effort and uses it with an impish twinkle in his eyes. While conducting my exhaustive search for Shulman covers I began compiling an annotated bibliography of all the publications his work has appeared in. It has become a labor of love which now approaches 8,000 items. It has also provided focus to, and facilitated, my collecting efforts.

 American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture by Alice T. Friedman. Slim Aarons photo, 1970.

The history of Shulman’s relationship with his first and most important client, Richard Neutra, is well-known. Neutra was eminent in international architectural circles prior to his introduction to Shulman but it was Shulman’s artistic style that exhibited Neutra’s work in a way that truly focused a viewer’s attention on the evolution of modern residential architecture in Los Angeles and Southern California. Their collaborative body of globally-published work greatly enhanced both their reputations and established Southern California as a modernist Mecca for American and foreign architects alike, as well as critics, journalists, historians and enthusiasts of the genre.

Landscape Architecture: The Shaping of Man's Natural Environment by John Ormsbee Simonds, McGraw-Hill, 1961.

Neutra and Shulman’s careers are so intertwined that one really cannot be researched without the other. Therefore, while I was assembling Shulman’s bibliography it made sense to me to concurrently create another for Neutra. This has led to a Neutra annotated bibliography comprised of over 5,000 entries to date, about 40% of which contain Shulman photos. Likewise, roughly 30% of Shulman’s bibliography items contain photos of work by Neutra. Neutra’s proficiency at self-promotion while at the same time educating the masses in his unique form of a nature-based modernism he termed "Biorealism" is evidenced by the over 2,000 articles containing Shulman photos resulting from only about 225 assignments. Neutra always ordered 10 sets of prints, split them up and distributed them to editors all over the world and ordered many reprints of selected projects.

Neutra’s Kaufmann House is one of the most important icons of Southern California Modernism. It is arguably exceeded in significance by only Neutra’s Lovell Health House and/or R. M. Schindler’s Kings Road House. Julius Shulman’s photographs have played a momentous role in establishing the house’s iconic status and it is both men’s most published work. The reader is referred to an excellent essay by Simon Niedenthal which appeared in the November 1993 issue of the Journal of Architectural Education “Glamourized Houses: Neutra, Photography, and the Kaufmann House” to obtain a sense of Neutra’s early eagerness to broadly publicize his masterpiece balanced by Kaufmann’s desire for a slow roll-out in the national press and journals. The article goes into depth regarding the creation of Shulman’s “glamorous” image and the importance photography plays in an architectural monument achieving iconic status. Also noteworthy is Christie’s “Richard Neutra: The Kaufmann House” May 13, 2008 auction catalogue for its photos and illustrations and contextual historic background information.

My bibliographic software is easily searchable and sortable. Recent searches of my Shulman and Neutra bibliographies for the Kaufmann House turned up over 500 hits which segued into this publication. Neutra’s relentless and strategic efforts to universally publish all of his work resulted in over 150 articles referencing the Kaufmann House (almost exclusively with Shulman photos) from its completion in 1947 until his death in 1970. Only 70 articles are documented from then until the purchase of the house for restoration by Beth and Richard Harris 25 years later. From 1995 to date there have been close to 275 articles resulting from the publicity surrounding the restoration efforts by the Harrises and their restoration architects Marmol & Radziner, and the rekindled interest in Neutra’s work by architectural historians, Palm Springs Modernism, architectural preservation and modernism in general, and publicity surrounding the recent Christie’s Realty International auction.

No bibliography is ever truly complete, especially one involving the work of publishing dynamos of the likes of Richard Neutra and Julius Shulman. This bibliography collects Kaufmann House-related items from all existing Neutra bibliographies and books by or about Neutra and countless modern architecture histories and anthologies. Despite my exhaustive on-line database searches, cover-to-cover journal and magazine searches at local research institutions and libraries, Neutra and Shulman archival searches at the UCLA Charles Young Research Library and Getty Research Institute, respectively, there is yet much material to be mined on these two idols of modernism in the research libraries of the world. Consequently this document should best be viewed as an attempt to stimulate further in-depth research on the Kaufmann House and possibly provide a starting point for a book on the subject. It is my intention to periodically update this compilation as new material continues to be uncovered. Internet searches for the Kaufmann House uncover thousands of additional references. Suggestions for improvements and submissions of new items are always welcomed. My contact information is on the title page.

Link to Bibliography: