Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature

Alsdorf Gallery

J.G. Melson DwellingWalter Burley Griffin, architect, Marion Mahony Griffin, delineator, J.G. Melson Dwelling, Mason City, Iowa, 1912, ink on drafting linen. Gift of Marion Mahony Griffin, 1985.1.120.

Standard histories of early twentieth-century architects and architecture have not fully recognized the contributions of Marion Mahony Griffin. She is usually considered, along with her husband, Walter Burley Griffin, as a minor contributor to Prairie School architecture. This exhibition was the first devoted entirely to Mahony Griffin’s graphic work and represented a new critical appreciation of her art as a largely independent and significant practice.

Mahony Griffin’s graphic art is defined by her innovative representations of the natural environment. Botanical forms are woven into her architectural presentation drawings and murals and are also influential to her architectural designs and the subject of her little-known series of Australian flora. This Block-organized exhibition interpreted Mahony Griffin’s treatment of landscaping as seen in her American domestic architectural commissions and Australian botanical studies. A catalogue with critical essays and full color images accompanied the exhibition. See our publications page for more information on the catalogue.

In conjunction with this exhibiton, the Block Museum held an international symposium focusing on the work and life of Marion Mahony Griffin on November 5, 2005. Participants in Marion Mahony Griffin Reconsidered included Alice Friedman of Wellesley College, Paul Kruty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Anna Rubbo of the University of Sydney, Christopher Vernon of the University of Western Australia, James Weirick of the University of New South Wales, Debora Wood of the Block Museum, and David Van Zanten of Northwestern University. An audio recording of the proceedings is available in CD format. Please contact the education department (phone 847.491.4852) for more information.