cover image Louis Sullivan: 2his

Louis Sullivan: 2his

Robert C. Twombly. Viking Books, $29.95 (530pp) ISBN 978-0-670-80459-7

While Sullivan's skyscrapers proclaimed Chicago the biggest and best city, he saw himself as an architect of the people, interpreting the popular will in a distinctly American style. This pathbreaking biography reveals how original Sullivan was, how much his own man. It also probes the tragedy of an innovator who, famous by age 30, nevertheless died poor and neglected in a cheap Chicago hotel in 1924. Sullivan was a compulsively serious man with missionary zeal, an immaculately groomed recluse whose aristocratic demeanor was meant to compensate for his poor Irish roots. His ideas about organic architecture took full shape in the works of his pupil Frank Lloyd Wright. Twombly, who teaches at City University of New York, ponders whether Sullivan's decline was the fault of the Classical Revival, his break with his partner, refusal to compromise his artistic standards or his emerging homosexual proclivities. The answer seems to lie in a mixture of all these factors. Many photographs and drawings are interwoven with the text. (March 27)