The Domestic Scene, 1897-1927
A fully illustrated examination of a central figure in the history of interior design and the Prairie Style.
George Mann Niedecken (1878–1945) was a major designer in the Prairie Style, known primarily for his collaborations with Frank Lloyd Wright to furnish the interiors of several houses including the Susan Lawrence Dana House in Springfield, Illinois; the Avery Coonley House in Riverside, Illinois; and the Frederick Robie House in Chicago. Niedecken ran a successful Milwaukee business that helped revolutionize design in the upper Midwest. He called himself an “interior architect” and created domestic environments decorated with geometric abstractions, conventionalized natural motifs, muted colors with iridescent accents, and innovative furniture ensembles. His work is preserved at the Milwaukee Art Museum in the Prairie Archives, containing colored presentation renderings, working drawings, and business records from the Niedecken-Walbridge Company.
The Domestic Scene reveals Niedecken as a forward-looking designer influenced by European Art Nouveau and Secessionist design as well as by the Arts and Crafts Movement. Cheryl Robertson focuses on three examples of Niedecken’s commissions between 1907 and 1917 and an article by Niedecken himself (reprinted in this volume) to explore the evolving relationship between architect, interior designer, and client in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
This expanded second edition includes updated photography, additional color images, and an essay by John C. Eastberg that deepens our understanding of Niedecken’s career by presenting his lesser-known work in the context of Milwaukee’s artistic and social history. Niedecken worked not only in the Prairie style but also in the Colonial and Renaissance Revival modes, and these works illustrate his versatility as a designer and entrepreneur.
Cheryl Robertson is an independent scholar, curator, and museum consultant based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She served as assistant curator and curator of decorative arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum and is a nationally recognized scholar on late Victorian and Arts and Crafts design, especially the Prairie School. She is the author of Frank Lloyd Wright and George Mann Niedecken: Prairie School Collaborators. Terrence Marvel was formerly the archivist of the Prairie Archives and curatorial assistant in prints, drawings, and photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
John C. Eastberg is senior historian at the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee and an authority on Milwaukee architectural history.