Edgar Kaufmann Jr.

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Edgar Kaufmann Jr.
Edgar Jonas Kaufmann Jr.

(1910-04-09)April 9, 1910
DiedJuly 31, 1989(1989-07-31) (aged 79)
EducationSchool for Arts and Crafts
Taliesin East
Occupation(s)Architect, author
PartnerPaul Mayén
Parent(s)Edgar J. Kaufmann
Liliane S. Kaufmann

Edgar Kaufmann Jr. (April 9, 1910 – July 31, 1989) was an American architect, lecturer, author, and an adjunct professor of architecture and art history at Columbia University.[1]

Early years[edit]

He was the son of Edgar J. Kaufmann, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman and philanthropist who owned Kaufmann's department store, and his wife Liliane. Kaufmann Jr. attended the School for Arts and Crafts at the Austrian Museum of Applied Art in Vienna, in the late 1920s. He studied painting and typography for three years with Victor Hammer in Florence.[1]

After reading Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography, Kaufmann decided to become a resident apprentice in architecture at Wright's Taliesin East School and Studio in 1933.[2] He was asked to leave in 1935 because of his homosexuality, possibly by Wright himself.[3]

According to fallingwater.org, he was particular about spelling his name "Edgar Kaufmann jr."[4][5]


When he left Wright's Taliesin Fellowship in 1935, he joined the family business and became merchandise manager for home furnishings, and in 1938, was elected secretary of the Kaufmann Department Stores, Inc.[6] In 1940, Edgar wrote to Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art, proposing the Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition, won by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. That same year, he left Kaufmann's to join the Museum of Modern Art.[1]

He served with the Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1946 during World War II. Afterwards, he was director of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.[7] While there, he had a relationship with the architecture curator, John McAndrew.[3] Edgar's greatest accomplishment during his tenure at MOMA was the 'Good Design' program of 1950 to 1955, in which the museum joined with the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, promoting good design in household objects and furnishings.[8] His Edgar J. Kaufmann Foundation also hired Finnish architect Alvar Aalto to design the Kaufmann Conference Center in New York City, which was completed in 1964.[9]

From 1963 to 1986, Kaufmann was an adjunct professor of Architecture and Art History at Columbia University. He authored several books on Wright architecture and modern design,[10][11] and was a contributor to Arts + Architecture journal and Encyclopædia Britannica.[1]


Kaufmann strongly supported his father's decision to commission Frank Lloyd Wright for the famous 1936 Fallingwater house over Bear Run, in Stewart Township, Pennsylvania. After his father's death in 1955, Kaufmann inherited the Fallingwater house, continuing to use and share it as a mountain retreat until 1963.[2] Then, he entrusted the Wright structures and several hundred acres of the surrounding pristine Laurel Highlands lands in the Allegheny Mountains to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as an architectural house museum and conservation open space preserve, in memory of his parents.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Kaufmann, who did not marry and had no children, died in 1989.[1] His ashes were scattered around the property at Fallingwater[12] by his partner Paul Mayén,[1][13] with whom he shared his life since the 1950s.[14] Mayén oversaw the building of the Fallingwater pavilion from 1979 to 1981, which houses the café, gift store, and visitor’s center at Fallingwater. Following his own death in 2000, Mayén's ashes were also scattered at Fallingwater in accordance with his wishes.[14][15][16]

Kaufmann was among the public figures at the core of the effort to save Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church, before it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and subsequently became a New York State Historic Site.[17][18]

Art collection[edit]

After his death, 21 pieces of his collection of art and sculpture were auctioned off at Sotheby's in New York.[19] They included Mondrian's Facade in Tan and Grey and Composition in a Square, Klee's Face of a Flower, Picasso's Guitar and Pink Fruit Dish, Braque's Harlequin, a Matisse's Nude With Pink Shoes, Léger's Forms in Contrast and Acrobats, de Kooning's Untitled III, Calder's Little Tree, Monet's Waterlilies, Duchamp's Small Horse, Giacometti's Woman With a Broken Shoulder, and Miró's Bird Flying Toward a Silver Tree.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Goldberger, Paul (1 August 1989). "Edgar Kaufmann Jr., 79, Architecture Historian". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b Goldberger, Paul (6 August 1989). "ARCHITECTURE VIEW; A Discerning Eye and a Democratic Outlook". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b Ibson, John (22 October 2019). Men without Maps: Some Gay Males of the Generation before Stonewall. University of Chicago Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-226-65611-3.
  4. ^ "Fallingwater | What is Fallingwater?". www.fallingwater.org. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  5. ^ Gray, Kevin (23 September 2001). "Modern Gothic". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  6. ^ "FINANCIAL NOTES". The New York Times. 23 March 1938. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Kaufmann Gets Museum Post". The New York Times. July 12, 1946. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  8. ^ Kaufmann Jr, Edgar (24 September 1950). "MUSEUMS POINT THE WAY AT HOME; HOUSEHOLD ITEMS CITED FOR BEAUTY". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  9. ^ Goldberger, Paul (1976-05-13). "Alvar Aalto Is Dead at 78; Master Modern Architect". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-29.
  10. ^ Kaufmann Jr, Edgar (7 December 1969). "The American Heritage History of Antiques; From the Civil War to World War I. By the Editors of American Heritage. Author and Editor in Charge, Marshall B. Davidson. Illustrated. 415 pp. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co. $14.95 until Dec. 31, $17.50 thereafter; deluxe edition $16.95 until Dec. 31, $20 thereafter". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  11. ^ Kaufmann Jr, Edgar (21 September 1958). "Art Nouveau, Yesterday and Today; Relics of the 1890-1910 style are decorating today's home and influencing contemporary furnishings designers". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  12. ^ Gray, Kevin (2001-09-23). "Modern Gothic". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
  13. ^ Miller, Donald (November 30, 2003). "The truth about Fallingwater: Toker's architectural biography corrects myths about Wright, Kaufmanns". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  14. ^ a b Darling, Tim (May 2008). "Paul Mayen: Fallingwater's Lesser-Known Architect". www.amnesta.net. Amnesta. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  15. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths MAYEN, PAUL". The New York Times. 12 November 2000. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  16. ^ Miller, Donald (November 30, 2003). "The secrets of Fallingwater". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  17. ^ Frederic Church's Olana on the Hudson. Hudson, NY: The Olana Partnership/Rizzoli International Publications. 2018. p. 191. ISBN 9780847863112.
  18. ^ Smith, Roberta (May 30, 1999). "Artists in Residence; Architecture: A half-dozen houses in New York and Massachusetts paint revealing pictures of their famous inhabitants' talents and times". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Reif, Rita (15 September 1989). "Auctions". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2016.

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