Maywood, Illinois, United States of America 1876 – Lucknow, India 1937
Chicago, Illinois, United States of America 1871 – 1961
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: furniture, tables, Japanese oak
Walter Burley Griffin studied architecture in the United States of America, graduating from the University of Illinois in 1899. From 1901 to 1906 he worked in the practice of the Chicago architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1912 Griffin won the competition for the design of Canberra, the new federal capital city of Australia, arriving in Australia in 1913. He spent the ensuing two decades working on this project and running an architectural practice in Melbourne and Sydney in partnership with his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin and architect Eric Milton Nicholls. He left Australia in 1935 to work in India, and died there in 1937.
This drafting table is from a suite of furniture designed by the Griffins for the Griffin/Nicholls architecture offices and acquired by the National Gallery of Australia to mark the centenary of Griffin’s design for Canberra. Its design was influenced by the American interpretation of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early twentieth century that was articulated through the work of Wright and his associates. The influence of Japanese design and carpentry can be seen in this, and Walter Burley Griffin’s later Australian work, most notably his Newman College furniture of 1917. Its uncompromising form and functionality was rare in Australian furniture of the period. Probably made by one of the Griffins’ contractors in Melbourne, and bearing the marks of long use, the table has a sliding drawer and a slot in its top for rolls of drafting paper.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014