Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio

Suzy Frelinghuysen, b 1911- d 1988, George L.K. Morris, b 1905- d 1975
92 Hawthorne Street, Lenox, MA 01240 - view on Google Maps
413-637-0166
This Bauhaus-inspired 1930’s and 40s Modernist structure was the home and studio of Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris, painters and founding members of the American Abstract Artists. They championed American abstract art and collected the 20th century’s greatest abstract art, including works by Picasso, Gris, Matisse and Leger. Their house embodies the artistic and stylistic innovations of Modernism. It is an immersion in the challenging and inspiring world of these pioneering Modern artists.

ABOUT

This building, with its stark white planes and glass blocks, stands out from the nearby Gilded Age “cottages” built as summer retreats. It was the home of Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris, two artists who were major figures in the rise and acceptance of abstract art in America, a phenomenon that gradually shifted the center of avante garde art from Europe to the United States. The Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio displays significant modern paintings, frescoes, and furniture in its original context – the home for which it was intended.

After his education at Groton and Yale, Morris traveled to Paris in 1927 with artist and collector A.E. Gallatin, a distant cousin, where he met Picasso, Braque and Brancusi. Two years later he returned to study in the painting studio of Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. In 1930 he built his studio on the grounds of his parents’ country estate in the Berkshires and based its design on that of Ozenfants’, which was designed by Le Corbusier, already well-known as a force behind the Bauhaus. Morris made more trips to Europe in the 1930’s, collecting European abstract art, often from artists he knew. In 1936 he became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists. His role as an editor and art critic of the Partisan Review furthered his influence as an advocate for abstract art. Morris also purchased for the fledgling MoMA in his role as Chairman of the Advisory Committee. Frelinghuysen, descendant of a long line of New Jersey clergymen and politicians, trained as a painter and a singer. She was the first woman to have her painting acquired by the Museum of Living Art. She and Morris married in 1935. Her career as an operatic soprano for the New York City Opera thrived from 1947-51 (“Tosca” was a favored role) and precluded painting. After her retirement from the stage, she returned to painting. Frelinghuysen and Morris continued to paint and exhibit until they died.

In 1941, Morris chose a local architect, John Butler Swann, to design a house which would be integrated into the existing studio. Swann admired Modernism and had spent time in the indigenous buildings of Arizona and New Mexico. A two-story stucco and glass block house with a colorful mural by Morris connecting the house and garage was built. Cost overruns forced Morris to consign a Picasso, The Poet, for sale. Peggy Guggenheim bought it for $4,500 and jump-started her museum in Venice. Local marble from Lee, MA was used in the foyer, and an Argentinean leather floor was placed in the living room. Frelinghuysen and Morris enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City to learn the ancient art of fresco. Morris executed the frescoes in the living room; Frelinghuysen created her designs in the dining room. Frelinghuysen and Morris chose furniture by Modern masters Frankl, Deskey, and Aalto to complete the harmony of art, architecture, and design.

Did you know...?

The staircase in the foyer was designed and built without a handrail. The artists felt the natural inclination to walk close to the wall would suffice. They later relented to safety concerns and Morris designed the handrail to complement his fresco in the stairwell.

SPECIAL RESOURCES

Special resources include over 6,000 pieces of artwork by Frelinghuysen, Morris and other modern masters, with related archives including letters, photos, and films. Archival resources are available by approval to graduate students and scholars.

WHAT TO DO HERE

  • Hourly guided tours of house and studio.
  • One-hour documentary film on continuous loop.
  • Woodland trails on 46 acre property.
  • Watch outdoor painting demonstrations.
  • Weekly hands-on workshops and lectures on understanding abstract art.

YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE ART HERE:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
  • Whitney Museum of Art, New York City, NY
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PA
  • Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
  • Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
  • High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
  • Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
  • Baker Museum, Naples, FL
  • Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS