Jonathan Muzikar/The Museum of Modern Art

Jonathan Muzikar/The Museum of Modern Art

At first, the number at the lower left corner of the small drawing seems to be a trace of curatorial cataloging: 01.01.87. But then it reveals itself to be a date: Jan. 1, 1887, written in the architect’s own hand: a Saturday, on which day he was all of 19 years and six months old. “First Drawing,” he’s written above the numbers. Faint graphite on tracing paper, it’s a delicate and leafy elevation of an odd house that the actual curatorial catalog, in the form of adjacent wall text, normalizes as Victorian Queen Anne: narrow windows aligned in strips, a low conical turret, a front door engraved in a broad semicircular Richardsonian Romanesque arch. But there are other annotations in the same handwriting. “Dream House,” says one in red pencil. And another, more prosaically: “Study made in Madison previous to going to Chicago.” And another, crossed out and half-erased: “Project. Cooper House, La Grange, Ill.” And then, boldly overwriting the lightly penciled and presumably earlier notations: “Drawing shown to lieber meister when applying for a job.” Here, at last, is the legend: Here—maybe—is the very drawing that got the teenager the internship that turned him, over the subsequent five years in which worked as a draftsman for Louis Sullivan, into Frank Lloyd Wright.

The First Drawing

The First Drawing