MICHAEL FITZSIMMONS DECORATIVE ARTS

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George Mann Niedecken was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 16, 1878.  He showed early talent, studying art as a child, and later was enrolled in the decorative design program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under Louis Millet, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and founder of the Department of Decorative Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.

As a young man Niedecken spent time in Europe, studying under Alphonse Mucha, consulting with Otto Wagner and other Vienna Secessionists. The influence of the Secessionists is visible in much of his early work.

Niedecken's philosophy was a comprehensive one encompassing the collaboration of architect, designer, and client, determining the "fitness" of the design and materials to the project. Though brilliant in his own right, Niedecken is probably best known for the result of his collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright on the Robie, Dana, Mayer-May, and Bogk houses.

Much of the custom furniture that went into Wright's Prairie houses was made by the company formed by Niedecken and his brother-in-law, John Walbridge. The Niedecken-Walbridge Company worked with both architect and client on concepts and products, produced working drawings and renderings for client presentations, and supervised the manufacture and installation of furnishings.  In addition to the collaboration with Wright, Niedecken worked with other Prairie School architects such as William Purcell, George Elmslie, Percy D. Bentley, Spencer and Powers, Tallmadge and Watson, and William Drummond. 

 

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