Vida Lautner: Works on Paper


Jul 15 2013 - Sep 08 2013

Vida Lautner (1885–1978) was truly a modern Renaissance woman, well versed in several humanities including design, history, architecture, music, painting and sculpture. She is perhaps most well known as the mother of the iconic California-based mid-century modern architect John Lautner (1911-1994). The DeVos Art Museum and Marquette Regional History Center presented exhibitions of his work and life in 2011. In addition to raising and being a major influence on her family, Vida was also an extremely active designer and painter. In 1906 she received a Life Teacher’s certificate from Northern State Normal School (now Northern Michigan University) and would return later to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1924. In the 1920s and 1930s, she spent time in the burgeoning art scene in New York’s Greenwich Village and took courses at the School of Fine and Applied Arts (now Parson’s School of Design). She received numerous awards for her designs and exhibited her work around the region including the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Vida and her husband, John Lautner Sr., built a home near campus (completed 1912) with Vida working closely with New Jersey architect Joy Wheeler Dow. The Lautners would later build a family camp on Lake Superior, called Midgaard (completed 1927), with the design and furnishings solely created by Vida. After John Lautner Sr. died in 1942, Vida moved to Chicago, but would spend summers in Marquette. Her painting styles were influenced by her travels and openness to experimentation. This exhibition presents a range of paintings from all periods of her life, demonstrating the influence of modernism and abstraction in her work.

For nearly two years the DeVos Art Museum has been working with the Lautner family to catalogue this impressive collection of more than an estimated 1,000 paintings. This exhibition presents a rare opportunity to see several hundred pieces together as community volunteers and NMU students continue photographing and cataloguing the collection, which is on long-term loan to the museum.