One of the questions asked most frequently by visitors as they wander through the Glass House is “Where are the lights?” Some people notice the canister lights on the floor that send illumination upwards, while others find the small lamp on the bedside table.
Perhaps most unique is the floor lamp in the living area. Designed by Philip Johnson and his lighting consultant, Richard Kelly (1910 -1977) in 1953, shortly after the completion of the Glass House, the floor lamp is composed of a brass cylinder that offers uplighting, which then reflects back down from an ivory, enameled-aluminum shade. This conical-shaped lampshade creates a soft pool of local light.
The original lamp stood on three legs (the original model housed in the Glass House sold for $63,000 in April 1997), but this unstable version was subsequently improved by adding a fourth leg, like the one seen in the Glass House. Edison Price, Kelly’s long-time collaborator, manufactured this lamp, as well as many other lighting fixtures designed by Kelly; the two partnered in the engineering and fabrication of both portable lamps and permanent light fixtures. (Edison Price Lighting is now run by Price’s daughter, Emma).
By the way, you, too, can have a Johnson/Kelly lamp – for the right price. In December 2006, Christie’s sold a three-legged version with a wonderful provenance; the lamp was one of several owned by Mr. William A. M. Burden, an influential president of the Museum of Modern Art. It illuminated his Fifth Avenue apartment, which Johnson designed. This limited edition piece sold for $20, 400 more than twice the price of the four-legged variety!
Richard Kelly, Architectural Lighting Magazine (May 2006)
Richard Kelly in a New Light, Metropolis Magazine (July 2006)
The Great Illuminator, reprint, Lighting, Design and Application
Kelly’s lighting effects in the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, Seagram Building and the Glass House ( images)
Philip Johnson remembers Richard Kelly (Lighting Design and Application, June 1979)
Edison Price receives the inaugural Richard Kelly award (1992)
Richard Kelly’s statement following his talk at the Garden Club of America Forum in New York City (November 15, 1962)
Richard Kelly Archive is housed at the Yale University Library.