Skip to main content

Women of the Martin House | Louise Mueller’s Photographs of Isabelle and Dorothy Martin

Louise F. Mueller—also known as Louise F. Müller—was a local photographer who took images of notable residents of the city of Buffalo, including members of the Martin family. But what more is known of this largely undiscovered artist beyond what is revealed through the lens of her photographic work?

The Buffalo City Directories are a valuable source of information. From 1900 to 1905, she is listed, along with H. Wilson Saunders, as having worked for Saunders & Mueller, a studio carrying her name located at 367 Franklin Street, and from 1908 to 1917 as an artist and photographer residing at 118 Elmwood Avenue.

It is during this later period, when Mueller set out to work independently, that she was commissioned to shoot photographic portraits of Isabelle R. Martin and her daughter Dorothy at their home on Jewett Parkway. Mueller’s visits to the Martin House were recorded by Cora Herrick, who for many years served as Isabelle Martin’s live-in companion and secretary. In two entries from her diary dated 1912, Herrick writes:
Mar 25 – Miss Mueller here taking I.R.M.’s pictures this morning.
Apr 6 – Miss Mueller’s last morning here.

The photographic sessions with Mueller produced intimate portraits of mother and daughter, two of which were donated to the Martin House in 2011 by Dorothy’s daughter, Margaret R. Foster, and a third which is held by the University at Buffalo Archives.

Isabelle in reception room

Isabelle R. Martin Seated in Martin House Reception Room, 1912
Collection Martin House, Buffalo, New York

In the first of these photographs, Mueller captures Isabelle Martin seated in profile within the tranquil setting of the reception room. She is surrounded by many of the familiar Wright-designed furnishings and other objects which are still on view today.

While the resulting image is a personal depiction of Isabelle, the subject matter of the photograph is as much about the interior realm of the Martin House as it is of the woman portrayed.



Dorothy with cat


Dorothy R. Martin with Cat, 1912
Collection Martin House, Buffalo, New York

In this photograph, daughter Dorothy is seated in one of the Martin House’s Wright-designed barrel chairs as she tenderly holds her pet cat on her lap.






Isabelle Reidpath Martin Arranging Flowers in Martin House Reception Room, 1912
Darwin D. Martin Photograph Collection
University Archives, State University of New York at Buffalo

With her back turned to the viewer, Isabelle Martin is pictured taking part in one of her favorite pastimes—arranging flowers. However, our gaze is not immediately drawn to the floral arrangement that sits atop one of the pier cabinets located in the Martin House reception room nor on the potted wisteria. Rather, the composition is focused on the graceful lines of Isabelle’s flowing ivory dress.

In the past, it has been suggested that Frank Lloyd Wright may have been responsible for creating this dress. And while the architect did in fact design dresses, principally for his wife Catherine, there is no evidence to support this attribution.