WHARTON ESHERICK

1887-1970
United States

« If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. »

• Warthon Esherick •

The American Craftmanship is an important design movement, easily identifiable thanks to its unconditional attention to materials. It is very popular and as its name suggests craft is the main character instead of industry. George Nakashima is the best-known designer of this movement : his freeform masterpieces in American walnut are internationally recognized. His creations enhance each quality and defect of the wood. But an another creator spearheads the movement : Wharton Esherick.

He is considered as the grandfather of American Craftmanship, the one who initiated the movement. This one highlights work of wood in the workshop, artisanal know-how sublimating formal and functional properties of the material, creating organic forms : the woodworkers do not want to force but to transcend the existing.

Wharton Esherick is essential in this landscape. His passion for wood begins in high school where he learns woodcarving. However, he starts painting studies at the « Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Arts » and then at the « Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts ». Finally graduating, he decides to go to Pennsylvania, in the city of Paoli. And this fact deserves to be highlighted : two other great representatives of American Craftmanship movement, George Nakashima and Phillip Lloyd Powell are also based in this state. Protection of areas are very important in this place and nature plays a leading role in Pennsylvania. Wharton Esherick settles in this part of the United States to get closer to this nature that will be one of the pivots of his work. He begins by making the frames of his own paintings but his natural skills inevitably leads him on the road to furniture creations. He is inspired by English Arts & Craft movement for the content and the style : focus on manual work and sublimate the actions of the creator to make curvilinear surfaces and organic forms. As the first representative of the « American Studio Craft » he is a revolutionary because he initiates an aesthetic and spreads a part of creation.

Wharton Esherick is a spearhead designing furnitures and interior decorations : the « Curtis Bok House » (1935-1937) is one of the most important example. He searches a subtle balance between a physical and expressionist approach of materials and a first-glance-understandable function. His works have a sensual sculpturality, a claimed asymmetry and a tender purity : he is a true virtuoso. He celebrates work of the hand and realizes all furniture himself in his studio behind his own house.

Undoubtedly, one of his most beautiful and important project is Villanova’s home of the Seiver family (Pennsylvania, USA). In 1950, they discovered the work of Wharton Esherick thanks to his sculpture « Reverence » of the Philadelphia Museum : this meeting has impacted both parties forever. In 1955, Alice Seiver asked the designer to create the furniture for her growing family. She is totally fascinated by his work : so Alice Seiver left carte blanche to Wharton Esherick. The « Seiver House » is the manifesto of its creator. This house is a temple and the place where the most works of the American designer are in. For more than a decade, he created furniture, panels and he transformed the entire interior space. After buying several of one of his most famous creations, the « Captain’s Chairs », he created made-to-measure furnitures : a tripod dining table with concave and convex forms ; a rounded-shape coffee table and sofa ; a rhythmic kitchen covered with curved panels. One of the most stunning creations of the whole is the breakfast table he created in a space of transition between the living room and the kitchen : like a drop and without any foot, it is suspended in a perfect oxymoron of evanescent presence. It energized this original place. It is a free-form creation, characteristic of the American Craftmanship movement, with attention to details even in the smooth sides of the border, a sensual materiality. This unique piece is offered to the view and materializes the presence of its creator by its poetry.

Wharton Esherick’s works are displayed in many internationally acclaimed museums, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The « Seiver Table » is a collector’s piece containing the entire state of mind of its creator thanks to its design. For Esherick’s career but also for the design history, this piece is extremely important •

CATALOG :

Unique flying table

WHARTON ESHERICK1956