Wharton Esherick (1887 – 1970) American Sculptor and Furniture Designer

Wharton Esherick featured image
Wharton Esherick Important Sofa

Wharton Esherick (1887–1970) was an American sculptor and furniture designer who predominantly worked in wood and applied sculpting concepts to everyday products. As a result, his sculptural furniture and furnishings are his most well-known works. For his leadership in designing non-traditional designs and supporting and inspiring artists/craftspeople by example, Esherick was dubbed the “dean of American artisans” by his peers during his lifetime. Esherick’s impact can still be apparent in contemporary artisans’ work, especially in the Studio Craft Movement.

Biography

Esherick was born in Philadelphia and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts (now the University of the Arts (Philadelphia)). To pursue his painting profession, he moved to a farmhouse outside Paoli, Pennsylvania, in 1913. In 1920, he began carving ornamental frames for his paintings, which led to woodcut prints and then sculpture.

Arts & Craft Movement

Esherick’s early furniture was embellished with surface carving and was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. In the late 1920s, he stopped carving his furniture and instead focused on the items’ pure form as sculpture. In the 1930s, he was motivated by Rudolf Steiner’s organicism and German Expressionism and Cubism to create sculpture and furniture. The latter two movements’ angular and prismatic forms gave way to the free-form curvilinear shapes for which he is best known. His work was also featured in the art competition at the 1932 Summer Olympics when he competed in the painting event.

He proceeded from furniture and furnishings to interiors, the most notable of which was the Curtis Bok House (1935–37). Esherick’s art was saved even though the home was demolished. The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s fireplace and adjacent music room doors, as well as the entrance stairs at the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami, Florida, may be seen.

Exhibitions

In the New York World’s Fair, “America at Home” Pavilion in 1940, architect George Howe combined Esherick’s Spiral Stair (1930) and Esherick furniture to construct the “Pennsylvania Hill House” exhibit. Esherick’s work was also featured in a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in 1958 and the Renwick Gallery’s “Woodenworks” show in 1972. During his lifetime, he showed hundreds of times. His work may now be found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and many other museums. The majority of his work is still in private hands.

His most significant work of art was his home and studio outside of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The structures changed over Esherick’s forty years of living and working there. Until his death in 1970, he continued to work in the studio. The Wharton Esherick Museum was established in 1972 after the studio was transformed. The Wharton Esherick Studio, as it is called, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

Esherick was the uncle of American architect Joseph Esherick and the father of Ruth Bascom (wife of architect Mansfield Bascom, curator emeritus of the Wharton Esherick Museum).

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

You may also be interested in

  • Fritz Haller (1924 – 2012) Swiss Architect, Designer & Town Planner

    Fritz Haller featured image

    In Switzerland and Rotterdam, he worked as an apprentice and collaborator with Willem van Tijen and H.A. Maaskant. He founded an architecture firm in Solothurn in 1949. He was a guest professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from 1966 to 1971.Read More →

  • Jay Spectre (1930 – 1992) American Interior and furniture designer

    A pair of lounge chairs ca.1975 by Jay Spectre

    Jay Spectre (1930 – 1992) was an American Interior and furniture designer. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was professionally active in New York. He began his interior design career in 1951 in Louisville. In 1968, he established the design company Jay Spectre, in New York. He designed interiors for luxury homes, private jet aircraft, yachts, and offices, which showed Art Deco, Asian, and African influences with high-tech and hand-carved elements. Read More →

  • Carlo Bugatti (1855-1940) Italian designer and furniture maker

    Carlo Bugatti Italian designer

    Carlo Bugatti was a leading figure in Italy’s design and decorative arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bugatti is perhaps best known for his exotic, handmade furniture designs. Many of the 19th century’s progressive developments, notably the British Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau, influenced his work. Read More →

  • Vittorio Gregotti (1927- 2020 ) Italian architect, designer, design historian

    Vittorio Gregotti

    Vittorio Gregotti (1927- 2020) was an important Italian architect, designer, design historian, theorist and critic, Gregotti was the editor of several leading Italian design journals. He graduated in architecture from Milan Polytechnic in 1952. He spent his lifetime working in the field as a practitioner, academic, and writer.Read More →

  • Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879 – 1933) outstanding furniture designer

    Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann interior featured image

    Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879 – 1933) was a French designer who was born and lived in Paris. n 1907, he took over his father’s house painting company in Paris. He first exhibited his work in 1911, with architect Charles Plumet and couturier Jacques Doucet, Frantz Jourdain, and Tony Selmersheim.Read More →

  • Don Albinson (1921- 2008) – American furniture designer

    Albinson Chair by Don Albinson

    The 1965 stacking Albinson chair produced by Knoll was similar to British Designer’s Robin Day trendy chair for Hille, although Albinson’s was more sophisticated. They stack, hook together side by side and comfortable to sit in. After Knoll he became a consultant designer to Westinghouse on office seating and furniture systems.Read More →

  • Rocking Armchair Rod (RAR) by Ray Eames

    Rocking Armchair Rod (RAR) by Ray Eames

    The RAR was designed by Charles and Ray Eames to be manufactured of metal before being sprayed with neoprene (a synthetic rubber) to make it more comfortable. However, by the time the chair could be manufactured, Herman Miller had developed the technique to build the seat out of polyester bonded with fibreglass strands. Read More →

  • Outdoor Seating & Table System for Moroso M’Afrique by Marc Thorpe

    Eight years into their collaborative relationship, New York-based designer Marc Thorpe is launching his latest piece for Moroso for their outdoor collection called Moroso M’Afrique. DayTrip comprises various components that are used as low tables and benches that pay homage to the Italian brand’s multi-cultural ethos. The design allows the user to create a composition for themselves, giving them ownership of the product and design for which they can use with others.Read More →

  • Ray Eames an American Designer

    Ray Eames

    Ray Eames (b. Bernice Alexandra Kaiser 1912-88) was an American designer. She was born in Sacramento, California. She was the wife of Charles Eames. Read More →

  • Ignazio Gardella (1905 – 1999) Italian Architect-Designer

    Pair of rare model _P10_ armchairs by Ignazio Gardella

    Ignazio Gardella began working on architectural projects in Alessandria in 1929, including the Dispensario Antitubercolare (1929-1930), which is regarded as an example of Italian Rationalism, and the Laboratorio Provinciale di Igiene. He was laying the groundwork for his future career as an architect.Read More →

  • Mezzadro Chair – a nod to Italian Agriculture

    Mezzadro Chair

    Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni were not the first twentieth-century designers to consider the tractor seat in relation to sophisticated furniture production: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe used it for the Conchoidal chairs he conceived during the early 1940s. Read More →

  • Black Wire Chair by Oki Santo

    Black Wire Chair by Oki Santo

    Oki Santo designed this chair; it was a part of a series called Thin Black Lines. The series includes a chair and clothes rack intended to appear as sketches in the air or calligraphy symbols. Thin black lines like the traces of sketches drawn in the air made transparent surfaces and volumes appear, which we assigned practical functions. The outlines remained after simplifying paintings of plants and animals. Read More →

  • Konstantin Achkov (b.1973) and ‘tensegrity’ designed furniture

    Frame Chairs designed by Konstantin Achkov

    The form of the chairs is influenced by traditional frame construction, like that of the Eiffel tower. Specific sides form the base, where every element of the furniture puzzle is assembled only using puzzle joints without glue, nails, screws or bolts.Read More →

  • Patrizia Ranzo Italian architect and designer

    Patrizia Ranzo featured image

    Patrizia Ranzo is an Italian architect and designer. She was born and active in Naples. She studied architecture in Naples to 1981. Read More →

  • Pedro Miralles (1955 – 1993) Spanish architect and designer

    Pedro Miralles featured image

    In Madrid, he encountered people associated with postmodern culture, including architect Rafael Moneo, his university professor, and members of the Madrid movida movement, such as film director Pedro Almodóvar and fashion designer Jess del Well.Read More →

  • Ross Franklin Littell (1924 – 2000) American textile and furniture designer

    Ross Littell featured image

    Ross Franklin Littell (1924 – 2000) was an American textile and furniture designer known forRead More →

  • SHIFT: A Flexible Shelf System by LAYER for Kvadrat

    Flexible Shelf System

    What happens when Benjamin Hubert’s LAYER partners with upcycled textile maker Really? An extremely clever, flexible shelving system for textile manufacturer Kvadrat called SHIFT. The wall system quickly goes from a flat acoustic panel to a display shelf in seconds making it perfect for retail spaces, exhibitions, or openings when display areas need to be changed up.Read More →

  • Grant Featherston (1922 – 1995) Australian Designer

    Grant Featherston featured image

    He was born in Geelong, Victoria. In 1965, he married Mary Bronwyn Currey, an English-born interior designer, and the pair worked closely as interior designers for many decades. Between 1938-39, Featherston designed decorative-glass panels for Oliver-Davey Glass, Melbourne, and 1939-40 lighting for Newton and Gray, Melbourne. Read More →

  • Tias Eckhoff (1926 – 2016) Norwegian designer, metalworker, ceramicist

    Tias Eckhoff Designer featured image

    Tias Eckhoff (1926 – 2016) was a well-known industrial designer in Norway. His production was constrained, but many of his products have endured as timeless design classics. In addition to the design of RBM Ana, RBM Bella, and Low-back Bella, he was also responsible for the famous Maya cutlery and Glohane tableware, to name a few of the solid works that are well-established in Norwegian design history.Read More →

❤️ Receive our newsletter