George Nakashima - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 1971

  • Literature

    George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, A Woodworker's Reflections, Tokyo, 1981, p. 150
    Mira Nakashima, Nature, Form & Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima, New York, 2003, p. 112

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present rocking chair demonstrates Nakashima’s long-standing affinity for Shaker attitudes towards making and form, which regards the process of creation as an act of reverence for the material and the natural environment from which it came. Like the Shakers, Nakashima believed the act of artistic creation and the manifestation of beauty was a way to channel the divine (Mira Nakashima 8). The chair closely resembles an earlier design for a lounge chair with one arm, advertised in the 1955 catalogue (Ibid., 97). The striking grain of the wood on the seat and arm reflects Nakashima’s desire to be present at every step of creation¬ – from choosing the tree, to drying the lumber, to finding the best angle to cut the wood in order to bring out the inherent splendor of the material (Ostergard 161). Derivative of the iconic colonial American Windsor-style chair, subsequently adapted in the nineteenth century by the Shakers, the rocking chair embodies a simplicity resulting from truth to form and material as well as Nakashima’s appreciation of American vernacular furniture (Ibid.).

  • Artist Biography

    George Nakashima

    American • 1905 - 1990

    Working out of his compound in rural New Hope, Pennsylvania, George Nakashima produced some of the most original and influential furniture designs of the post-war era. Nakashima aimed to give trees a second life, choosing solid wood over veneers and designing his furniture to highlight the inherent beauty of the wood, such as the form and grain. To this end, his tables often feature freeform edges, natural fissures and knot holes. Nakashima was an MIT-trained architect and traveled widely in his youth, gaining exposure to modernist design the world over.

    The signature style he developed was the distillation of extraordinary, diverse experiences, which led to the establishment of his furniture-making business in 1946. In particular, his practice of Integral Yoga, which he studied while working under the architect Antonin Raymond on the construction of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India, had a lasting impact on his philosophy as a designer.

    After returning to the U.S. in 1940, Nakashima's family was interned in an American concentration camp, a horrible ordeal that nevertheless introduced him to traditional Japanese joinery by way of a Nisei woodworker he met in the camp. He incorporated these techniques and also drew on American vernacular forms, such as the Windsor chair. These diverse influences have resulted in immense crossover appeal in the world of twentieth-century design collecting.

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Property from a Private Californian Collection


Single-armed rocking chair

American black walnut, hickory
86.3 x 81.2 x 86.3 cm. (33 7/8 x 31 7/8 x 33 7/8 in.)
Together with a copy of the original order card and certificate of authenticity from Mira Nakashima. Underside inscribed in black marker Schiller/Rocker. Produced 1971.

HK$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for HK$75,000

Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019