George Nakashima - Design New York Monday, December 16, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Ben and Bernarda Shahn, Roosevelt, New Jersey
    Private collection, Berlin
    Phillips de Pury & Co., "Design," December 13, 2007, lot 47

  • Literature

    George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, A Woodworker's Reflections, Tokyo, 1981, p. 142 for a drawing
    Derek E. Ostergard, George Nakashima, Full Circle, exh. cat., American Craft Museum, New York, 1989, p. 139 for the grass-seated chairs from the Ben and Bernarda Shahn collection
    Steven Beyer, George Nakashima and the Modernist Moment, exh. cat. James A. Michener Art Museum, Bucks County, PA, June 9-September 16, 2001, pp. 36-37
    Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Gerald W. R. Ward, and Kelly H. L’Ecuyer, The Maker’s Hand: American Studio Furniture, 1940-1990, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003, p. 26
    Mira Nakashima, Nature, Form & Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima, New York, 2003, pp. 60, 79 for a drawing from Nakashima's first catalogue, p. 183 for a photo of Ben Shahn and George Nakashima sitting next to a grass-seated chair, pp. 182-87 for a discussion of the Ben and Bernarda Shahn commission

  • 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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Set of twelve grass-seated chairs

circa 1960
American black walnut, woven sea grass.
Each: 27 1/2 x 22 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (69.9 x 57.2 x 49.5 cm)

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $40,000

Contact Specialist
Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, New York
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1266


New York 17 December 2013 2pm