George Nakashima - Design Masters New York Monday, December 12, 2011 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Mr. and Mrs. Walter Schwab, Providence, Rhode Island

  • Literature

    George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, A Woodworker’s Reflections,Tokyo, 1981, p. 188 for a drawing of a “Minguren II” base; Derek E. Ostergard, George Nakashima, Full Circle, exh. cat., American Craft Museum, New York, 1989, p. 163 for the chairs; Mira Nakashima, Nature, Form & Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima,New York, 2003, p. 210 for an example of a claro walnut board, and p. 239 for the 1986“Peace Altar” in claro walnut and of a similar form

  • Catalogue Essay

    George Nakashima’s “Sanso” tables, similar in design to his monumental “Altar of Peace” of 1986, typically consist of two matched walnut boards held together by rosewood butterfly keys. When Mr. and Mrs. Schwab requested the present table, Nakashima found in his studio two boards for the project, but he also found a more impressive single board made of claro walnut. Highly figured with striking grain patterns, claro walnut exemplifies the richness of materials and impeccable craftsmanship characteristic of Nakashima’s output in the 1980s. Nakashima wrote to the Schwabs: “I don’t know whether you are familiar with Claro Walnut or not, but I consider this wood some of the finest that we have. It runs quite colorfully, from a grey to dark greys, to dark browns, in variegated shades. This particular piece has a very fine crotch grain running the whole length of the board.”

    Given these factors—a single-board top, the use of claro walnut—the price of this project would increase considerably. The date for the Schwabs to meet Nakashima and to view the board was set for August 8, 1987. The studio was closed at the time for vacation, which Nakashima cut short: “As I am rather excited about these selections, I can make a special appointment.”

    To complement this custom “Sanso” order, the Schwabs requested a set of ten “Conoid” lounge chairs. The “Conoid”, designed in 1960, is widely regarded as one of Nakashima’s most successful works due to the chair’sarchitectonic shape and its departure from the designer’s typical “Windsor” adaptations. Twenty years later, Nakashima redesigned the “Conoid” to a lower height for more comfort. This became known as the “Conoid” loungechair, which was only produced for ten years and was crafted in far fewer quantities. In addition, the chairs in the present lot were designed with singleboard seats, much rarer than this design’s usual construction of multiple laminated boards.

    The present lot represents one of the finest examples of Nakashima’s output toward the end of his career. In contrast to his earliest works, beautiful simple designs crafted from locally sourced woods, the present set demonstrates his growth as a designer and craftsman whose craft had been honed over four decades in celebration of what he referred to as “the soul of a tree.”

  • 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.

    View More Works


Custom “Sanso” table and set of ten “Conoid” lounge chairs

Table: single-board claro walnut, American black walnut, seven East Indian rosewood butterfly keys; chairs: single-board American black walnut, hickory.
Table: 25 1/4 × 101 × 63 3/4 in. (64.1 × 256.5 × 161.9 cm.); each chair: 33 1/4 in. (84.5 cm.) high
Underside of table signed in black marker with “George Nakashima/Nov 12 1987,”and “Schwab.” Underside of each chair signed in black marker with “George Nakashima/Nov 12 1987.” Together with the original drawing of the table and correspondence between George Nakashima and the original owner (11).

$300,000 - 400,000 

Design Masters

13 December 2011
New York