George Nakashima - KYOBAI, Japanese Art and Culture London Wednesday, April 2, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Randall and Harriet Fawcett, Los Banos, California, USA

  • Catalogue Essay

    The furniture commissioned for the residence of Randall and Harriet
    Fawcett in May of 1990 was one of the last projects designed and
    completed by George Nakashima before his death one month later. It is
    fitting, then, that the project consisted of two of Nakashima’s most
    revered designs: the Minguren II dining table and the Conoid chair.
    The term ‘Minguren’, which translates to mean ‘people’s tool association’
    was the name of a movement George Nakashima became involved in
    during his time in Japan, in which craftsmen strove to keep alive ancient
    Japanese craft traditions by adapting them to modern usage and designs. 
    Adopting this name for a series of table designs, four variations of the
    Minguren table were produced, each with similar tops and slightly varied
    bases. The second of the four designs, the Minguren II differs from the
    other versions by adopting two plank-shaped legs connected by a slender
    extended cross-stretcher at the floor. The design is minimal, well-crafted
    and durable, reminiscent of ‘Minguren’ principles.
    George Nakashima first introduced the Conoid chair design in 1960,
    one which would prove distinctive from his earlier and more delicate chair
    concepts. Based loosely on the traditional Windsor chair, the Conoid
    maintains the vernacular element of the spindle back, but adapts the
    progressive modern element of the cantilevered seat. Setting him apart
    from his predecessors who achieved this technique through the use of
    modern materials like moulded plywood and laminates, Nakashima
    executed the design in all natural solid wood planks. Rethinking the
    necessity of four legs on a chair, Nakashima’s inaugural use of two sled
    legs in this design further contributes to the heavier and more
    architectonic presence, resulting in the Conoid chair being hailed as
    Nakashima’s most individualistic design.

  • 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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‘Minguren II’ dining table and ten ‘Conoid’ side chairs


Table: walnut, five rosewood keys; chairs: walnut, hickory.

Table: 73 x 224 x 109 cm. (28 3/4 x 88 1/4 x 43 in); each chair: 90 cm. (35 1/2 in) high.

Underside of table top signed in marker ‘Fawcett/George Nakashima/May 2 1990’, underside of each chair signed in marker ‘Fawcett/(1 piece seat)/George Nakashima/May 2 1990’,Together with original receipt and sketch.

£175,000 - 200,000 

KYOBAI, Japanese Art and Culture

3 Apr 2008, 6pm