George Nakashima - Design London Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Anderson Family, Connecticut, USA

  • Literature

    George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, A Woodworker's Reflections, Tokyo, 1981, p. 170 for a three-door version

  • Catalogue Essay

    Early examples of case pieces designed by George Nakashima in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the present lot, were typically ascetic in form and devoid of decorative elements.  Sliding doors were used instead of hinged doors, designed in such a way that no protruding pulls or handles would be necessary to detract from the clean-lined and spare structure.  Such an aesthetic was in demand in mid-century American households as the public became progressively disinterested with overly ornamental objects.  Distinctly planar, Nakashima’s cabinet designs aligned him with the mainstream, but his approach set him apart from the designs of the period which were mass-produced or made with new technology and materials.  Using traditional construction methods and employing a free-edge top of high-quality solid wood and doors of pandanus cloth from Southeast Asian palm trees, Nakashima was able to assimilate into modernism, but still remain distinguished as a woodworking craftsman.

  • 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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Free-edge two-door cabinet

c. 1960
Walnut, pandanus cloth.
76.2 x 208.9 x 50.2 cm. (30 x 82 1/4 x 19 3/4 in)
Back of cabinet signed in red pencil 'Anderson/#1264'.

£20,000 - 25,000 

Sold for £24,500


24 Apr 2008, 2pm