Wharton Esherick

Wharton Esherick was an American artist and craftsman whose influence on craft furniture design and architectural forms spanned decades. Esherick pioneered the Postwar American Studio Craft movement applying a technique that bridged the gap between expressionist art and craft. His furniture was non-traditional: both sculptural and functional while focused on organic, asymmetric forms. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Esherick studied wood and metal working at Central Manual Training High School and later drawing and printmaking at the Pennsylvania Museum School of the Industrial Arts. In 1908 he received a painting scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but did not complete the program, instead he pursued commercial art and book illustration while continuing to paint on the side.

In the early 1920s, he moved to rural Paoli, Pennsylvania in order to live a lifestyle more immersed in nature. At this time his woodworking began to take form combining modern art with hand wood shaping creating frames for his paintings which developed into carved woodcuts. By 1926 his sculpture was exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York, and he began to hand-build a studio on his land, which in 1993 was named a National Historic Landmark and opened to the public as the Wharton Esherick Museum.

Esherick’s work was featured in three World’s Fairs, and in 1958 he was honored by a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York as well as awarded the Gold Medal for Craftsmanship from the American Institute of Architects in 1971. His work has been exhibited by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Smithsonian Institution, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York among many others.

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