Nakashima

from the Collection of Murray and Ruth Raphel

Ruth and Murray Raphel began a life-long relationship with George Nakashima in the early 1960s and continued to purchase pieces from the artist for over two decades. The Raphels, who owned a clothing business in Atlantic City, New Jersey, personally met with George about once every year or two to select wood for each acquisition. 

The closer the relationship a client had with Mr. Nakashima, the more interesting the wood selection tended to be. Additionally, these clients often ended up with rarer forms, such as the Bahut cabinet.

The present lot represents part of the heart of this family’s collection and is being offered for sale for the first time.

Original drawing of the Bahut from the Raphel Collection


Works from the Raphel Collection

George Nakashima 1905–1990

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington in 1905. He received a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Washington in 1929 and a Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931, as well as the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France in 1928. He moved back to Paris briefly in 1934, after which he moved to Tokyo to work for architect Antonin Raymond, where he was exposed to the Japanese folk art tradition. His work for Raymond sent him to Pondicherry, India, where he discovered his second career as a furniture maker. While there, he designed and supervised the construction of Golconde, a dormitory for Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

In 1940, Nakashima returned to the United States to start a family with his new wife, Marion Okajima, and the couple soon had their first child, Mira. They had settled in Seattle, Washington, and like many of Japanese ancestry living on the west coast, the Nakashimas were sent to an internment camp in Idaho during WWII. While Nakashima was there he made furniture from whatever pieces of wood he could find and learned techniques of Japanese woodworking from others stationed at the camp, including a skilled woodworker named Gentaro Hikogawa. After nearly a year at the camp, in 1943, Antonin Raymond successfully petitioned for the family’s release, which prompted their relocation to New Hope, Pennsylvania. Living on the Raymond farm, it wasn’t before long until Nakashima began making furniture once again and, in 1945, opened his furniture and woodworking studio.

On Nakashima’s property, he designed the family’s quarters, the woodshop, and many out buildings, including an arboretum. There he created a body of work that incorporated Japanese design and shop practices, as well as Modernism—work that made his name synonymous with the best of 20th century Studio Craftsman furniture.

Nakashima believed that the tree and its wood dictated the piece it was to become. He elevated what others would see as imperfections: choosing boards with knots and burls and cracks, which he would enhance and stabilize with butterfly joints. He designed furnishings for sitting, dining, sleeping, and working. While all his work is prized, his Frenchman’s Cove and Conoid tables are most so, particularly when executed in exotic woods and with free edges. Many of his designs are known by their distinctive bases: Conoid, Miguren, Trestle, and Pyramid among them. He is also known for his Mira chairs and stools, named for his daughter, who now leads his shop and continues his design legacy.

While Nakashima’s philosophy did not embrace mass production, he did collaborate with Knoll from 1945-1954 and on the Origins line with Widdicomb-Mueller between 1957 and 1961. Major commissions included furnishings for Nelson Rockefeller and Columbia University. His works are represented in the most important institutions in the world. Among many awards from the AIA and other prestigious institutions, Nakashima received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan. He received the designation "Living Treasure" in the United States, and he worked and exhibited until shortly before his death in June 1990, one week after receiving his final award, Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus, from the University of Washington.

Auction Results George Nakashima

GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Frenchman's Cove II extension dining table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Frenchman's Cove II extension dining table

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $131,250
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Conoid chairs, set of eight | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Conoid chairs, set of eight

estimate: $28,000–35,000
result: $106,250
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Conoid Bench with Back | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Conoid Bench with Back

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $75,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Exceptional Cross-Legged coffee table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Exceptional Cross-Legged coffee table

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $75,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Hanging Wall Cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Hanging Wall Cabinet

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $68,750
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Special Single Pedestal desk | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Special Single Pedestal desk

estimate: $18,000–22,000
result: $68,750
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Kent Hall floor lamp | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Kent Hall floor lamp

estimate: $18,000–22,000
result: $68,750
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Large exceptional Bench | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Large exceptional Bench

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $62,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Exceptional Hanging Wall Cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Exceptional Hanging Wall Cabinet

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $62,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Rare and Early cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Rare and Early cabinet

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $62,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Exceptional Conoid dining table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Exceptional Conoid dining table

estimate: $20,000–30,000
result: $60,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Rare and exceptional Minguren I coffee table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Rare and exceptional Minguren I coffee table

estimate: $50,000–70,000
result: $56,250
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Hanging wall case | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Hanging wall case

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $56,250
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Fine Triple Sliding Door cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Fine Triple Sliding Door cabinet

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $53,125
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Hanging Wall cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Hanging Wall cabinet

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $52,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Fine book-matched Minguren II dining table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Fine book-matched Minguren II dining table

estimate: $45,000–65,000
result: $50,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Set of ten Conoid chairs | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Set of ten Conoid chairs

estimate: $22,500–27,500
result: $50,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Exceptional Conoid bench | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Exceptional Conoid bench

estimate: $37,500–42,500
result: $50,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Rare Minguren III dining table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Rare Minguren III dining table

estimate: $20,000–30,000
result: $50,000
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Slab coffee table | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Slab coffee table

estimate: $20,000–30,000
result: $47,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Special Wall Case | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Special Wall Case

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $46,875
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Triple Sliding Door Cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Triple Sliding Door Cabinet

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $45,500
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Conoid Headboard and king-size Conoid Platform Bed | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Conoid Headboard and king-size Conoid Platform Bed

estimate: $40,000–50,000
result: $43,750
GEORGE NAKASHIMA, Custom Hi-Fi/Bar cabinet | ragoarts.com

George Nakashima

Custom Hi-Fi/Bar cabinet

estimate: $17,000–22,000
result: $43,750