New Hope Modernism

The Collection of Martin Brooks

Rago is honored to present an important collection of works by Paul Evans and Phillip Lloyd Powell from the Powell-designed home of Martin Brooks.

Born in 1931, Martin Brooks grew up with parents who were gardeners and he developed a passion for horticulture from a young age, eventually choosing it as his life’s profession. He earned a degree in ornamental horticulture at Delaware Valley Agricultural College in the 1950s and by the end of the decade had established himself as a well-respected landscape architect, designing major projects for Ed and Audrey Sable (owners of NFL Films) and award-winning landscaping for over two dozen public businesses. Brooks had a unique talent for recognizing the value of rare and unusual plants and he became particularly popular among the rich and famous crowd in The Hamptons.

The collection for Martin Brooks comprises some of the very best designs by two of the most important craftsmen working in New Hope in the 20th century.

Brooks first met Phil Powell around 1955 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, where Powell was selling DIY furniture sets. The two quickly struck up a friendship. Brooks loved Powell’s furniture, and Powell needed landscape work done, so they came to a mutually beneficial agreement. As Brooks recalls, “Phil designed my house and the furniture, and I did his gardening, mowed his lawn, and even put in a waterfall.” They became close friends and Brooks often supplied Powell with wood that he found during his landscaping jobs. It was through Powell that he met Paul Evans—“I met Paul through Phil. I always had a cigar, and Paul always had a cigarette”—with whom he struck up a similar arrangement: in exchange for landscaping, Evans designed furniture for his home. 

The collection for Martin Brooks comprises some of the very best designs by two of the most important craftsmen working in New Hope in the 20th century.

Handmade products should show the hand. Good line is not enough because that can be produced industrially. Furniture should have detail and richness.

Paul Evans

Paul Evans

Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1931, Paul Evans exhibited talent for design at an early age. He studied woodworking in high school and briefly attended the Philadelphia Textile Institute. Evans was awarded the Aileen O. Webb Scholarship in 1950 and studied at the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsmen. He would continue his studies at Cranbrook in 1952 with a focus on metalwork. In 1953 he took a position as the metal craftsman at the living museum, Old Sturbridge Village. Feeling that his creativity was being stifled, Evans left the museum in 1955 to find a more stimulating environment. He opened a showroom with fellow designer Phillip Lloyd Powell and the two began a decade-long collaboration.

Evans’ experiments with welded and enameled sculpture in the early 1960s caught the eye of the Directional furniture company. Directional was looking for handmade furniture with distinctive character and Evans’ new American craft designs were a perfect fit. In 1971, Evans developed the brass and chrome Cityscape line for Directional marking a departure from his earlier sculptural works. In the 1980s, working with his son Keith, an electrical engineer, he continued to experiment with new materials and design increasing minimal forms with kinetic elements. Together, they formed Zoom, Inc. in 1983 and began a relationship with the Design Institute of America. In 1987, just one day after his retirement, Evans suffered his third heart attack and died.

Evans is now internationally recognized as one of the great studio furniture makers of the 20th century. In his finest work, such as Argente and Sculpted Front, he deploys his training in welding, metallurgy, and jewelry design to sculpt brutal and beautiful furniture in metal—work that prefigured the art furniture movement today.

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Auction Results Paul Evans