Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) was the recipient of many accolades, but the most well-known was the one he often used himself: the Dean of American Craftsman. He was a true original, and an exemplary figure within American modernism. As one of the first to adopt furniture as a progressive artistic medium, Esherick successfully helped to reshape the possibilities for this craft. Like so many visionaries, he also did much more: he was a dancer, builder, fine artist, illustrator, a dreamer and a doer.
Esherick was born in Philadelphia and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, with the intention of pursuing a career as a fine artist. Though clients admired the sophistication of his carved frames, they were generally unmoved by his paintings. During the 1920’s, he began to hit his stride with a now-iconic series of wood block prints; and soon found his true calling in the shaping of wood. He successfully blurred the boundaries between architecture, sculpture and furniture. His unique vision would forever be associated with the artful co-mingling of these previously distinct genres.
In 1913, Esherick and his wife Letty moved to Paoli, Pennsylvania where he began to design and make freeform sculpture and furniture. This beautiful place in the Pennsylvania woods would remain his home, his workshop and his laboratory until his death in 1970.
Among the key Esherick works is his curvaceous 1963 staircase from the Watson House, which can be seen on permanent display.