Wharton Esherick Museum

Wharton Esherick, b 1887- d 1970
P.O. Box 595, Paoli, PA 19301 - view on Google Maps
610-644-5822
“If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.”
—Wharton Esherick
Wharton Esherick is considered one of the most important furniture designers of the twentieth century. His home and studio, built and expanded over a period of 40 years, reflects the Esherick’s evolving style, from Arts & Crafts to the Studio Furniture Movement. Left as it was when he lived and worked there, the complex of buildings display Esherick’s genius for designing for human comfort, enjoyment, and use. Esherick considered his studio his autobiography. Visitors interact with the space and touch the wooden sculpture and furniture.

ABOUT

Esherick began as an Impressionist painter, but, frustrated at his inability to find his own voice in that medium, drifted into wood-carving and sculpture. His ideas about three dimensional form were forged not in the classroom, but through work at Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, by watching and participating at rhythmic dance camps, and through the experience of working with his neighbors in Chester County (skilled craftsmen) to construct furniture and his studio. Most of his works were one-of-a-kind pieces produced for specific people and places.


Esherick’s home and studio evolved over the forty years that he lived and worked at the site – from his Arts and Crafts beginnings, through Cubism and German Expressionism, to the organic free-form curves of his later work. Esherick was heavily influenced by the organic design philosophies of Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Steiner, by the forms of Constantine Brancusi, and by the Pennsylvania landscape where he made his home and produced most of his work.


Though he lived in a rural environment, he was not an isolated hermit. He traveled regularly, and was part of the artistic, literary and intellectual circles in New York City and Philadelphia. Among his close friends were writers Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson, theater pioneer Jasper Deeter, ceramicist and painter Henry Varnum Poor, composer George Rochberg, architects Louis Kahn, George Howe, and Oscar Stonorov, photographers Marjorie Content and Consuela Kanaga, and visual artists Julius Bloch, Wallace Putnam, and June Groff. He was influenced by contemporary ideas in theatre, dance, literature, poetry and music. In addition to his work in furniture, Esherick made wood-cut prints and sculpture, and acted as an architect for his own home and studios.


Esherick was revered in his lifetime as the dean of American Craft. He was the first artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (now the Museum of Art and Design), and a room of his furniture, the “Pennsylvania Hill House,” was featured at the 1940 World’s Fair in New York City.

Did you know...?

After struggling for years as a painter, Esherick’s discovery of sculpture was liberating. He considered his process play, not work, and his sculptures display the humor and whimsy that flows from that world-view.

SPECIAL RESOURCES

Archive with Esherick’s papers, correspondence, drawings, and prints
One of the largest single collections of Esherick’s works
The only current opportunity to experience the relationship between Esherick’s furniture in the space it was designed for.

WHAT TO DO HERE

  • Guided tour of the home/studio (by reservation)
  • • Small gallery with changing exhibits

YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE ART HERE:

  • • Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • Metropolitan Museum, New York City, NY
  • Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA
  • The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, Washington, DC
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • Modernism Museum Mount Dora, Mount Dora, FL
  • Museum of Art and Design, New York City, NY