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Fireplace and Doorway
From the library of the Curtis and Nellie Lee Bok House, Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania

Wharton H. Esherick, American, 1887 - 1970

Made in Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


White oak, stone, copper

Size of Room: 8 feet 6 inches × 16 feet 1/16 inches × 20 feet 1/16 inches (259.1 × 487.8 × 609.8 cm) Fireplace and Doorway: 8 feet 6 inches × 16 feet 1/16 inches × 60 inches (259.1 × 487.8 × 152.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 219, American Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Acquired through the generosity of W. B. Dixon Stroud, with additional funds for preservation and installation provided by Dr. and Mrs. Allen Goldman, Marion Boulton Stroud, and the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1989

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Wharton Esherick’s carved interiors are among his most important early sculptural work. Inspired by the angular shapes and intersecting lines of the Cubist movement, the artist incorporated the natural patterns and grains of assorted woods into his pieces to emphasize their strong geometric and organic forms.

Born in Philadelphia in 1887, Esherick studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1908–10, and discovered wood as a medium for artistic expression when he began to make carved frames for his canvases. By the mid-1920s he was fully committed to sculpture and extended his definition of the medium to the carving of furniture and architectural interiors. His work is often seen as a forerunner to the contemporary studio furniture movement.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Born in Philadelphia, where he was trained as a painter in the first decade of this century, Wharton Esherick had shifted his attention to wooden sculpture and furniture by the mid-1920s. His devotion to wood as a material and insistence upon handcraftsmanship (although often using innovative production techniques) combined with his free-spirited personality to establish Esherick as a pioneer of the contemporary American craft movement. The commission to renovate the home of Judge and Mrs. Curtis Bok in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania, offered him a rare opportunity to devise an overall scheme of dramatic wooden elements that would transform the interior spaces. As this fireplace and doorway from the library and music room of the Bok home demonstrate, Esherick used angular motifs in the contemporary "modern" style adopted by other designers and architects of the day, but the sensuous, hand-finished surfaces that emphasize wood grain and color, and the massive beams and planks, boldly carved and assembled into projecting and receding shapes, are unique to the artist. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 298.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.