The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs

Overview

Charles Rohlfs (1853–1936) ranked among the most innovative furniture makers at the turn of the twentieth century. Praised by the international press and exhibited throughout the United States and Europe, his beautiful works grew out of an interesting mix of styles that included Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and proto-modernism. This book presents the first major study of this important American designer and craftsman, drawing upon new photographs and fresh sources of ...

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Overview

Charles Rohlfs (1853–1936) ranked among the most innovative furniture makers at the turn of the twentieth century. Praised by the international press and exhibited throughout the United States and Europe, his beautiful works grew out of an interesting mix of styles that included Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and proto-modernism. This book presents the first major study of this important American designer and craftsman, drawing upon new photographs and fresh sources of information.

Alongside traditional historical approaches, the book presents detailed formal, structural, and stylistic analyses of Rohlfs’s well-known masterpieces from major museums, together with lesser-known objects in public and private collections.  Topics include discovering the contribution of Rohlfs’s wife—mystery novelist Anna Katharine Green—to his designs; the far-ranging sources of his idiosyncratic motifs; his influence on Gustav Stickley’s designs; his commissioned interiors; his efforts at self-promotion and marketing; and his attempts to define a conceptual framework for his artistic endeavor. Handsomely designed and illustrated, the book also features a complete set of unpublished period illustrations of over seventy works. 

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Editorial Reviews

Town & Country
"Seductive visuals and worthy scholarship."—Town & Country
Interior Design Magazine
". . . [A] wealth of color and information. . . . a remarkably vivid portrait of a unique talent flourishing at one of those extraordinarily adventurous periods of transition . . . when there was a belief that design and art could transform society."— Interior Design Magazine
Maine Antique Digest
"Charles Rohlfs . . . was active as [a] furniture designer for a relatively short time, but his influence has been quite extensive. This erudite and comprehensive biographical catalog explains how."—Maine Antique Digest
Library Journal

The question "Charles who?" will be answered quickly by this well-researched book, which accompanies the first public exhibition of Rohlfs's best work as a group. Cunningham (curator, American Decorative Art 1900 Fdn.) documents Rohlfs's life (1853-1936), but his main focus is Rohlfs's furniture and other domestic objects, produced after Rohlfs and his family moved to Buffalo, NY, in 1887. Like Gustav Stickley and other Arts and Crafts furniture makers circa 1900, Rohlfs preferred dark-stained quarter-sawn oak to make his furniture. Unlike Stickley, whose pieces were mostly unadorned and rectilinear, Rohlfs decorated his pieces with organic designs and fretwork. The book's scholarly value is enhanced by over 300 illustrations (including photos of Rohlfs's furniture in his own home) and a selected bibliography. It will appeal to scholars, designers, and collectors concerned with the Aesthetic Movement and Arts and Crafts furniture. Highly recommended for any library whose patrons are interested in these topics.
—Martha Smith

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300139099
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 12.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Cunningham is the curator of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.  His publications include Design Is Not Art: Functional Objects from Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread (2004). Bruce Barnes is founder and president of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation. Sarah Fayen is assistant curator of the Chipstone Foundation and adjunct assistant curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Bruce Barnes Barnes, Bruce

Introduction Sarah Fayen Fayen, Sarah 1

Ch. 1 Memories, Pleasures, and Promises 19

Ch. 2 A Corner in the Study of Anna Katharine Green 31

Ch. 3 Grandeur Never Before Experienced 47

Ch. 4 From Casting About to a Graceful Writing Set 65

Ch. 5 The Rohlfs Furniture 81

Ch. 6 The True and False in Furniture 105

Ch. 7 A New Art and a New Artist 117

Ch. 8 The City of Light 145

Ch. 9 An Artist Who Works in Wood 167

Ch. 10 Twentieth-Century Progressive yet Strictly American 193

Ch. 11 Growing Old Gracefully 221

Appendix Illustrations of Works by Charles Rohlfs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art 241

Notes 265

Selected Bibliography 273

Index 274

Illustration Credits 282

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