Modernist 20th Century /07 December 2003


George Nakashima

Hanging wall cabinet
USA, 1961
walnut, fabric
100 w × 18½ d × 18 h in (254 × 47 × 46 cm)

This cabinet was custom ordered from Nakashima to be placed in Robert C. and Rachel F. Birmingham's house designed by Alden B. Dow. Mrs. Birmingham was an accomplished weaver and provided the fabric for George Nakashima to install behind the slatted doors of the cabinet. A fine example of Nakashima featuring dove tail joinery and a cantilevered free edge top. Three internal bays with three adjustable shelves and four drawers behind three sliding doors.

provenance: Robert C. and Rachel F. Birmingham, Adrian, Michigan

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $9,440

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George Nakashima 1905–1990

George Nakashima was born in Spokane, Washington in 1905. He attended the University of Washington where he excelled in architecture courses and was awarded a scholarship to study at the Ecole Americaine des Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau. Nakashima completed his master’s degree from MIT in 1930, and worked for a brief time as a mural painter before losing his job during the depression. Nakashima sold his car, moved to Paris and then to Tokyo in 1934. In Japan, he worked at the architectural firm of Antonin Raymond where he was exposed to the Japanese folk art tradition. In 1937, Nakashima traveled to India to supervise the construction of Golconde, a dormitory for Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Nakashima returned to the United States settling in Seattle, Washington where he worked for an architect and constructed his first furniture designs in the basement of a local Boys Club. During World War II, he and his family were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Idaho. Antonin Raymond petitioned for and attained their release under the condition that Nakashima would work on his farm in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Relocated, Nakashima began making furniture again. He produced a line for Knoll in 1946 and designed the Origins line for Widdicomb in 1957, but it is his studio works and important commissioned forms for which he is most admired.

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