Modern Design /03 October 2004


George Nakashima

special order Frenchman's Cove dining table
USA, 1987
American black walnut
63 w × 52 d × 28½ h in (160 × 132 × 72 cm)

Signed, dated and inscribed on bottom: [Altar for Peace stock George Nakashima Aug 31 1987]. This tabletop was taken from the same tree as Nakashima's first Peace Altar, built from a 125-foot, 300 year-old American Black Walnut tree found on Long Island. The altar was imagined and designed by George Nakashima in 1986 and resides in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Nakashima dreamed of offering an altar to every continent as a symbol of peace. He stated, "It will be a symbol, a token of man’s aspirations for a creative and beautiful peace, free of political overtones; an expression of love for his fellow man." Nakashima greatly valued the nature of his materials, a guiding principle manifest in the uneven edges and organic patterns of his surfaces that expose the essence of the wood. The board selected for this table is from the heart of the tree and has exceptional figuring and a natural symmetry.

provenance: Fritz Woehle, F.A.I.A., Birmingham, Alabama

estimate: $20,000–30,000
result: $27,600

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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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