Design Masterworks 17 November 2016

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40

Phillip Lloyd Powell


Rare carved panel lounge chairs, pair

USA, c. 1970
American black walnut, upholstery
36 w x 34 d x 26½ h in (91 x 86 x 67 cm)

result: $32,500


estimate: $30,000–50,000

provenance: Mana Tancredi, Bucks County, PA
literature: Phillip Lloyd Powell, studio catalog, unpaginated

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Phillip Lloyd Powell

A Life in Craft

Phillip Lloyd Powell is unique in the American craft tradition for the unmatched longevity of his career spanning over six decades. “I am an artist working with furniture” proclaimed Powell. Indeed, his artistic vision, a melding of modernism with organic ornament, stands as a testament to his unique eye and sensibilities.

Powell working in his New Hope, Pennsylvania studio
Powell working in his New Hope, Pennsylvania studio

Constructed from directly carved panels of solid American black walnut, this fine pair of lounge chairs illustrates the best of Powell’s carving technique. The overall form of the chairs is a melding of minimalism and a classic Chesterfield form. Starting with the geometry of the cube, Powell does a Craft reworking of Le Corbusier’s Grand Comfort chairs, but instead of the Machine Age aesthetic exposed in the Bauhaus classic, Powell humanizes the forms. In Powell’s hands the decorative panels echo and respond to the natural formations of the tree. Like his famous neighbor, Powell expresses ‘the soul of the tree’ but he does so with an artist’s vision and level of intervention that Nakashima would not allow.

The chair base is formed in an octagon and swivels to compensate for the weight of the carved form. The channeled upholstery and rolled arm are a nod to the classic Chesterfield form, but Chesterfields that would only exist in a private club of Powell’s imagination. Illustrated in a copy of an early catalog, these chairs were produced in extremely small numbers. Like so much of Powell’s work, these chairs were made for a patron, Mana Tancredi and remained in her collection for decades.

Unlike his early collaborator, Paul Evans, Powell always remained connected to the creation of his furniture. Powell was a maker, not a designer running a large studio. Although the number of pieces he produced throughout his lifetime is modest in comparison to that of Evans or Nakashima, for Powell, making, was always his first love.

I am an artist working with furniture.

—Phillip Lloyd Powell