• wood chair with armrests and laced leather seat
  • wood chair with armrests and laced leather seat
  • wood chair with armrests and laced leather seat
  • wood chair with armrests and laced leather seat
  • dining area of home with wood walls with blue accents. Rectangular but curving dining room table surround by captain's chairs in the center of the space with cantilevered breakfast counter and entrance to kitchen in the background

Captain’s Chair

Wharton Esherick

1951

Walnut, cherry, laced leather seat

29.5 x 20.9 x 20.9 inches 

Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum

Images courtesy of Eoin O’Neill and Wharton Esherick Museum Collection, ca. 1960

By the 1950s, an increasing population — and not just the wealthy looking to commission one-off works — was interested in furnishing their homes with contemporary, artist-made objects. Esherick’s Captain’s Chair became a favorite solution to this problem, and subsequently, one of his most marketable pieces. Working from Esherick’s prototype, his regular collaborator cabinetmaker John Schmidt could produce six chairs at a time, which kept down costs and made the Captain’s Chair accessible to a wider range of buyers. Often, this would be a first piece bought to furnish a home, leading to larger commissions for Esherick down the line. In the above image of the home of Alice and Lawrence Seiver, Captain’s Chairs flank a unique, three-legged table designed by Esherick in 1957; the image shows how Esherick’s limited production pieces and one-off works lived in easy harmony. By the time this image was taken in the 1950s, the Seiver’s home featured an extensive collection of Esherick’s work across all types. 

This Captain’s Chair holds particular interest as it is a prototype for the limited production designs. While the arm ends of the chair are rounded, a look at subsequent versions shows that these weren’t utilized moving forward. 

See another example of the Captain’s Chair in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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