• large drop leaf desk with carved surface with designs of trees and bare branches
  • large drop leaf desk with carved surface with designs of trees and bare branches

Drop Leaf Desk

Wharton Esherick

1927

Red oak, leather

78 x 54 x 26 inches 

Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum

Images courtesy of James Mario

Drop Leaf Desk features representational surface decoration, or “literature,” that links Esherick directly to the Arts and Crafts movement although it was the last piece of furniture he made in that style. Carved reliefs depict a landscape with a dense forest of trees and bare branches with turkey buzzards soaring overhead; the decoration on this piece shows strong links to Esherick’s practice of carving and printing woodblocks, which often depicted rural and agrarian motifs. The desk is designed to store woodcut blocks, paper, and prints, complete with larger compartments, multiple flat file drawers, and a leather-clad writing surface. After creating this desk — the only work Esherick ever claimed to have made alone without the assistance of regular collaborators and friends like the cabinetmaker John Schmidt — Esherick moved away from decorated furniture, arguing that like sculpture, furniture should depend on its overall form for design interest. 

Related work: Three-panel folding screen, 1927, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 

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