Library Ladder 

Wharton Esherick

1969

Walnut

48.4 inches high

Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum

Library Ladder 

1969

Cherry

48.4 inches high

Collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum

Images courtesy of Eoin O’Neill and the Wharton Esherick Museum

Although it dates from the very end of Esherick’s life, his Library Ladder is one of the artist’s best known — and most celebrated — designs. It was first produced in 1966 after a client asked for a library stool in walnut that was more elegant and graceful than the clunky standard. Esherick was so pleased with the result that he quickly made more in both walnut and cherry for right and left handed users. Scholars and collectors alike appreciated the design for what they saw as a novel and seamless melding of function with sculptural presence. However, the Library Ladder might be better considered a culmination of Esherick’s career-long interest in creating works where neither function or sculpture dominated; for example, the organic twisting spirals that initially appear in Esherick’s staircases of the 1930s make a reappearance in these works. These two Library Ladders showcase both walnut and cherry, and have slightly different curvatures; both made in 1969, the walnut example belonged to his longtime companion, the actress Miriam Phillips. 

A very different Library Ladder from 1935 in the collection of the Philadelphia Art Museum shows how Esherick’s approach to this particular form changed over the years.

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