The loan of these objects from the Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) demonstrates just some of the ways that other artists in the contemporary art, craft, and architecture spheres are connected to Esherick’s life and work. Notably, each of these artists belong to the generation after Esherick, who was born in 1887, and are linked to Esherick during his latter decades, when he was both prolific and seen as an elder statesman of the expanding Studio Craft movement by other artists. Esherick’s place in the creative ecosystems of his time is strengthened when we shine light onto the stories of these connections, whether intimate, professional, or somewhere in between. WEM is excited to have the opportunity to partner with FWM to place domestic-scaled works by Frey, Takaezu, Tawney, and Venturi within Esherick’s Studio to approach these conversations in new ways.
Letter to Esherick from Lenore Tawney.
Venturi is often considered the father of Postmodern architecture. His motto “less is a bore” riffs off the famous Modernist dictum, and in turn, seems in keeping with the proliferation of artwork and ephemera in Esherick’s home and studio. For many years, Venturi, along with his partner and wife architect Denise Scott Brown, resided in the Chestnut Hill home previously belonging to Helene Fischer. Fischer, head of the Schutte-Koenig Company, was one of Esherick’s most important patrons beginning in the late 1920s and commissioned some of his best known works. The home that she and Venturi both resided in was depicted by Esherick in his well-known print The Lane (1931). This is not Venturi’s only Esherick connection, however. Venturi worked for the architect Louis I. Kahn – Esherick’s collaborator in creating his purpose-built workshop – between 1956, when the workshop was finally realized, and 1958.
Just as Esherick pushed at the boundaries of furniture, Tawney, Takaezu, and Frey expanded those of fiber and ceramics. As documents from WEM’s archives demonstrate, Tawney visited Esherick’s studio on January 18, 1961 and was deeply impacted by her time here. The purchases she made during that visit, including the bowl and three of the stools mentioned in an invoice, were later gifted to the collection of the John Michael Kohler Art Center as a part of Tawney’s larger estate. Esherick shared many important stages and networks with Tawney, Takaezu, and Frey, including leadership roles at the first conference of the American Craft Council at Asilomar; exhibitions such as The Brussels World’s Fair (1958), The American Craftsman (1964), and Collector: Object/Environment (1965); and colleagues like Henry Varnum Poor, a close personal friend of both Esherick and Takaezu. Frey’s print from her FWM collaboration is titled Artist’s Mind/Studio/World, perhaps an ideal summation of what a visit to WEM truly feels like.