Crafting Modernism: Masters of the American Studio Design Movement from the Pinnacle Art Collection

Crafting Modernism: Masters of the American Studio Design Movement from the Pinnacle Art Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 516. Jeeter.

Wharton Esherick

Jeeter

Auction Closed

June 10, 03:47 PM GMT

Estimate

150,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details

Description

Wharton Esherick

Jeeter


1934

painted oak

monogrammed WE and dated MCMXXXIV

60½ x 72 x 33 in. (153.7 x 182.9 x 83.8 cm)

Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, 1934-1956
Arlan Ettinger, New York
David Rago, Lambertville, New Jersey, private sale
Acquired from the above by the present owner
The Wharton Esherick Museum Studio and Collection, Paoli, PA, 1984, back cover (for a related example in the collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum)
Mansfield Bascom, Wharton Esherick: The Journey of a Creative Mind, New York, 2010, pp. 134-135 (for a period photograph of the present lot illustrated at Hedgerow Theatre, circa 1935-1936) and 210 (for a period photograph of a related example)
This jaunty sculpture of a horse, together with its pendant Cheeter (now at the Wharton Esherick Museum), stood from 1934 until 1956 in front of the Hedgerow Theater in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. They were the most prominent – and doubtless, the most beloved – of Esherick’s many contributions to Hedgerow, which included set designs, stage props and furniture, woodcuts for posters, a pair of spiral staircases, further sculptures, and hammer handle chairs to be used by the audience.1 The longstanding nature of this involvement, which brought Esherick into contact with a dynamic group of modernists – overlapping with the circle of Marjorie Content and Jean Toomer – gives his work for Hedgerow a special importance in his oeuvre.

The curious names of the horses were a play on that of the theater’s founder, Jasper Deeter, who – in building a creative community around Hedgerow, with Esherick as a sort of artist in residence – was effectively extending the legacy of architect William Price, who had attempted to transform the historic (and dilapidated) town of Rose Valley into an artisanally-anchored utopian community during the Arts and Crafts era. Jeeter seems to have trotted right out of this history. Under its multiple coats of paint, it has the simple but affecting lines of antique handmade toys or rocking horses. In its slightly off-kilter sense of forward movement, however, it clearly announces the arrival of a new era: a world defined by dynamic abstraction.

[1] One staircase was destroyed by fire in 1986. A group of furniture, including the important “Thunder Table,” made for a 1929 production of the play Thunder on the Left, and a set of eight hammer handle chairs, was sold at Freeman’s in 2020.

GLENN ADAMSON