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516

Wharton Esherick

Jeeter

Wharton Esherick

Wharton Esherick

Jeeter

Jeeter

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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)

Overall in very good condition. The present sculpture is one of a pair created by Wharton Esherick for the Hedgerow Theater in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. Jeeter and its partner Cheeter were exhibited outdoors at the Hedgerow Theater for two decades where each was regularly repainted in a series of different colors. The present teal paint coating was applied at some point after 1959, the earliest known year when Jeeter was exhibited without paint, and is consistent with the current color of its partner Cheeter in the collection of the Wharton Esherick Museum. The wood presents with irregularities and fine hairlines throughout, inherent to the wood selection and stable. The base of the sculpture with a few more pronounced hairlines and fissures to the wood, the largest measuring approximately 12 in. and stable. The wood surfaces throughout present with scattered light scratches, minor abrasions, small indentations and occasional small losses to the painted surface, consistent with age and gentle use. The wood surfaces present with some light surface soiling, scattered stains and occasional faint discolorations, not visually distracting. The torso of the horse with some slightly more pronounced brown stains, not visually distracting. A charming, rare and historically significant work by the American Studio furniture designer.


In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

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