George Nakashima: The Spirit of a Tree

February 22, 2017

The designs of George Nakashima (1905-1990) are among the most elegant and enduring in post–war American furniture. Born in Spokane, Washington, he originally studied architecture before embarking on a series of worldwide travels that proved deeply influential on his future designs. Nakashima is renowned for his sensitive approach toward natural materials. He conceived of furniture as a second incarnation of the wood and aimed to preserve its integrity, beauty, and utility by emphasizing the textures of their rich grains in his designs. In an interview Nakashima stated: “In order to produce a fine piece of furniture, the spirit of a tree lives on and I can give it a second life, something like the medical profession… I can make an object that can live forever, if used properly.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

George Nakashima, Cross-Legged Drop-Leaf Dining Table, c. 1960
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

A selection of four elegant walnut pieces by Nakashima, including a drop leaf table that was commissioned especially for the client’s mother, show the masterful range of his craft. While the cross–legged dining table design is more common in the designer’s smaller works, this is a rare example of such a motif applied to a dining table, which seldom appears at auction. The room divider, equipped with three sliding doors, is an exceptionally versatile piece as it is finished on the back, allowing the piece to be placed in various configurations.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

George Nakashima, Triple Sliding Door Room Divider, executed 1977
March 5, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Its gently curved profile follows the form of the walnut and adheres to Nakashima’s principle of respect for the ancient woods that he worked with. The wood slab coffee table remains one of Nakashima’s most iconic designs, with its rough–hewn form and neatly angled legs, the epitome of pared-back modernist grace. This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a suite of timeless pieces by a master craftsman.

All Lots By George Nakashima:

Lot 95
George Nakashima
Triple Sliding Door Room Divider
Studio, executed 1977
Persian walnut and pandanus cloth
24″ x 84″ x 20″
Estimate: $35,000-$50,000

Lot 96
George Nakashima
Cross-legged drop-leaf dining table
Studio, executed c. 1960
28.75″ x 70″ x 35.25″ (extended)
Estimate: $12,000-$15,000

Lot 97
George Nakashima
Wall Shelf
Studio, executed c. 1960
17″ x 52.5 x 15.5″
Estimate: $3,000-$5,000

Lot 98
George Nakashima
Wood slab coffee table
Studio, executed c. 1970
Persian walnut
Signed “Studio”
13″ x 76.5″ x 22″
Estimate: $12,000-$18,000

Interview with George Nakashima. Dir. Jim Bunn. George Nakashima Woodworker. N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

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