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Rocking chair

Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853–1936)

1901

Medium oak with modern leather Measurements H: 56 1/2 x W: 18 x D: 33 in. (143.51 x 45.72 x 83.82 cm) Credit DuPuy Fund Accession Number 84.5 Location Not on View

Narrative

Furniture designed and made by Charles Rohlfs falls within the Art and Crafts tradition, yet its scope is broader. Like other Arts and Crafts designers, he worked in native woods, principally oak, and his forms are robust, with the method of their construction usually evident. Nevertheless, Rohlfs's pieces display an exuberance, even a whimsey, not found in most American Arts and Crafts furniture. His infatuation with curves, for example, is clearly in sympathy with French Art Nouveau. In no way merely derivative, his furniture is unique in both form and decoration. This chair is one of Rohlfs's most successful compositions, despite the challenge that a rocking chair presents. The soaring back rises above a base composed of intersecting planes, complicated in outline. Although the risk of visual disharmony is high, given the exxageration of these elements. Rohlf's achieves a successful interplay of forms in which various coutlines mirror each other. Contemporary references to Rohlfs's wealthy clientele suggests that his work was expensive, which underscores the dilemma of Arts and Crafts designers. In principle they wished to see fine designs available to all; but because they also advocated hand-craftsmanship, they produced objects that were beyond the economic reach of most people.