• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2149

    20th Century Decorative Art & Design

    26 March 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 85

    SAM MALOOF (b. 1916)


    Price Realised  


    SAM MALOOF (b. 1916)
    A Pair of Walnut Armchairs, 1946
    with period Larsen wool cushions
    each 30 in. (76.2 cm.) high (2)

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    A 2008 photograph of Sam Maloof and one of the present chairs with an annotation on the reverse stating the provenance and date is available to the purchaser.

    cf. J. Adamson, The Furniture of Sam Maloof, New York, 2001, p. 53 or an example of this model illustrated in the 8 August 1954 Los Angeles Times Magazine Section.


    Millard Sheets.
    Thence by descent.

    Pre-Lot Text


    The following three lots by Sam Maloof are recorded as the very first examples of these models. According to Sam Maloof, 'there are no prototypes, those were them'. This seminal group of furniture, the chairs, table and bench, were commissioned by the prominent artist, Millard Sheets, who was Maloof's mentor. Sheets is recognized as the single most important influence on Maloof's artistic vision and sensibility and the commission served as the launching point for Maloof's career as a woodworker. Before this commission, Maloof was employed by Sheets as his assistant doing various tasks such as stretching canvases and making picture frames and pursued his passion for workworking on the side. Sheets' request to have the furniture built with hardwood served as a pivotal moment in Maloof's carrer. Prior to the commission, Maloof mostly only worked with plywood. The solid walnut became his primary medium and the beautifully designed functional pieces he made for Millard Sheets ultimately became his most popular models. According to Sam Maloof, he made these pieces so he could leave Millards Workshop and pursue a career as a woodworker.

    A chair of this model was featured in the 1954 The Arts of Daily Living home furnishings exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair that was organized by Millard Sheets and sponsored by House Beautiful. The exhibition, dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright, consisted of twenty-two architect-designed model rooms that were furnished and decorated by highly regarded contemporary artists. House Beautiful lavishly illustrated the exhibition in the October 1954 issue. The room furnished by Maloof, entitled, 'A Special Room for Television', was designed by the architect George Wright. It is likely that the chairs offered here and possibly the table (the one to the right of the sofa) are the exact ones shown in the magazine. This room was regarded as a novel setting and attracted much attention and enhanced Maloof's prominence as a gifted furniture maker.