WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)
WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)
WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)
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WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)
13 More
WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)


WENDELL CASTLE (1932-2018)
Unique Dining Table and Set of Ten 'Apollo' Chairs, 1979
cherrywood, original leather upholstery
with two leaf extensions
each chair signed and dated W. Castle '79
28 ¼ in. (71.7 cm) high; 71 ½ in. (181.6 cm) wide; 65 in. (165.1 cm) deep, excluding leaf extensions
Private collection, acquired directly from the artist
Thence by descent to the present owner
E. Eerdmans, Wendell Castle: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1958-2012, New York, 2014, p. 176 for the chairs, p. 195 for the dining table illustrated

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Alex Heminway
Alex Heminway

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Lot Essay

This lot is offered together with original drawings, correspondences with the artist, and period photographs of the present lot.

Wendell Castle (1932 – 2018) was, and remains, one of the most revered craftsmen in American history. His genius is reflected in the many awards he won throughout his life including the American Craft Council Gold Medal in 1997 and a lifetime achievement award for Excellence in Design from the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2007. In addition to this, Castle’s work can be seen in several permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Art Institute (Chicago), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) among others; all of which highlight his incredible 60-year career of creating objects in wood that were both practical and sculptural, utilitarian in addition to being true works of art.
Born and raised in Kansas, Castle studied at the Department of Design at the University of Kansas before becoming a pupil of American artist and woodworker Wharton Esherick, a leading figure in the American Studio Crafts Movement. From 1959, he began to make his own furniture and as soon as the early 1960s word had spread of his skill as a craft artist. However, Castle’s career arguably peaked when he began to explore organic shapes in his work in which he built upon his technical capability and aesthetic understanding while departing from more long-standing woodwork practices in favor of an abstract approach to his designs.
Castle moved to Rochester, New York in 1962 where he was appointed an instructor and later an Artist in Residence at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It was there that he refined the innovative process of woodworking that he called “stack lamination.” By creating and assembling pre-sawn wood blocks, rather than carving objects from large single pieces of wood, Castle was free to design and produce practically any biomorphic form he could imagine.
Created in 1979, the outstanding unique dining table offered here for a private commission, with its ten accompanying chairs, aptly demonstrate how Castle perfected the “stack lamination” technique over time. Made of cherry wood, the table was designed with a carved wooden hinged pivot in order to spread open and allow the insertion of two fan-shaped leaves. The superbly carved double pedestal displays the highly organic sculptural quality that epitomize his finest works. The pedestals, designed to emulate each other while maintaining their own distinctive forms, suggest positive and negative space depending on whether the table is closed or fully extended.
Having been trained in both fine arts and industrial design, Castle’s work explores the productive relationship between fine arts and functionality. In doing, so his work constantly challenged the limits of the materials he was working with, as well as his imagination. This is clear when looking at the dining table and suite of chairs which surpass the limitations of furniture. Instead, the design which is bold in concept, is a marriage of function and sculpture.
The table, set on a sculptural base, and chairs resemble organic shapes; irregular and imperfect. No two chairs are the exact same just as all organic shapes differ slightly from one another. Together, the organic pieces become an amalgamation of natural forms that, when assembled in different combinations, commands the attention of the space they are in and resemble anything from a plant, to an animal, to a shell. In using these organic shapes, Castle manages to evoke movement in its still form; the work is far from static and, at a glance, appears alive. In this regard, the masterful table and chair’s curved and flowing lines appear to be a celebration of playfulness and uncertainty for which Castle was best-known. It was this attitude that drove him to seek excellence throughout his life and in his creations.

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