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The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs

June 6–August 23, 2009
Baker/Rowland Galleries

A protean artist, actor, and furniture-maker dedicated to the primacy of individual expression, Charles Rohlfs (1853–1936) called his unprecedented designs “artistic furniture.” His unusually inventive forms and imaginative carving combined many different influences, from the abstract naturalism of Art Nouveau styling to the pared-down oak forms that became hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movement. This exhibition—the first major monograph of Rohlfs’ work—will present over forty pieces of his best surviving furniture and decorative objects. The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs explores the artist in the context of new research that reveals his success in Europe as well as America, and traces his influence on other early-twentieth-century furniture designers including Gustav Stickley.


The exhibition is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum, Chipstone Foundation, and American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation. It is curated by Joseph Cunningham of the American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book of the same title published by Yale University Press in association with the American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.

Image:
  • Charles Rohlfs & Anna Katharine Green, Desk Chair, ca. 1898–1899. From the Rohlfs home. Oak, 53 15/16 x 15 15/16 x 16 7/8 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation in honor of Joseph Cunningham. Photo by Gavin Ashworth © American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.
  • Charles Rohlfs, Hall Chair, 1904 (detail). Oak, 57 x 18 7/8 x 17 inches. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation in honor of Glenn Adamson. Photo by Gavin Ashworth © American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.
  • Charles Rohlfs, Lamp, ca. 1904. From the Rohlfs home. Copper, brass, and kappa shell, with replaced glass; 23 1/4 x 15 7/8 inches. Private Collection. Photo by Gavin Ashworth © American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation.
  • Charles Rohlfs, Maker’s mark and date from Fretted Octagonal Cabinet. Photo © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.