Wharton Esherick (1887-1970)
The Important "Thunder Table" for Hedgerow Theatre, Paoli, Pennsylvania, 1929

Oak Carved signature, date and inscription: "WE+HEDGEROW MCMXXIX"

H: 28 3/4, L: 118, W: 29 1/2 in.

Provenance: Made by the artist for Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, 1929
The Hedgerow Theatre Collection

Sold for $187,500
Estimated at $150,000 - $250,000


 

Oak Carved signature, date and inscription: "WE+HEDGEROW MCMXXIX"

H: 28 3/4, L: 118, W: 29 1/2 in.

Provenance: Made by the artist for Hedgerow Theatre, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, 1929
The Hedgerow Theatre Collection

PUBLISHED:

Wharton Esherick, The Journey of a Creative Mind, Bascom, pp. 106-107

LITERATURE:

Wharton Esherick, Studio & Collection, Eisenhauer, pp. 17, 32, 35-36 and 38 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre)
Wharton Esherick, The Journey of a Creative Mind, Bascom, pp. 59-60, 106, 108-109, 120, 123, 131-136, 162-164 and 239 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre and illustrations of related works)
Wharton Esherick and the Birth of the American Modern, Eisenhauer and Farrington, pp. 30-35, 112-127 (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre and illustrations of related works)
Drawings by Wharton Esherick, Rochberg, introduction (for a discussion of Hedgerow Theatre), nos. 56-61, 66-78, and 98-105 (for drawings related to Hedgerow Theatre)

FILM:

The Hedgerow Story, a documentary film produced by the U.S. State Department, 1948 (showing the present lot in situ at Hedgerow House)

NOTE:

In the 1920s and 30s Wharton Esherick created a small number of Trestle or Trestle-type tables for various clients, including Ruth Doing (circa 1923), two for the dance camp he and his family attended in the Adirondacks (circa 1925), one for Theodore Dreiser (1928), the present lot for Hedgerow Theatre (1929), one for Hannah Weil (1931), and one for Marjorie Content (1934). The tables reflect an evolution of Esherick's earliest attempts at table design and construction, aided by John Schmidt, a local cabinetmaker who assisted Esherick for many years. In 1929 the Hedgerow Theatre Company performed Thunder on the Left, the stage adaptation by Jean Ferguson Black of Christopher Morley's book by the same name. To celebrate the occasion, as well as his daughter Mary's acting role in the production, Esherick sculpted a long trestle table, named (appropriately enough) the "Thunder Table." The table is comprised entirely of oak, with two, matched boards for the top flipped end-to-end and joined by five burl oak butterly joints, each double pinned through the table top and then partially carved out in the center so as to continue the line created by gap of the adjoining boards. Having spent much of his time on the Theatre's balcony sketching various actors on stage, Esherick carved a minimalist curvilinear drawing into one of the table board's wide, deliberately warped ends. The carving inscribes a pose by the play's leading actors Dudley Vaughn and Smith Dawless (shown below in a period photograph of the production). The table top is supported on two pairs of splayed legs hinged with a knuckle joint. The upper section of the knuckle is cut with a long dovetail, to accept a shallow mortise cut beneath the table's top. The knuckle hinge is held by a steel rod. The ability of the table legs to fold provided ease of movement and versatility of function, as the table no doubt was transported by company members within and between the Theatre and nearby Hedgerow House. The table's use is well documented in both locations. The legs are each comprised of three solid oak sections, joined by a pinned mortise and tenon. The legs present visually as a single sculptural element of geometric form. A central stretcher joins the pair of legs with through-tenon construction, keyed at opposite ends. The protruding tenon of the stretcher at each end is joined with a pin to a swing arm which is double-tenoned through the table's top. These arms operate as an added element of support at the table's ends. The V-shaped stretcher provides needed stability to the long table, affixes the movable legs in place, and creates an element of visual interest, drawing the eye to Esherick's inscribed marks to the center of each side. On one side is carved the inscription "WE + HEDGEROW." The opposite side memorializes the table's creation date in roman numerals "MCMXXIX". 1929, in fact, proved to be a productive and consequential year for Esherick during which he created the Flat-Top Desk and Chair which now reside at the Wharton Esherick Museum and a Victrola Cabinet for one of his most important patrons, Helene Koerting Fischer. The "Thunder Table", perhaps more than any work Esherick created for Hedgerow Theatre, speaks to the enormity of the Theatre's influence on him and his attempt to return to the Theatre, in this table, an expression of a shared endeavor of a life in the arts.

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