Harvey Ellis for Gustav Stickley Arts and Crafts Inlaid Oak Music Cabinet
Unmarked. Height 57 1/2 inches, width 22 3/4 inches, depth 17 inches.
An identical music cabinet was sold at Christie's, New York, Important 20th Century Decorative Arts, December 7, 2001, lot 365.
Comparable music cabinets sold at auction include Sotheby's, New York, Important 20th Century Design, December 15, 2012, lot 14; Toomey & Co. Auctioneers, Oak Park, IL, 20th Century Art and Design Auction, May 6, 2001, lot 1.
Harvey Ellis, An Urban House, in The Craftsman, Vol. IV, no. 5, August 1903, pp. 313-327; Stephen Gray, The Early Works of Gustav Stickley, 1996, p. 175; and David Cathers and Alexander Vertikoff, Stickley Style, Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition, 1999, p. 133, for an illustration of the present model. A related Inlaid Oak Music Cabinet designed by Harvey Ellis for Gustav Stickley is illustrated in The Early Work of Gustav Stickley, by Stephen Gray, 1987, p. 138.
Architect and designer Harvey Ellis (1852-1904) is well known for his short-lived tenure as designer for Gustav Stickley (1858-1942) and The Craftsman Workshops in 1903-1904. Ellis was from Rochester, New York, and attended a semester at West Point. In the 1870s, he worked in Albany as a draftsman and designer for the eminent architect Henry H. Richardson, often designing in the Romanesque style. He moved to the Midwest in the 1880s where he worked on several projects in Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. He returned to Rochester after his time in the Midwest and studied Japanese prints and focused on painting although he had no luck selling his paintings. Often described as a "vagrant genius", Ellis always made inventive designs envied and acknowledged by his contemporaries.
Ellis worked for Gustav Stickley only from March 1903 until his death in early January 1904. Formerly known as the United Crafts Workshop, Stickley changed the name to The Craftsman Workshops in 1903. Stickley's robust Mission furniture included honest construction, simplicity, and hammered metal hardware. Stickley hired Ellis as artist, designer and writer. Although they only worked together for a brief period, the collaboration between Ellis and Stickley produced drastically different designs than the typical Arts and Crafts furniture of their peers. Inspired by Japanese and British Arts and Crafts designs, Ellis' furniture incorporated purely decorative and stylized biomorphic inlays often depicting stylized plant forms in pewter, copper, and exotic woods. In addition to the inlay, there was also a departure from solid forms to a more graceful and delicate structure, often likened to the work of Glasgow's Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Like Mackintosh, Ellis' designs also incorporated arched aprons or the addition of curves and overhanging tops as seen in this example.
His individual and original ideas were not put in to general production and consequently, furniture by Harvey Ellis is extremely rare. Ellis only received recognition and publicity from The Craftsman, which was Stickley's magazine to promote Arts and Crafts philosophy. Even after his death in January 1904, his impact on Stickley was long lasting. Although no longer held by the Stickley family, L. & J.G. Stickley company still manufactures furniture in the Arts and Crafts style.
C A Private Collection of Important Design
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