Designing the American West: Sotheby's to Offer Thomas Molesworth's Coveted Western Furniture this Spring
Sotheby’s to Present THOMAS MOLESWORTH: DESIGNING THE AMERICAN WEST An Exceptional Sale Dedicated to Over 60 Pieces of His Coveted Western Furniture Emerging from the Celebrated Collection of Ruth & Jake Bloom To Highlight Sotheby’s May Sales of Important Design in New York Public Exhibition Opens on 19 May AUCTION 23 MAY 2018
NEW YORK, 1 May 2018 – Sotheby’s is honored to announce that we will present Thomas Molesworth: Designing the American West as a dedicated auction on 23 May 2018 in New York. Amassed over the course of several decades by renowned Los Angeles-based collectors, Ruth and Jake Bloom, the works on offer present some of the rarest examples of Molesworth’s highly-coveted western furniture to ever appear at auction, and the largest single offering of his designs in more than 20 years.
Lauded for establishing a truly western interior design aesthetic in the early 1930s, Molesworth’s genius was rooted in his remarkable ability to create an idiosyncratic style that was romantic and unique, yet cosmopolitan and familiar. Exhibiting his characteristic burled wood, colorful leathers, dynamic weavings and imaginative western motifs, the Blooms’ collection is comprised of a diverse array of Molesworth’s designs, ranging from streamlined club chairs and iconic keyhole side chairs, to coveted knotty lamps and creatively-carved tables.
With thoughtful curation and a commitment to Molesworth’s signature western vernacular, the Blooms seamlessly interlaced his distinct pieces with captivating examples of Contemporary art in their serene Sun Valley-home, resulting in a refreshingly-daring juxtaposition of these two distinct genres and a timeless representation of the American western aesthetic.
The 60+ lots on offer will be on view in Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning 19 May, alongside our May exhibitions of Important Design and A Collection That We Dreamt Of: Art and Design from the Homes of Delphine and Reed Krakoff.
Jodi Pollack, Co-Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s 20th Century Design Department, commented: “We are pleased to offer this exceptional group of Thomas Molesworth furniture as part of our spring sales of Important Design in New York. Together, Ruth and Jake Bloom have assembled a remarkable collection of pieces by Molesworth, which they cleverly paired with works from their Contemporary art collection in their western retreat. The outcome was a powerful and dynamic interior that fused modernity, innovation and sophistication to emphasize the enduring appeal of Molesworth’s western vernacular. It has been over two decades since a comparable group of his furniture came to auction, and we look forward to presenting this superlative selection to both dedicated collectors of Molesworth’s designs as well as those who simply have an appreciation for timeless American craftsmanship.”
EXPLORE THE IMAGINATIVE FURNITURE THAT DEFINED THE AMERICAN WEST
The sale is led by an exceptionally-rare Octagonal Games Table from O.T.O. Ranch, Montana (pictured left) and Four Early Panel-Back Armchairs from the same commission (estimates $50/70,000 and $40/60,000, respectively). Located near Yellowstone National Park, the “O.T.O” Ranch once hosted notable guests such as Theodore Roosevelt and Marcellus Hartley Dodge (son-in-law of William Rockfeller), and is where some of Molesworth’s quintessential designs first gained traction among the country’s elite. The ranch was also one of Molesworth’s earliest commissions and one of the first establishments to market a comprehensive “dude ranch” experience to vacationers.
Distinguished by their characteristic hand-painted leather upholstery and routed tipi motif, the present table and chairs originated with this 1934 commission. The chairs are documented in an early ranch brochure and retain their original upholstery, while the charming geometry of the table is complemented by the naturalistic base, crafted from an enlarged log of Inland fir burl. This exquisite dining suite captures the essence of Molesworth’s most celebrated design features and is further enriched by the originality of its leather elements, denoting the group’s importance among his early works.
Making a rare appearance at auction is a Sofa from Indian Head Ranch, Wyoming (pictured right, estimate $40/60,000), adorned with hammered brass details and medallions, and matching Console (estimate $25/35/000). Created circa 1937, both pieces emerge from the same commission with the Console custom designed to fit the width of the sofa. While sofas and consoles are particularly rare in Molesworth’s body of work, consoles are especially scarce; the present example includes a central integrated drawer. The burls of the sofa are exceptionally large and knotty – a highly-desirable attribute among collectors of Molesworth’s furniture.
With its supple leather surfaces and vibrant hues, An Important and Rare Radio from Ragner Ranch, Pennsylvania (estimate $20/30,000) is a testament to Molesworth’s technical mastery of his craft. The rarity of such vintage console radios is marked: each example is unique and only executed by special commission. Their scarcity today is undoubtedly attributed to the small commission size, as well as the extensive time and caliber of skill required to perfect each element. Created circa 1942, the present work retains is original internal elements, Bakelite buttons and switches, while the front of the piece presents with the original cloth panels, exhibiting hand-painted Native American figures on cloth, likely executed by Molesworth himself.