Art & Design Auction to feature rare works by Isamu Noguchi and Frank Lloyd Wright

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Art & Design Auction to feature rare works by Isamu Noguchi and Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright, Important weed holders, pair, circa 1895 (Lot 175; $200,000-300,000)

OAK PARK, IL.- On Tuesday, December 13th, 2022, Toomey & Co. will proudly present Art & Design, an expertly curated selection of important works by artists, designers, and architects who have helped define their respective fields for more than a century.

Auction highlights include: Isamu Noguchi's sculpture, Little Walking Box (Arukidasu kobako), a pair of weed holders by Frank Lloyd Wright, an early chest by Gustav Stickley, Pierre Jeanneret's Committee table from Chandigarh, and Ivan Albright's oil on canvas, Lobster Salad. The auction also features a range of exceptional works by Adler & Sullivan, Ernest Batchelder, Phillip Lloyd Powell, Jean Prouvé, Pablo Picasso, Rufino Tamayo, Teco Pottery, and many others.

Isamu Noguchi created Little Walking Box (Arukidasu kobako) in 1952 while staying with his new bride, actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi, in a farmhouse owned by noted ceramicist Kitaoji Rosanjin in Kamakura, Japan. Noguchi established a studio and had access to Rosanjin's kilns. In September of 1952, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura hosted a major exhibition of Noguchi's ceramic sculptures and lighting. Little Walking Box was among the works on display in this important show.

Handcrafted in Shigaraki stoneware, a clay found in the Kamakura region and dating as far back as 1192-1333, the expressive form is reminiscent of Japanese stone lamps called Ishidoro found initially in temples and shrines, but later in gardens, along pathways, and near home entrances. Taking cues from traditional stone lantern designs, Noguchi's Little Walking Box has windows on all four sides representing the sun, moon, and stars.

This Noguchi sculpture was originally in the Collection of Leonore Grace Smith Jerrems Molloy, a notable 20th century Chicago artist and patron, who lived in a lakefront high-rise building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with her second husband. Little Walking Box was displayed prominently for many years on a table overlooking Lake Michigan. It has remained in the family until now.

The two Frank Lloyd Wright weed holders in Art & Design were produced circa 1895 from copper and retain their original brown and red patina. This pair was presented to Frederick Bagley by Wright and passed down through the family. A marble importer who supplied materials to Wright, Bagley was also one of his earliest clients. In 1894, Wright designed Bagley's house in the village of Hinsdale, west of Chicago. There are fewer than twenty known examples of this important Frank Lloyd Wright form, many of which are held by distinguished institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the British Museum in London.

Weed holders were patinated in thin layers of lacquer, the same treatment used on Wright's bulbous copper urns. Wright extolled the merits of copper in his influential article, "In the Cause of Architecture" (Architectural Record, October 1928), describing copper as "the only sheet metal that has yet entered into architecture as a beautiful and permanent material […] Copper is more nearly permanent than anything we have at hand as an architect's medium." The slim obelisk shape is a prime illustration of Wright's philosophy in practical and organic design that incorporates the local landscape — in this case, for holding prairie weeds commonly found in the Midwest.

Along with the weed holders, Art & Design has several other historic works by Frank Lloyd Wright: eight dining chairs from the Edward C. Waller House in River Forest, IL; a window from the Ward W. Willits House in Highland Park, IL; a slant back chair from Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL / Browne's Bookstore in Chicago; and a cabaret table from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. In addition to Prairie Style design, the auction boasts an array of early and rare American Arts & Crafts examples: Gustav Stickley's upright chest, model 614; a writing table by Harvey Ellis for Gustav Stickley; an L. & J.G. Stickley tall case clock, model 919; a Roycroft double Morris chair; a chandelier from the Ernest Batchelder House, Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, CA; and art pottery from Teco, Newcomb College, and Saturday Evening Girls.

Other significant fine art consists of Ivan Albright's oil painting, Lobster Salad, and Rufino Tamayo's watercolor, Mujer de pie con rebozo y canasta (Standing woman with shawl and basket), which were both painted circa 1940 and, like the Noguchi sculpture, come from the Collection of Leonore Grace Smith Jerrems Molloy. Additional works by major artists include: Alfonso Iannelli's carved stone sculpture, Love Group; Pablo Picasso's solid repoussé silver plate, Tête en forme d'horloge (Clock-shaped head); Albert Paley's abstract steel sculpture, Alligator with Seahorses; a Henri Cartier-Bresson silver gelatin print; three Robert Lostutter watercolor and pencil compositions; two Harry Bertoia monotype prints; and a Robert Kipniss landscape painting.

A veritable honor roll of modern designers and architects are also represented in the auction. From the historic planning commission in Chandigarh, India, the sale has several furniture items by Pierre Jeanneret, such as an important Committee table, a Bibliothèque from the Central State Library, two lounge chairs, and eight cane chairs. A desk and stool by Jeanneret's cousin, Le Corbusier, are available, and so is a daybed by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. In American design, the sale features a pair of sculpted walnut New Hope lounge chairs by studio craft maker Phillip Lloyd Powell and two Philip and Kelvin LaVerne coffee tables offered separately. Multiple glazed ceramic and porcelain works by Toshiko Takaezu will go to the highest bidder and Edward Wormley's table lamp for Dunbar with Tiffany Studios Favrile glass tiles presents an elegant blend of styles.

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