Sassafras Linen Press

Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony (American, 1902–1915)
attrib. to Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (American (born England), Yorkshire 1854–1929 Santa Barbara, California)
Watercolor, colored pencil, and black ink, over graphite
sheet: 10 x 7 3/8 in. (25.4 x 18.8 cm)
Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of the American Wing Fund and Mr. and Mrs. Mark Willcox, Jr. Gift, 1991
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inspired by the ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Englishman Ralph Whitehead, who had studied under John Ruskin at Oxford, sought to establish his own ideal, self-sustaining art community in the United States. After a failed experiment in Oregon, in 1902 he founded the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony right outside Woodstock, New York. In 1903 he published his vision for the community: ‘[It] is our intention to make furniture of a simple kind which shall be good in proportion, and to which distinction may be given by the application of color and carving by artists' hands (…)’. This oak linen press perfectly embodies these ideas in its modest, rectilinear shape, hand-carved panels and wood surfaces finished with transparent stains in natural colors. The piece also illustrates Whitehead’s idea of artists working together and combining skills to create beautiful and honest furniture pieces. While he himself designed the outline of the linen press, the carved panels with stylized sassafras leaves were designed by Edna M. Walker, who graduated from Brooklyn's Pratt School of Design before joining Whitehead in 1903.
Inscription: Lower left: R in a circle in pencil
Lower right: "BYRDCLIFEE FURNITURE / HEIGHT 4'5" LENGTH 3'2" / SCALE 1 1/2" "
Lower right: "No 41" in pencil
On verso: "Sassefras design - / Oak-carved / $80"
Mr. and Mrs. Mark Willcox, Jr.; Donor: Mr. and Mrs. Mark Willcox, Jr.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Living in Style: Five Centuries of Interior Design from the Collection of Drawings and Prints," June 17, 2013–September 9, 2013.