This desk chair, which Rohlfs designed in collaboration with his wife, Anna Katharine Green, is perhaps his most modernist creation, featuring a bold attenuated form and unconventional decoration. Its dramatic design creates a lithe silhouette, which is brilliantly foiled by complex pierced and carved surfaces. Subtleties such as the parabolic-shaped seat, delicate cross bracing, and complicated trapezoidal legs further distinguish this important early work.The asymmetrical organic pattern of the carved and pierced decoration of the chair's back is most unusual. Its source is the cellular structure of oak as seen under magnification. The couple had a special interest in microscopes, in part because Anna Katharine's mystery novels were among the first to incorporate crime-scene forensic evidence. The couple's admiration for the beauty of wood grain may have led them to look at oak slivers under magnification and create this imaginative chair based on the microscopic image. Rohlfs featured the family's small brass microscope in several photographs of his furniture shop, suggesting that he valued the instrument. The chair's structure and decorative motif brilliantly combines Rohlfs's skills in carving and design and Anna Katharine's interest in science, and stands as a monument to both.
Charles Rohlfs (American, 1853–1936) and Anna Katharine Green (American, 1846–1935)
Desk Chair from the Rohlfs Home
Oak; 53 15/16 x 15 15/16 x 16 7/8 in. (137 x 40.48 x 42.86 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Promised Gift of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation in honor of Joseph Cunningham