American Decorative Arts
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Designer: Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings, British, 1905–1976, active in the United States 1930–64
Manufacturer: The Widdicomb Furniture Company, American, founded 1858

Model No. 1760 “Mesa” Table

designed 1951, introduced 1952

Walnut-veneered plywood, maple braces, birch blocks, and
yellow poplar apron supports

50.8 x 266.7 x 215.9 cm (20 x 105 x 85 in.)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange
2000.85.1

Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings specialized in classically informed, custom-made furniture. Around 1943, the Widdicomb Furniture Company engaged him to create a signature line, which he continued to design until the mid-1950s. This dramatic table was introduced in January 1952 and is one of the most exuberant expressions of organic design in American furniture. As a contemporary critic observed, the shape “was inspired by an aerial view of the mesa lands of New Mexico.” It encapsulated the sprawling, American landscape and was part of Robsjohn-Gibbings’s larger program of formulating a modern, American design through the use of indigenous woods, colors, and references. The Mesa Table came in three sizes (Yale’s is the largest). The commodious proportions responded to the contemporary trend for ranch houses, which featured large, multipurpose living spaces. Robsjohn-Gibbings believed ranch architecture was “modern building in its most relaxed and unpretentious attitude.” The freeform Mesa Table supported relaxed patterns of entertaining: it was low to the ground, asymmetrical, and invited informal arrangements of objects. Mesa Tables had American walnut veneer with either blonde or amber-brown “Sienna” finish. Their grand scale and labor-intensive construction made them luxury items; a similar version of this table retailed for $719 in 1952. This example was purchased for Longleat, the Princeton, New Jersey, estate of Evelyn and Robert Wood Johnson II, the president of Johnson & Johnson.

Geography: 
Manufactured in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Designed in New York, New York
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Furniture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions 2000,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2001): 149.

John Stuart Gordon et al., A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011), 375, no. 265.

Paul Makovsky, “Productsphere: Institutional Knowledge,” Metropolis: The Magazine of Architecture and Design (January 2011): 85, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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