Model No. 1760 "Mesa" Table Designer: Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings (British, 1905–1976, active United States, 1930–64)
Manufacturer: Widdicomb Furniture Company (American, founded 1858)

designed 1951, introduced 1952

American Decorative Arts

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design


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.

Medium

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

Dimensions

20 × 105 × 85 in. (50.8 × 266.7 × 215.9 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange

Accession Number

2000.85.1

Culture
Period

20th century

Classification
Disclaimer

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 records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

Sold to Evelyne Vernon Johnson (1900–1996) and Robert Wood Johnson II (1893–1968), Princeton, N.J., around 1952 [note 1]; transferred to the Estate of Evelyne Vernon Johnson, Princeton, N.J., 1996; sold to Adam Edelsberg, Providence, R.I., 1999; sold to Mark McDonald, Gansevoort Gallery, New York, N.Y., 1999; sold to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2000

Note 1. The table was part of the furnishings of Longleat, the home the Johnsons built in 1946.
Bibliography
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 240–41, no. 115, ill
  • 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
  • "Acquisitions 2000," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2001), 149
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

tables (support furniture)

Marks

"WIDDICOMB / designed by / T. H. ROBSJOHN-GIBBINGS," on label glued to underside; "3 / 52" and "1760" stenciled in black above label; "13L," stamped on underside at the narrow end.

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