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Large Carvings

In 1919 Wharton Esherick left his Pennsylvania home to live for a time in Fairhope, Alabama, where he first experimented with woodcut printing -- then the primary medium for producing advertising posters and book illustrations. He returned to Pennsylvania an avid woodcut artist; his sculpture and furniture making evolving directly out of the carving skills he initially mastered for that craft. Esherick's affinity for block print illustrations also had a curious influence on some of his later, larger works in wood.

For instance, the loading doors and desk in his studio (shown above ) include surface decorations that are actually gigantic wood cuts. Several authorities have pointed out that if one rolled ink and pressed paper on the doors or desk front, the end result would be passable-quality block prints.

Carved with images of local birds, the white pine doors (above, left) were used for moving wood and materials into and out of the studio area. Even their hinges and central latching mechanism were made by hand.

The drop-leaf oak desk (above, right) was Esherick's own; its front panels are carved with representations for the various kinds of trees found in the immediate vicinity outside. Much of Esherick's work is characterized by this same use of local materials and design motifs taken directly from the surrounding natural world.

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