Charles Rohlfs, ‘Coal Hod’, 1900, Sotheby's: Important Design

Please note that the coal hod illustrated in the period photograph in our catalogue entry is not the identical model to this lot but rather a related model.

From the Catalogue:

Charles Rohlfs' ability to impart utilitarian objects with exquisite, refined, and intellectual decoration was unparalleled by his contemporaries, and firmly placed him within an artistic category all his own. His coal hod, or coal box, design exemplifies this talent, combining function and form through his own distinctive artistic vocabulary characterized by a highly architectural structure and conventionalized organic decorative motifs. Rohlfs produced a limited variety of this model with carved details of varying complexity. An early example executed in 1900, the comparatively subdued carving decorations on the present coal hod are a precursor to the more elaborate carvings that Rohlfs would incorporate into his later examples of the design. The original owner of this lot hailed from Buffalo, New York, where Rohlfs had his workshop, and it has remained in the same family since the second quarter of the twentieth century.

—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: carved with the maker's "sign of the saw" cypher and dated 1900

Will M. Clemens, "A New Art and a New Artist," The Puritan, August 1900, p. 586
Joseph Cunningham, The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs, New Haven, CT, 2008, pp. 89-90 (for a period photograph of the same model in the collection of the Winterthur Library and a variant model in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum)

Private Collection, Buffalo, New York, circa 1940
Thence by descent to the present owner

About Charles Rohlfs

A leading figure in America’s Arts and Crafts movements, Charles Rohlfs began his career as a pattern maker and stove designer before transitioning to the cabinetry and furniture designs that constitute his most enduring contributions. His designs fuse Art Nouveau influences with asymmetrical patterns derived from ceramics and medieval designs. The unusually slender forms he employed distinguished him from other Arts and Crafts artisans. His unique style was born of a desire to create something that he did not see at the time. “I wanted a certain kind of furniture and had seen nothing that particularly appealed to me,” he said during his life. Spending his professional career in Buffalo, New York, Rohlfs worked primarily in oak, which is noteworthy for being a more difficult wood to carve and mold.

American, 1853-1936