Sam Maloof (American, 1916–2009)
Object Place: Alta Loma, California, United States
Overall: 114.3 x 70.5 x 116.8cm (45 x 27 3/4 x 46in.) Other (Depth of seat): 55.9 cm (22 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Rocking chair with slightly concave crest rail; seven curved slats, shaped like spindles at either end, form back. Rounded back stiles, joined at rocker, seat, and crest rail, extend above crest. Arm rests cut with band saw to curved contour; laminated rockers; exposed joinery; contoured seat.
The “Maloof rocker” has become the most recognizable and imitated icon of the American studio furniture movement. Admired for its clean curves, graceful proportions, ornamental pinned joints, and rich wood grain, the chair encapsulates the most fully developed qualities of Maloof’s work during his nearly sixty-year career.
Maloof is a self-taught woodworker who has been called “a master of the bandsaw,” freely guiding the saw to create the curved members of his seating furniture. Although he uses some templates and produces multiples of similar design, Maloof prides himself on hand-shaping each piece. As he has explained, “design does not exist just on paper. It pervades every step in the creation of a piece of furniture.” In this rocker, Maloof sensitively handled the design details throughout the construction process. The arms are gently curved with crisp edges, the sculpted joints make each member of the frame appear to flow into the next, and the seat and backrest are ergonomically shaped to support the sitter in great comfort. Rather than seeking radical design changes, Maloof instead prefers to make slight variations and refinements to his basic formula of restrained and functional furniture.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Maloof worked as a graphic artist and draftsman as a young man, and became interested in industrial design after building furniture for his own apartment. He began making furniture full-time in 1948, and gained exposure and connections to clients after an important commission from famed industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss. During the 1950s and 1960s, Maloof focused exclusively on commission work and greatly expanded production at his Alta Loma shop to meet growing demand from West Coast clients. By the 1970s, he had gained legendary status in the field of American studio furniture, devoted more time to lectures and workshops, and earned numerous prestigious awards.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
Inscribed on underside of rear rail: "MOFA BOSTON / Sam Maloof 1975 f.A.C.C. / NO. 79"
1975, commissioned from the artist for the MFA's Please Be Seated program. (Accession date: April 14, 1976)
Purchased through funds donated by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Gillette Corporation
Reproduced with permission.