Rocking chair

about 1912
Designed by George Washington Maher (American, 1864–1926)

Object Place: Kenilworth, Illinois, United States


Overall: 94 x 69.9 x 85.1 cm (37 x 27 1/2 x 33 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oak, modern leather upholstery

Not On View




Seating and beds

George Washington Maher and his fellow Prairie School architects designed low, horizontal houses with long banks of windows, overhanging roofs, and coordinated furnishings. Maher took the concept of unified design even further than his contemporaries with his “motif rhythm theory,” which advocated the use of a limited number of repeated elements to “bind the design together.” He argued that the specific motifs should be individualized to the home, drawn from the local landscape or personal interests of his client.

Rockledge, a summer residence built in 1912 along the Mississippi River in Homer, Minnesota, was an exemplary manifestation of Maher’s theory. His chosen motifs included a segmented arch and trapezoidal guttae (an ornamental architectural detail)-simple, geometric shapes that did not overwhelm or distract from the overall design. These subtle elements reveal his exposure to and interest in the linear and geometric work of avant-garde European designers of the Vienna Secession and Wiener Werkstätte.

For this rocker’s design, Maher used the segmented arch for the crest rail and arm supports, and trapezoidal guttae as decorative capitals on vertical posts. The imposing, architectonic form is emphasized by the wide base, tapering front-facing posts, and cornice moldings. Maher even chose the greenish brown stain of the oak to harmonize with the overall color scheme of the home, a mixture of earth tones that complemented the natural setting.

This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at


Designed for the E. L. King house "Rockledge", Homer, Minnesota; 1983, purchased from Robert Edwards, The Artsman, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (Accession Date: January 18, 1984)

Credit Line

William E. Nickerson Fund