SAM MALOOF (January 24, 1916 - May 21, 2009)
Sam Maloof was a furniture designer and woodworker, the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur fellowship. Maloof's work is in the collections of several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He was described by the N.Y. Times as "a central figure in the postwar American crafts movement"
Maloof's work is in the collections of several major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 1985 he was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan have both owned Maloof rockers.
Maloof's chairs, for which he is perhaps most famous, have a sculptural quality about them, yet are also very ergonomic, and austere in their simplicity. They can be characterized by completely rounded over corners at mortise and tenon joints (which are always plainly visible); carved ridges and spines, particularly on the arm rests; decorative Ebony dowels; deep, dished-out seats (always made from several boards glued together); and clear finishes.
Maloof tended to favor only a handful of woods: Black Walnut, Cherry, Oak, Rosewood and Yew. On larger pieces, he often used Poplar in areas that would not be visible during ordinary use.
He was described by the Smithsonian Institution as "America's most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman" and People magazine dubbed him "The Hemingway of Hardwood." But his business card always said "woodworker." "I like the word," he told a Los Angeles Times reporter, his eyes brightening behind large, owl-eyed glass frames. "It's an honest word."
In 1985 Mr. Maloof became the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur fellowship; and despite such recognition, he declined to identify himself as an artist. His autobiography was titled Sam Maloof: Woodworker.