Known for producing exquisite mid-century furniture while collaborating with artists of the period, Mastercraft was founded by the brothers Charles and William Doezema in 1945. With an eye for design and changing tastes, the firm commissioned pieces by John Widdecombe and Bernhard Rohne, the latter a German sculptor known for his acid-etched pieces inspired by a chemistry experiment while he was still a student. Hitting the auction block at Great Gatsby’s this February is an impressive six-door, six paneled acid-etched brass credenza featuring Rohne’s signature experimental texture and patterns. The credenza combines the sleek and coolly beautiful elements of Brutalism which so influenced architecture and design in the 1950s through to the 1970s.
At first a response to the utilitarian need for economic building materials in a World War II-ravaged Europe, Brutalism was popularized by a number of architects including the Swiss-born Le Corbousier whose preferred medium was raw concrete or béton brut, gaining later footing in the interior design field with the stark and oddly decorative furniture of the American artist, Paul Evans. Brutalist architecture would be later criticized as ‘cold,’ ‘inaccessible’ and the ‘antidote’ to beauty, yet Brutalism itself still serves as a unique springboard for designers and decorators when it comes to home accents.
The current lot is a fantastic example of how this style can invigorate a room. The surface of the piece is tonally rich with a honeyed patina resembling the iridescence of an oil spill offsetting the cryptic acid etching. One of the more enduring elements of Brutalist design is the honest and primal permanence to the pieces; this is furniture to be experienced while allowing age to be incorporated into the material. Brass finishes have been a popular choice for decorating since the 1970’s and have recently experienced an upsurge in demand thanks to their versatile characteristics. Consider this your chance to take some decorating risk in 2016 and invest in a true conversation piece that will offer enjoyment for years to come!