Gustav Stickley Furniture
Gustav Stickley was a preeminent figure in the American Arts and Crafts movement.
Brief history and description of designer
Born on 9th March 1858 in Wisconsin, by the age of twelve Gustav Stickley was working as a stonemason in order to help provide for his large family, yet his real passion was for woodwork. He later trained in this discipline at his uncle’s chair factory in Pennsylvania.
In 1896, he encountered prominent Arts and Crafts designers during a trip to Europe, and upon his return to America in 1897, he became a champion of the movement in his own right, founding the United Crafts of New York. He was owner of The Gustave Stickley Company, a furniture company based in New York, by 1898.
Stickley established an executive office and showroom for his furniture in 1900, renaming the building the “Craftsman Building”, and from here showcased and sold his work to a discerning middle class demographic.
In 1901, Stickley continued to espouse the beliefs of the Arts & Crafts movement by producing his publication The Craftsman, and the magazine has since been cited as hugely influential in introducing America to that movement. In 1903, he set up the Craftsman Home Builders Club to explain his ideas on home furnishings and domestic architecture.
The house plans he designed alongside architect Harvey Ellis appeared in two books; Craftsman Homes (1909) and More Craftsman Homes (1912). Stickley stopped publishing The Craftsman in 1916 due to financial difficulties. He lived until 21st April 1942.
Guide for Collectors
Stickley’s furniture was designed in sharp contrast to the decorative styles exhibited in late Victorian furniture; as a staunch believer in simplicity and attention to detail, his pieces are notable for their exposed joinery and sturdy frames.
He also upholstered his items with natural materials of either leather or canvas. Stickley's work was the subject of a major touring exhibition entitled 'Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement'. The exhibition opened at Newark Museum on 15th September 2010.
His work has also garnered great interest amongst collectors in recent years, and early works, particularly those produced between 1901 and 1904, are considered highly collectable, but are also extremely rare.
Notable auction sales
Stickley’s work has the proven capacity to sell for large sums of money. On 18th September 2004, an early Gustav Stickley bookcase sold from Craftsman Auctions for $152,750, whilst a rare desk sold at the same auction house on 24th January 2004 for $100000.
Whilst Stickley’s work often sells for thousands of pounds, there are times when the price remains within the hundreds, with an original-finish v-back rocking chair selling from ROYKA’S for $200 on 5th February 2011, and a refinished Stickley oak armchair selling for $175 from Time & Again Auction Gallery on 18th March 2007.
Two the most inexpensive sales of Gustav Stickley furniture were that of a Stickley desk chair on 20th May 2007, purchased from Forsythe’s Auctions for just $80, and the sale of a Stickley armchair/rocker, purchased for just $50 on 28th May 2011.