Designer / Maker
Designed by W.A.S. Benson (1854-1924)
Manufactured by Morris & Co. (1875-1940)
Oak, with patinated metal hinges
202 x 172.7 x 48.3 cm
English (London), circa 1900
’MORRIS & CO / 449 OXFORD ST W / 1649’ stamped onto top edge of central drawer.
[ … ]; N. Asherson, 1946; thence by descent
The present sideboard (described, perhaps more correctly, as a dresser) was sold on 10 September 1946 by Heal & Son to N. Asherson, 21, Harley Street, London; a photocopy of the bill of sale survives.
A drawing by Benson for this model exists (present location unknown; reproduced, see gallery). It is thought that he first created the design for his own use in a house at Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, where he had enjoyed staying since 1898. His own version, the surface stripped of all its patination, was sold at Christie’s South Kensington, 1 July 2004, lot 83. The pattern was available from Morris & Co. as a ‘Carved Oak Sideboard, Designed by Mr. W.A.S. Benson.’, priced £35 (Specimens of Furniture Upholstery & Interior Decoration, trade cat., London, circa 1900–10, p. 30).
Like so much British Arts & Crafts furniture this dark oak sideboard combines tradition (in its form) with modernity (in its detail). Benson’s design is clearly based on a traditional oak dresser (see, for example, Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, revised ed’n, London, 1954, II, p. 224, fig. 13). The handles, strap hinges and carving, on the other hand, are an English version of the art nouveau taste then flowering on both sides of the Channel.
For an overview of furniture designed by Benson, ranging from simple cottage bedroom chests, through neo-Georgian ‘escritoires’, to grand sideboards in an English interpretation of the art nouveau style, see Ian Hamerton, ed., W.A.S. Benson: Arts and Crafts Luminary and Pioneer of Modern Design, Woodbridge, 2005, ch. 5.