October 11, 2015


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Lot 133: Dan Johnson

Lot 133: Dan Johnson

Satyr dining table

Designed c. 1956
Dan Johnson Studio, Italy
28.5" x 68" x 36"
Literature: A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers. B. Tigerman, ed. 2013. 132-133.
Estimate: $15,000 - $20,000
Price Realized: $20,000
Inventory Id: 20132

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While other postwar California furniture designers explored futuristic paraboloid forms and free-form biomorphic shapes, Dan Johnson (1918–1979) looked back to Roman antiquity to find inspiration for his signature furniture pieces. Born in Missouri, Johnson studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (with a brief spell as an engineering student at the University of Cincinnati). Beginning in the late 1940s, he designed for the Alhambra, California furniture maker Hayden Hall, producing attractive chairs and case pieces in smooth-edged angular plywood. Several of these were shown in Arts and Architecture magazine's feature on architect Rodney Walker's Case Study House #17.

In the mid-1950s, he moved to Rome and opened Dan Johnson Studio, designing furnishings that, as he later wrote to a friend, took "a modern approach to the ancient Roman stuff I appreciated so much." The pieces are marked by their elegant sculptural quality. The forms of Johnson's best-known works–his lithe, graceful Gazelle chairs and tables–were likely suggested by the animals depicted in early CE Roman hunting scene mosaics. The rare Satyr line of tables was inspired by images of the Greco-Roman mythological figure: part-man, part-horse, with a notably long tail, and in many renderings, equine legs and hooves. (Johnson took the further liberty of giving his satyrs a pair of tiny wings.) Both the Gazelle and the Satyr lines were made in wood, anodized aluminum, and patinated cast bronze. The 1956 Dan Johnson Studio catalogue offers three- and four-leg Satyr side tables. However, this lot is the only known example of a Satyr dining table.

Tigerman, Bobbye, ed. A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers. Cambridge: MIT, 2013. Print. 132-133.