Paul Evans, New Hope Studio Craftsman
Paul Evans was one of the most prolific and versatile artists of the mid-century studio furniture movement. Bold and dramatic, never afraid to buck convention or embrace new technology, Evans pioneered forms and production techniques that turned his furniture into functional sculpture.
Evans was born in Newtown, PA. His mother was an artist of some note; his father chaired the English department at The George School. Trained in sculpture and jewelry design at the School for American Crafters and Cranbrook Academy of Art, he worked as a silversmith before returning to Bucks County where he began crafting art furniture in the mid 1950s. Evans sold his designs locally through his studio in New Hope, PA and nationally through the Directional Furniture Company, creating full lines of furniture as well as one-of-kind pieces. This arrangement made Evans a far better known designer than had he simply offered work from his studio alone. In fact, by 1969, his Sculptured Bronze furniture had become quite the rage among New York’s avant garde. Evans relocated his growing operation to Plumsteadville, employing a staff of anywhere from 35 to 80 people.
A man of great (and restless and wild) energy, Evans created sofas, chairs, sculpture and lighting. He is probably best known for his tables and wall-mounted cabinets. He made the first of these from looped metal screens commonly described as “fish scales.” He then moved to designs worked of welded steel – interconnected geometric shapes with crisp lines and sharp angles. The Sculpted Bronze tables beloved by Manhattanites had tops of glass, slate or, occasionally, wood and radically shaped bases: cubes, arches, serpentines, stalagmites. He made tables in copper, bronze, pewter and the welded aluminum called argente and tables with bases designed to resemble skyscrapers. All challenged conventional notions of furniture design – and continue to do so, even today.
Evans’ work was included in a 1957 exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City when he was only 26 along side work from legendary Delaware Valley craftsmen Wharton Esherick, George Nakashima and Evans’ friend and mentor, Phil Powell. He also exhibited at America House and the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1962.
In the late 1970’s Evans and Directional parted company and he opened his own showroom in New York City. In early 1987, at the age of 55, he decided to retire. On March 6, he loaded his car and drove to meet his wife at his second home in Martha’s Vineyard. A day later, while watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, he passed away.
In the world of Modern furnishings, Paul Evans is a master – he’s also one hot commodity Demand for his work has skyrocketed, prices rising yearly, his designs gracing fashionable galleries and homes from Manhattan to Tokyo. For David Rago and me, it’s wildly gratifying to see such a great artist, whose work we have championed, come into his own. Paul’s not here to see it, but others, like his longtime co-worker and friends, Dorsey Reading and Phil Powell are. We love to talk about all the changes. We wish he were here to see them, too.
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