Silas Kopf’s Modernist Dining Chairs Commission

Arthur Dodge January 18, 2014

This set of Modernist dining chairs was commissioned from Silas Kopf by contemporary art patrons Doug and Dale Anderson. It exemplifies the studio art movement at the beginning of the 21st century. Rooted in the traditions of art, craft and design, the studio art movement branched into art glass, studio furniture and other media. The inlay arts, though occasionally expressed as fine art, have remained most closely associated with fine furniture. Silas Kopf’s studio furniture pieces, with their natural marquetry designs, are perfectly at home in this rarefied atmosphere.

Set of Modern Dining Chairs (1998) Silas Kopf Photo: Billy Cunningham

 Now, Silas’s work, you should know, is all about marquetry, and he does the best marquetry in the country. Nobody does marquetry the way he does.

Doug Anderson

Doug and Dale Anderson

Doug and Dale Anderson are avid collectors of the studio arts, especially art glass. They enjoy being advocates and amateur gallerists for the artists whose work they collect. Dale Anderson first saw some of Silas Kopf’s pieces at the SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art + Design) show. Since then she wanted to own some of his art. When the Andersons established a second residence in Palm Beach Florida, she commissioned these eight chairs for their new dining room. The project brief called for a set of eight black chairs with modernist styling that suited their architect’s design for the room and custom glass and steel dining table. In an interview with Ms. Tina Oldknow for the Smithsonian Institution’s archives of  American Art, Dale Anderson said “Silas now made a brand-new chair [design] with these incredibly beautiful inlay pieces in it.”

 In 1999 I was commissioned to make a set of dining chairs in a Modernist design. The clients had two basic interests: They wanted the chairs to be mostly black, and they wanted bright colors in the marquetry. We ruled out solid ebony and chose to dye the wood black [“ebonized cherry”]. The brightly colored objects could have been flowers, but we settled on animals: insects, reptiles, and amphibians, amongst flowers and other vegetation.

Silas Kopf, “A Marquetry Odyssey, Historical Objects and Personal Work”

Silas Kopf With "Bad Hair Day" (Purchased by James Renwick Alliance for  the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery}

When we spoke a few days ago, Silas Kopf explained to me that at that time he hadn’t been using dyed veneers because he liked the challenge of working with natural wood tones and felt the bright colors were too strident. But, he explained “I found these chairs very pleasing when they were done. They are obviously wood, but a little bolder than most of the marquetry I had been doing.”

René Magritte

Because of the Andersons’ enthusiasm for art glass, Silas Kopf used a Trompe L’oeil technique to create the illusion of looking through the image, as if it were a LaFarge or Tiffany stained glass window.  To do this he made a mirror image of each chair’s marquetry design and applied it to the opposite side for an effect that would even bring a smile to the face of René Magritte. – [AKD :]