About This Artwork

Isamu Noguchi
American, 1904–1988
Made by Herman Miller Furniture Co.
Zeeland, Michigan, founded 1905
(note: Herman Miller Furniture Co. became Herman Miller Inc. in 1960)

Chess Table, designed 1944; made c. 1949

Ebonized plywood, aluminum, and Lucite
52.7 x 63.5 x 63.5 cm (20 3/4 x 25 x 25 in.)

Through prior bequest of Arthur Rubloff; restricted gift of the Antiquarian Society; Quinn E. Delaney Fund, 2010.227

© 2018 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This elegant Chess Table epitomizes Isamu Noguchi’s synthesis of Eastern and Western influences. The artist relied on a Surrealist vocabulary for his design, combining the soft, organic shape of the tabletop and undulating underside with a more solid, irregular base. He also looked to the gestural profiles of calligraphy—which he had studied in China in the 1930s—and to Japanese joinery techniques, which he utilized for the base’s interlocking legs. Descriptions of the table as practical for tea inspired the Herman Miller Furniture Company to begin production of the design, and the company’s 1949 catalog touted it as “ideal as a small coffee table.”

Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Annual Report (Art Institute of Chicago, 2009-10) p. 13.

Interpretive Resources

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