Robert Whitley USA, 1924-2020

Works
Biography

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Robert Whitley was a third-generation craftsman who inherited his skills in cabinetry and knowledge of wood from his father and grand-father. He studied at the Trenton School of Arts and in 1948 opened the first flea market in his area as well as a business selling and restoring furniture for antique dealers, private collectors, museums and institutions. 

 

As his reputation quickly grew, he built a house and a workshop complex in New Hope, Pennsylvania, not far from his renowed contemporary George Nakashima. While their styles differed, they both believed that - in every piece of furniture they built- wood should be the most important part. Like Nakashima, Whitley preferred to use local wood. He mastered every aspect of woodworking, from carving to finishing to which he gave a particular attention as he loved to bring out the nuances of the grain of the wood. 

 

Whitley created exquisite contemporary pieces of his own design but was also commission for reproduction of classic 18th century furniture. One of his major projects was, in 1978, the copy of the historic « Resolute » desk from the Oval Office in the White House  for permanent display in the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. 

 

His contemporary works can also be found in museums such as the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C., in the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, and the in the Michener Museum, in Doylestown, PA, among others. Whitley also won many awards for his works, notably for his Throne chair desined in 1979. 

 

 

"A truly excellent design- one that is pleasing to the eye, graceful in line, and serves a practical function- will survive the trends and fads of the times and will retain its classic beauty forever." -Robert Whitley