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Into the West: The Annenberg Commission by Thomas Molesworth to be offered at Christie's
Thomas Molesworth (1890-1977), A Sofa, circa 1933. Burled fir, 37 ¼ in. high, 90 in. wide, 33 in. deep. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced that the sale of Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Paintings and Prints on 25 September will offer The Annenberg Commission by Thomas Molesworth: Property from Ranch A. This comprehensive collection of 28 pieces of furniture and objects designed by Thomas C. Molesworth (1890-1977), often credited as the creator of the American Western aesthetic, hails from the designer’s very first commission near Beulah, Wyoming in 1933. It was this commission by Moses Annenberg, which would launch the furniture maker’s vastly successful career.

In 1932, when publishing mogul Moses Annenberg was passing through Beulah, Wyoming, he stopped at a local restaurant for supper and was particularly taken with the trout. The impulsive Annenberg found out where the fish had been caught and purchased 650 acres surrounding the creek, paying $27,000 in cash on the spot. Annenberg was not alone in his interest in the West; it was the Golden Age of Western Ranching in America and wealthy Easterners, such as John D. Rockefeller and Bob Woodruff, flocked there, in search of a glamorous and romantic “cowboy” experience.

While Ranch A was under construction, Annenberg was walking in the nearby town of Cody, when he came across Thomas Moleworth’s store, The Shoshone Furniture Company. An alumnus of the Art Institute of Chicago, Molesworth had been imbued with the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. As a reaction to the loss of craftsmanship through industrialization, the movement promoted small shops with a high level of workmanship and quality materials. Upon seeing the vibrant manner in which Molesworth combined rustic elements with Western themes, Annenberg commissioned him to design and furnish the entire interior of Ranch A. Though a daunting undertaking for the two-year old company, the commission resulted in 245 pieces, many of which are preserved at the Wyoming State Museum. Ranch A’s exaggerated cowboy style, combined with Navajo blankets and rugs, Chimayo weavings, and Western artworks, would consistently appear in Molesworth’s décor for the remainder of his career, becoming the cornerstone of his aesthetic.

The family of the present owners’ of the Ranch A furnishings inherited this fantastic collection from their parents, who acquired the furniture when they purchased Ranch A in the early 1950s. National Geographic Magazine later featured the Ranch with the present owners’ family in their October 1956 issue. After changing hands over the years, Ranch A, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is currently owned by the State of Wyoming and functions as the Ranch A Educational Center, a non-profit group that is charged with maintaining the ranch as an educational facility.

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