The mission of the Wharton Esherick Museum is to preserve, maintain and exhibit the artistic creations of the late Wharton Esherick so that the general public may gain enjoyment, education, and inspiration from Esherick's life work. Our vision is to broaden awareness of Wharton Esherick's work and his place in the development of American art and design, and to actively engage contemporary artists and audiences in a continuing dialogue with Esherick's creative legacy.
What We Do
The Wharton Esherick Museum ("Museum") is the home and studio of famed American artist, Wharton Esherick, and is located atop Valley Forge Mountain in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) was an internationally significant figure in the landscape of art history and American modern design. As a sculptor, Esherick worked primarily in wood, and extended his unique forms to furniture, furnishings, interiors, and buildings. Esherick pursued his artistic vision in forms that might turn to furniture or sculpture, as well as paintings, prints, and drawings. Esherick's work is also represented nationally in the permanent collections of more than 20 major museums and galleries including Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
Founded immediately after Esherick's death in 1970, the Museum is committed to preserving the artist's home, studio, and collections. In addition to the paintings, woodcuts, wooden sculpture, furniture and furnishings, the site's buildings are part of the collection. The original structure was a stone studio, built in 1926, as Esherick's expression of architecture that incorporates the elements of the local barns, the curvilinear concepts of Swiss architect, Rudolf Steiner, and Frank Lloyd Wright's organic concepts. Esherick made several modifications over the years, including the 1938 creation of an art deco bedroom; the 1940 addition of a wooden wing displaying Esherick's expressionistic leanings; the 1966 addition of a curvilinear, concrete "silo"; and the 1928 creation of a garage with a hyperbolic roof. The site also includes an expanded workshop, designed in collaboration with his friend, architect, Louis Kahn, in 1956. The 1956 Workshop has served as the private residence of the Museum co-founders, Esherick's daughter and son-in-law, and will become part of the master campus upon their passing.
In 2014, the Museum purchased the 19th-century farmhouse adjacent to the Museum that was Esherick's first home on Valley Forge Mountain before the construction of the Studio. Esherick named this home "Sunekrest" and it was where he began his family and continued his relentless pursuit of experimentation with medium, form and function. The farmhouse is a traditional Pennsylvania fieldstone house built in 1839. Esherick made several upgrades and additions to the house including, indoor plumbing, a coal burning furnace, and interior kitchen and a screened-in sleeping porch. Eventually, Esherick converted the barn into a painting and woodcarving studio used until he constructed the larger Studio in 1926. The family lived at Sunekrest until 1940 when Esherick converted the larger studio into his home.
The Museum was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was designated a National Historic Landmark for Architecture in 1993. The Museum was a founding member of Historic Artist's Homes and Studios Program of the National Trist for Historic Preservation (HAHS), a national coalition of museum that were the homes and working studios of American artists.
Today, the Museum welcomes 5,000 visitors annually and serves as an open exhibition of more than 300 of Esherick's works. Preserved as when Esherick lived and worked there, the Museum is open year-round for public viewing and scholarly research. While wood workers and architects are a key component of our core constituency, the Museum appeals to a broad range of people who appreciate his imaginative problem solving as much as his artistic vision. Approximately 15% of our visitors come in specialized groups: school tours (kindergarten to graduate school), craft groups, museums groups, architects, and others. Each year, visitors from across the United States and over 20 different countries each year enjoy the Museum and its grounds.