The Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern is one of the most unusual and little known treasures of the Main Line. Esherick was a sculptor who worked in wood and his residence/studio was turned into a museum soon after his death in the 1970. Surface decoration always to a back seat to functionality, but he was known to have quipped: “if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing” and the joy and whimsy in his work is evident. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and trained in painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as wood and metal working at Manual Training High School and drawing and printmaking at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. He is known for his craftsman-like approach and for blurring the lines between sculpture and furniture. He even had a room featured in the 1940 Worlds Fair. While many people have never heard of him, he had several very loyal and devoted followers who repeatedly commissioned pieces from him over the course of his lifetime.
His home and studio allow visitors to understand his vision and what it was like to live amongst his sculptural interpretations of furniture and design. In his studio, you will find many of his smaller toys and art objects as well as tables and chairs and some examples of his earlier carving work. Being in the house feels like being on a ship, with well designed built-ins maximizing the space and following the contours of the walls. The staircase is a masterpiece, in my humble opinion. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a fairly short time commitment and an unusual activity.