In Memoriam

Furniture artist Wendell Castle passes away at 85

Design East Obit
Furniture artist Wendell Castle passes away at 85. Wendell Castle with his 'Long Night' (Courtesy of Friedman Benda)
Furniture artist Wendell Castle passes away at 85. Wendell Castle with his 'Long Night' (Courtesy of Friedman Benda)

Rochester-based sculptor, woodworker and furniture-maker Wendell Castle has passed away at the age of 85 after a long struggle with leukemia. Castle is best known for his sculptural and elaborate handcrafted furniture, which was produced in a range of materials, including wood, concrete, plastic and bronze.

As reported by USA Today, Castle had been in and out of the hospital over the last two months but remained committed to the output of his studio and the production of more furniture and sculpture.

Castle was an artist-in-residence at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and taught at the university from 1962 to 1969. The artist’s workshop is located in Scottsville, a town just outside of Rochester, and employs ten people including his son, Byron Castle.

The celebrated designer was known for merging the detailing of traditional crafts with the engineering of industrial design, creating unrestricted sculptural furniture that emphasized form over function that allowed for malleability in stylistic genres and materials.

Described by RIT as the “father of the art furniture movement,” Castle was awarded a number of accolades during his lifetime, from the National Endowment of the Arts, the American Craft Museum, the James Renwick Alliance and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Castle’s prodigious output can be found across the globe, and is included in the permanent collections of over 50 museums and cultural institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

In a design statement for his exhibit at RIT, Wendell Castle Imagined: A Revelation of Creative Process, the artist described the creative process behind his work as “a voyage of discovery,” one set upon “thousands of ideas on paper, before getting an authentic one dragged up from my guts,” subject to continual invention, distortion and exaggeration.

Castle is survived by his wife and similarly acclaimed artist, Nancy Jurs, two children Alison and Byron, and two grandchildren, Arabella and Archibald.

Related Stories