Woodard, a family furniture company that started in Michigan, introduced the Sculptura outdoor chair in 1956, and went on to extend an entire collection based on the successfully-received design.
What started as a wood-based production company, Woodard made the switch to metal outdoor furniture when the Great Depression and depletion of Michigan hardwood interfered with business. The second and third generations of the family, Lee Woodard and his sons, rejuvenated the brand as Woodard and Sons. Though Lee pioneered the idea of using wrought iron in outdoor furniture, it was his three sons, Joe, Lyman II, and Russell, who were responsible for bringing attention to their furniture first nationally, and then beyond. Taking a hiatus from furniture production, Woodard and Sons was producing specialty equipment during World War II, but resumed making furniture in 1946. Most designs were traditional in style, and Woodard became a preeminent name in outdoor furniture, both commercial and residential. In the 1950s, Lee’s son Russell Woodard’s contemporary design approach, exemplified by Sculptura, was a new chapter for the Woodard name, a resounding success that went on to become one of the most replicated pieces of mid-century design.
Sculptura’s production used a tooling process that was ahead of its time and eliminated typical factory obstacles. The chair, which can transition between outdoors and in, is almost a balletic amoeba in form, modern, but inviting, thoughtfully molded to cradle the human body. In addition to being comfortable, it didn’t hurt that the pieces were modestly priced, and because of the woven wire body, lightweight and easy to move around. Sculptura was available in a variety of color finishes, with the option of a padded seat. The full line included variations on an occasional chair, sofa, ottoman, and even rocking chair, but the classic armchair is no doubt the most representative of the collection. While wire chairs proliferated in the 1950s, due to emerging production technology and materials, Sculptura elegantly united modernism with the approachable.
In 1994, the Sculptura chair was added to the Cooper Hewitt’s permanent design collection. In 2015, as a response to the public’s interest in authentic mid-century design
, Woodard, now a subsidiary of Litex, revived the iconic Sculptura design collection, introducing new colors and subtle upgrades.
Vintage Sculptura pieces can be found online and at auction, in varying condition, though it is worth noting that most have held up quite well to years of exposure, sometimes refreshed with powder coat, the chairs were built to last. Pieces from the reintroduced collection can be ordered through authorized Woodard dealers and distributors.
Photos: Wright, 1stdibs
More at: Woodard Furniture