John Dickinson

American (Hanford, California, 1920 - 1982, San Francisco, California)

In his illustrious yet short-lived career, San Francisco-based designer and decorator John Dickinson rarely felt limited by the purely functional aspects of design. Instead, he helped to create a world where inanimate objects such as tables, chairs, and lamps assumed a fanciful, anthropomorphic quality that eventually became his trademark.

After briefly attending Parsons School of Design, Dickinson worked for several display departments, furniture stores, and decorating firms in New York and California. He founded his own practice in San Francisco in 1956.

In 1977 Philip Schlein, then president and CEO of Macy's California, commissioned Dickinson to design his first full-scale furniture collection. Described by the New York Times as "deluxe and rarefied," the collection includes white lacquered bookcases that emulate skyscrapers, Roman-column nightstands that swivel to reveal shelving, and tables and lamps propped up by bone-like supports.


From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

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