Ask A Worthologist Question: Oscar Bach Table

Walter F. picked up this table at a garage sale for $250. His wife loves it and wanted to know more about the piece. After contracting with “Ask a Worthologist,” she was told it dates to about 1925 and is very likely a piece by Oscar Bach, or his former partner Bertram Segar.

Walter F. picked up this table at a garage sale for $250. Its owner had said it was probably from the 1940s and that he’d just purchased it himself at a yard sale the year before from an older gentleman about 80 who was clearing his house and moving to Florida. The owner didn’t really want to sell it; he liked its style. But it really didn’t go with anything they had in the house and his wife said “it had to go.” Walter’s wife, however, is now enamored with it and wants to find out more about it and if he got a good deal or not. He contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece, its origins and value. Her request was forwarded to me, here’s her question:

“My husband is always dragging things home from yard sales and I have to draw the line on what goes and what stays, but I have to say that with this piece, it definitely stays. I’ve never seen anything like it except in old movies from the 1930s, where they show the lobby of an expensive hotel. I’m not really concerned about the value, but would like to know that, as well as who might have made it and when.”

Here’s my response.

Based on your images, your guess it’s from the 1930s is quite close. It actually dates to about 1925 and is very likely a piece by Oscar Bach, or his former partner Bertram Segar. Pieces by both men are generally marked, but you might have to look close to find them. Of the two, Bach is the best known. He was born in Breslau, Germany in 1884, he studied art at both the Royal Academy of Berlin and the Imperial Academy of Art in Berlin before embarking on a career as a metal smith.

Bach traveled extensively in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, expanding his knowledge of cultural, design and metal working techniques. Bach arrived in North America in 1911, opening a business in Greenwich Village with his brother Max and Bertram Segar, operating as Bach Brothers, moving shop shortly after to 257 West 17th Street and changing the company name to Oscar B. Bach Studios. The early works were decorative arts pieces created for the upper crust of New York and architectural pieces and fittings for custom-built estates.

By 1923, Bach had split with Segar and moved to a new location, while Segar remained at the old West 17th Street studio. Segar continued to operate there as Segar Studios, but the output of his studio was a mix of reproductions of Bach’s designs or variations on them. Segar did not mark all of his studio pieces, which causes a lot of Segar pieces to be attributed to as “Unmarked Bach” today.*

As you can see, the style of these Bach/Segar pieces is unlike just about anything else at the time, the reason being unlike a great many other studios, Bach worked in a large numbers of styles from Gothic to Art Deco, often mixing styles to get the effect he was looking for. Bach continued to be involved in decorative arts pieces until 1941 and his work can be found in permanent collection in the Minneapolis Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bach continued to work until his death at age 72 on May 4, 1957.

In regards to value, you can rest assured that Walter did well. At auction, even unmarked tables of this type attributed to Bach or his contemporaries often sell for more than $1,000.

*The Bach pieces were marked in a variety of forms. The earlier ones with a medal that reads “OSCAR B BACH / NEW YORK / STUDIOS INC.” or stamped “OBASO-BRONZE / OSCAR.B.BACH. STUDIOS.” Pieces after the split from Segar in 1923 can have a metal tag with the artist’s name in script. Later pieces from the 1930s could be stamped “OSCAR B. BACH” and tagged “BACH PRODUCTS.”

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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