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The map below guides you on a tour of Rickey’s sculptures across Naumkeag, highlighting seven outdoor pieces and one inside the house.
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Rickey at Naumkeag

Naumkeag is the ideal venue for Rickey’s outdoor sculptures, designed to interact with their natural and built environments. This historic house and gardens were the former summer estate of the Choate family, who had a long standing commitment to arts and culture. Their home was built by leading American architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, and set among inventive “garden rooms” by renowned American Modernist landscape architect, Fletcher Steele.

Rickey’s sculptures have been exhibited at Naumkeag several times. Two of his iconic pieces were included in Sculpture at Naumkeag: A Celebration of Great American Sculpture (1994) and another in Sculpture at Naumkeag (1997). This special solo exhibition, ViewEscapes (on view April 22 to November 1, 2022), curated by Mark Wilson, features twelve large-scale sculptures pictorially placed throughout the gardens, as well as six smaller sculptures and three works of arts in the house.

Who is George Rickey?

George Rickey (1907-2002) was an American artist, best known for his large-scale, geometric, kinetic sculptures. Many of his artworks were designed to be seen outside, made of stainless steel that reflects its changing surroundings, and naturally powered by air currents. His work is represented in many leading museum collections worldwide and nearby Naumkeag, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; and Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA.

Rickey was born in South Bend, IN, but lived and worked much of his life just 30 miles away from Stockbridge, MA, in East Chatham, NY. His father was a mechanical engineer and his grandfather was a clockmaker, and they both encouraged his interest in engineering and design. Rickey studied painting and drawing in Oxford, Paris, and Chicago, then became an art teacher and an artist. In the 1950s, Rickey developed his signature approach to kinetic sculpture.

What is Kinetic Sculpture?

Kinetic sculpture is three-dimensional art that moves; the movement can be generated by machines, people, or—as with Rickey’s works—nature. Rickey was one of two famous 20th-century artists known for kinetic sculpture, the other being Alexander Calder. Taking Calder’s mobiles as his starting point, Rickey combined his artistic and engineering skills to create complex types of movement, utilizing harmonic and gyratory motion to expand the dynamic potential of kinetic art.

Rickey said that “motion, which we are all sensitive to, which we are all capable of observing without having to be taught, is a sensation that appeals to the senses just as color does. It has an equivalent of the spectrum, different kinds of types of motion. I think that one can, to a very considerable extent, isolate motion as a visual component and design with that." 

1
Main House

Two Conical Segments Gyratory Gyratory IV – Seven Axes

1980, Stainless steel, 5’4” x 6’2", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Maria Lizzi
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2
Main House

Unfolding Square III

1994, Stainless steel, 18' 1 1/4" x 18", Private Collection

Photographer: Maria Lizzi

This piece is an ideal introduction to Rickey’s work, as it illustrates how his kinetic sculptures may look elementary, but are actually quite complex.

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3
Main House

Double L Excentric Gyratory III

1992 (begun 1991), Stainless steel, 13'6" x 11'9", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Maria Lizzi

Rickey said his artworks were about “movement itself,” exemplified by this dynamic piece.

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4
Main House

One Line Horizontal Floating

1994, Stainless steel, 30', Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Mark Wilson

This sculpture was first shown at Naumkeag the year it was made, and the single line format is typical of Rickey’s early signature work. 

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5
Main House

Space Churn with Octagon II

1972 (begun 1971), Stainless steel, 19'5" x 8'8", Collection George Rickey Foundation

Photographer: Maria Lizzi
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6
Main House

Untitled Circle

c. 2002, Stainless steel, 15' x 8', Collection George Rickey Foundation

Photographer: Diego Flores, Kasmin
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7
Main House

Two Open Trapezoids Excentric III

1977, Stainless steel, 7' x 22", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Mark Wilson, Naumkeag
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8
Main House

Two Open Triangles Up

1982, Stainless steel, 9'8" x 57" x 9", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: David Lee

Rickey expanded his compositional repertoire from lines to other geometric shapes, including squares, circles, and triangles.

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9
Main House

Nuages VI

1968 (begun 1966), Stainless steel, 51" x 47”, Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: David Lee

“Nuages” is the French word for clouds, and is a notable direct reference by Rickey to natural phenomena.

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9
Main House

Four Open Rectangles Diagonal Jointed Gyratory V

1995–2004, Stainless steel, 9'1" x 46", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Maria Lizzi
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10
Main House

Ten Rotors Ten Cubes II

1971, Stainless steel, 11' x 46 1/2" x 26", Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Maria Lizzi

Some of Rickey’s pieces are correlated to their specific setting, such as this especially animated sculpture.

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11
Main House

Space Churn Red

1968, Stainless steel and painted mild steel, 13' x 6', Collection George Rickey Foundation

Photographer: David Lee

The Space Churn series is one of Rickey’s rare direct references to current events in his body of work.

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12
Main House

Horizontal Column of Seven Squares Excentric

1996, Stainless steel, 28 3/4' x 15', Collection George Rickey Estate

Photographer: Maria Lizzi

This piece, a larger version of the one displayed in this pond at Naumkeag in 1996, demonstrates how Rickey manipulated movement, time, and language.

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Rickey Naumkeag was developed by Lisa Beth Podos with the assistance of Amanda Duquette, Maria Lizzi, Amanda Perry, Victoria Petway, and Hilary Vlastelica.
© George Rickey Foundation, Inc.