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Arthur Court

1928 - 2015 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Arthur Court Obituary
Arthur Edward Court

1928 - 2015

Arthur E. Court, 87, renowned California designer, mineral enthusiast and adventurer, died peacefully July 19th at his home in California.

Born 4th into a family of eight children, Arthur's childhood and work ethic was shaped on his parent's farm in Luxemburg, Minnesota. His adventures began early in life with wolves in the woods, hunting and fishing with his father and brothers to feed their large family, and learning the ways of the Sioux Indians and Mother Nature in growing crops on the family farm. These sometimes harsh, and often magical experiences, nurtured a lifelong interest in Arthur for exploration and understanding of nature and the world around him. Arthur's childhood came to an end in 1945 when he left home and school to join the United States Navy at the end of WWII.

Stationed on Guam, and later serving as yeoman to Admiral Halsey, Arthur experienced the "litter of war" across the Pacific. The remains of battles fought, being relics discarded in the hills and on the beaches of Pacific islands fascinated Arthur. From port to port, he admired the cultures he experienced and the art and products each produced. He began collecting baskets, local art and the discarded wartime relics. His collections became so large, he was introduced to an export agent who helped him send his treasures home. After an Honorable Discharge and a brief visit home to Minnesota, Arthur's energies and thirst for adventure led him west to San Francisco, California.

In route from San Diego to San Francisco in 1953, Arthur met 16 year old Barney Bever at a coffee shop counter in Bakersfield, California. Barney, a young man with a consuming passion for geology, was heading into the desert on a lone mineral and fossil prospecting trip. Arthur, remembering the simple gifts of colored stones given to him as a child by his parents, and having no set time constraints, joined young Bever. Together they set out for what would become a lifelong bond and passion for the discovery of entrancing and spectacular minerals and fossils the world-wide.

Arthur quickly found a position in San Francisco with D.N. & E. Walters, a wholesale rug and fabric company. He thrived in the creative environment of textile design and excelled in marketing and sales. Arthur then moved on to the decorating firm of A. Winston Interiors in San Francisco and while honing his knowledge and expertise by taking night courses at the Rudolf Schaeffer School of Design, he quickly catapulted to the forefront of San Francisco's most sought after interior designers. Arthur's vision for space, color and textures was fresh and exciting. The time he spent in the Orient inspired his design style and his extensive use of mineral and fossil specimens, and other objects from nature, infused his unique home and business environments with natural elegance.

In 1966 Arthur opened his own design firm and first showroom in San Francisco at 10 Hotaling Place. The showroom quickly expanded to the full building and was a "world of wonders, elegant and exotic". Arthur Court Designs quickly became nationally and internationally known with showrooms in San Francisco, New York and Los Angles. A larger San Francisco showroom and offices at North Point and Larkin, overlooking Ghirardelli Square and San Francisco Bay followed in the years to come. Arthur's energy and enthusiasm was electrifying and attracted clients such as the Andrews Sisters, Gypsy Rose Lee, Shirley Temple Black and retailers such as Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus. Maxine Andrews was once heard exclaiming from Arthur's office "Arthur, what wonderful treasures you have in your drawers!" Maxine was marveling at the beautiful minerals Arthur had tucked here and there into shelves and cubbies in his office. Dashingly handsome and immensely charismatic, Arthur graced the near centerfold in Playboy's May 1972 issue, with a two page spread entitled "Hot Rocks".

After observing a spider walk across a foundry floor, Arthur designed a pronged stand with a sturdy base which revolutionized the display of minerals, fossils and sea shells. Magnificent mineral, fossil and shell specimens, from the tiniest fossil, most delicate sea shell to enormous mineral, quickly became a mainstay of Arthur Court Designs. After many years identifying spectacular minerals in collections around the world, the book MINERALS Natures Fabulous Jewels, written by Arthur Court and Ian Campbell was published by the Harry Abrams publishing company in 1974. The book, no longer in circulation, is an exquisite testimony to the beauty Arthur so admired in the natural world.

A new and innovative aluminum casting process for furniture and decorative accessories led Arthur and Arthur Court Designs into a new era and eventually away from the foundations of his earlier success. Arthur's aluminum furniture featured cast antler chandeliers, chairs, tables and bookcases. He also made a cast aluminum Saguaro cactus furniture line which was most unique and has not been seen on the market since.
In the mid 1980's the buzz phrase "alternative metal" captured the market. Hand sandcast aluminum serve-ware was the new medium for the up and coming generation. The pieces required no polishing, but had the detail of sterling silver. Arthur forged his own line of tabletop-ware, featuring flora, fauna and items from the seven seas. Arthur's designs were uniquely his own and they grew in popularity. Department stores across the United States brought aluminum into the tabletop area. The product was immensely well received by the public. Arthur's designs of grapes, bunnies, fish, elephants, Calla Lilly's and many more themes became favorites of a loyal following of avid collectors.

In 1991 Arthur and wife Elena founded the Arthur and Elena Court Nature Watch Conservancy which supports wildlife conservation and education.

Later in life, Arthur traveled to Africa to see for himself the wild animals that graced his serve-ware in their natural environment. He loved these trips, keeping daily journals and travel logs to tell his story.

In retrospect, the theme of Arthur's life was his love of nature, his company and the people close to him. A man of great passion, his legend and design legacy will live beyond his time with us.

Arthur is survived by his wife and business partner, Elena. Children, Gregory (Audrie), Jeffrey, and Charlene. Granddaughter Fiona. Goddaughter Sandra Bever Pierson.

Arthur Court lived intensely, he aged graciously and passed peacefully. A fine Gentleman all the way.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on July 26, 2015
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