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Friday, 30 November 2012 03:54

Classic line and design has continuity through time. Good design is good design, regardless of its age, which explains why antiques are just as relevant in a contemporary setting as modern material.

Joanne and Jeff Klein, the collectors featured here, live with objects and artwork from the eighteenth through the twenty–first centuries. When asked about integrating periods and styles, Joanne, says, “I start with the house itself as an object and the pieces within make the relationships. I choose spots where I feel things will look their best and light them well so that everything is on an even footing.” She adds, “I will combine a Jim Dine lithograph with an early hooked rug. Each is seen together as a unit, but each also has its own space. It’s not about contrasting: they become almost as one.”

Thursday, 23 August 2012 05:57

Among the most entertaining objects associated with alcohol consumption are those showing the humor often associated with drinking. As production costs for ceramics, glass, prints, and other objects gradually lowered during the 1700s, such items made "purely for fun" became more widely available.

Thursday, 23 August 2012 05:54

Rich and poor, north and south, early Americans saw the world around them through a boozy haze. Where that alcohol came from—whether a fermented European grape or a distilled ear of Virginia corn; or out of a mahogany cellaret or a redware jug—spoke volumes about the person doing the drinking; and the decorative arts associated with making, storing, serving, and drinking were just as important as the alcohol itself.

Saturday, 12 May 2012 04:38
Many of the most beloved American holiday traditions have their roots in southeastern Pennsylvania, where German-speaking immigrants introduced customs such as the Christmas tree, the Easter bunny, and colored eggs.1 Last year Winterthur Museum was fortunate to acquire one of the earliest known American depictions of the Easter bunny—a rare Pennsylvania German fraktur that depicts a leaping rabbit carrying a basket of colorful Easter eggs (Fig. 1).2 This charming drawing can be firmly attributed to schoolmaster and fraktur artist Johann Conrad Gilbert (1734–1812), who emigrated from Germany in 1757 and settled in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. About 1780, he moved to Berks County, where he lived until his death in 1812.3 A similar drawing, also attributed to Gilbert, is in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg. Gilbert likely made both examples as gifts for students as it was common practice for schoolmasters to give their pupils small drawings as a reward, often in March or April, when the school term ended prior to springtime planting.
Saturday, 12 May 2012 04:34
The prominence of the fireplace in Early Republic homes was first driven by the simple necessity to heat the residence. Yet, over time, the design and decoration of the parlor hearth took on its own importance, signifying the wealth and refinement of the home’s owners. The embellishment in and around the parlor hearth centered on the inclusion of overmantels (paintings applied directly onto wooden panels above the fireplace) and fireboards (tight-fitting decorated boards used to seal off a fireplace from vermin and detritus during the summer months), merging the spheres of decoration and utilitarian function
Saturday, 12 May 2012 04:28
For millennia, humans have utilized seating furniture. The earliest surviving three-dimensional depiction of a chair is a clay model dating back to approximately 4750–4600 BCE; the oldest surviving chair belonged to the Egyptian princess Sitamun (Cairo Museum) and dates to approximately 1400 BCE. European immigrants to the New World in the seventeenth century brought chairs and other furnishings with them and began to produce chairs domestically shortly thereafter, adhering to the European prototypes. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Americans began to manufacture furnishings which, while they still borrowed classical and European motifs, had a decidedly American flavor.
Thursday, 10 May 2012 02:28
Since the late nineteenth century, California’s Monterey Peninsula and its wondrous landscape has been a magnet for artists: Its first art colony was settled in 1875 by Jules Tavernier, making it one of the longest established art colonies in the country. Once the Southern California Pacific’s Del Monte Express Railroad and the Hotel Del Monte were completed in 1880, tourism boomed and people from all over the United States came to the Peninsula. The public was exposed to a new lifestyle, new terrain, and local artists—subjects never seen in California painting before the works were exhibited in the hotel’s art gallery in 1907.
Thursday, 10 May 2012 02:23
At the base of the Blue Hills in Milton, Massachusetts, lies the Davenport-Wakefield house, its stately Federal form providing a fitting setting for its treasure trove of decorative arts collections (Fig. 1). Prosperous Boston merchant Isaac Davenport (Fig. 2) constructed the high-style “country seat” in 1794. Built on his family’s ancestral lands just south of today’s Boston city limits, the property remained in the family’s hands for more than 210 years. Successive generations contributed to the collections of heirloom furnishings and possessions, preserving them as testaments to a proud family heritage. The broad scope of collections from the house (now an educational nonprofit organization operated as the Mary M. B. Wakefield Charitable Trust) includes fine furniture, paintings, needlework, ceramics, and silver from the 1770s through the twentieth century. These were unknown to decorative arts scholars until their discovery by consultants who evaluated them after the death of the last descendant-property owner, Mary M. B. Wakefield, in 2004.
Thursday, 10 May 2012 02:15
Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first medical library, hospital, and surgical amphitheatre, its first medical school, first children’s hospital, and first college of pharmacy. In a celebration of the intersection of medicine and art, the 2012 Philadelphia Antiques Show (April 28–May 1, 2012) Loan Exhibition showcased the exceptional fine art and objects that have been part of Pennsylvania Hospital’s 260 years of history. Established to care for the sick poor and mentally ill in 1751, Pennsylvania Hospital, still fully-operational, was the nation’s first chartered hospital and is a repository of antique furniture, paintings, sculpture, rare books, and manuscripts linked to its history. Over fifty objects from or related to the Pennsylvania Hospital were on display at the antiques show, and included:
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 02:20
One of the issues that challenge collectors, dealers, and curators alike is how to authenticate a work of art that is not signed by the artist and for which there is no documentation. The portrait shown in figure 1 originally presented just such a challenge. Stylistically it has all the hallmarks of a pastel by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815), who created about fifty-five portraits in this medium between 1758 and when he departed for Europe in 1774; the vast majority of his sitters were Boston residents. For Copley, this was an easy medium in which to work and, as it placed little demand for repeated sittings, won favor with his clients.
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 02:05
Among the earliest pictorial needlework from New Jersey is a group of six created in 1804 by girls who all lived in Burlington County: Ann Stockton (1793–1828) and Sarah Gaskill (1793–1875) were from Upper Springfield; Nancy Platt (1792–?) and Ann Folwell (1791–1850) were from Mansfield, next to Upper Springfield; Mary Antrim (1795–1884) was from Burlington City, and Mary Bowker (1795–1872) was from Northampton (now Mount Holly). Five of the six girls were members of the Society of Friends, who operated some of the few schools offering education for girls (both Friends and non-Friends) in New Jersey at the time.
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 02:51
In the early nineteenth century, the newly minted American republic was a prosperous and dynamic place. Its urban centers were developing rapidly, with a newly affluent population hungry to furnish their homes in the latest styles emanating from Britain and Europe. Having been the seat of government for a decade, cosmopolitan Philadelphia supported a cabinetmaking trade that produced furniture in the most fashionable neoclassical taste. For over a hundred years, collectors, scholars, and curators have tried to piece together a deeper understanding of these beautiful objects and the talented people who made them.
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 02:45
Robert Henri (1865–1929) (Fig. 1) is best known as the leader of a rebellious group of artists working in New York City in the early twentieth century who came to be known as the Ashcan School, and as an important teacher who influenced the careers of an entire generation of American artists. He and his colleagues—a group that included George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan—championed artistic freedom from the day’s academic standards. They painted scenes from contemporary life in highly personal styles that eschewed the constraints of the popular preference for tightly detailed, highly finished works of art. Yet despite his enthusiastic support for these ideas, Henri himself painted relatively few scenes of urban life.
Saturday, 05 May 2012 03:22
The gaze of Steven Austin (1793–1836), known as the “Father of Texas” for his role in the colonization of the Lone Star State, is fixed on a wall of Texiana diagonally across the room from where his portrait hangs in this rural farmhouse. Among the ephemera on display is a discharge signed by Samuel Houston (1793–1863), who, as commander-in-chief of the Texas armies, secured the state’s independence in 1836, one of many distinguished accomplishments. Documents and maps that chronicle Texas history, from the pre-republic period of the 1820s and 1830s to when it gained statehood in 1845, cover the wall; documents in another room relate to the Spanish exploration period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The couple who brought this historic material together has been collecting for four decades and, like most people who live in the state, are proud of what it means to be a Texan.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 23:05
Set within magnificent grounds in the Sussex countryside, seven miles from the sea, is one of the truly spectacular English country estates. The seat of the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon for over three hundred years, Goodwood remains in the family while affording guests an opportunity to experience the historic architecture and interiors of the grand house and the opulent modern amenities, award-winning dining, and a range of sporting activities from golf to world class vintage car and horse racing.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:59
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) began as the Art Association of Montreal in 1860. Recognizing that the city lacked art schools, museums, and exhibition spaces, a handful of wealthy citizens formed the association to make art available to the city’s inhabitants. With minimal resources, the association was confined to hold annual exhibitions and occasional drawing classes. It wasn’t until 1877 when the successful businessman, Benaiah Gibb, bequeathed a plot of land, a sum of money, and his modest collection of European paintings and sculptures, that the association began to grow.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:55
A notable treasure of the Winterthur Library is the collection of watercolor, pencil, and wash drawings of furniture and house furnishings by the English firm Gillow and Company. Beginning around 1730 as a small, family-run cabinet shop in Lancaster, England, Gillow remained in operation for nearly two hundred years. Expansion brought more success to the company after the opening of a London branch in 1769 and the addition of full upholstery services in Lancaster starting in 1785.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:51
What is the result of bringing together Americana collectors, stellar objects, educational programs, and funding for exhibitions and cultural institutions? The American Folk Art Society.

Collectors such as Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Electra Havemeyer Webb, and Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little had been acquiring examples of folk art since the early and mid-twentieth century. Even so, by the 1970s the appreciation of folk art was still in its infancy. It was at this time that a core group of collectors conceived the idea of creating an association devoted to raising awareness of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American folk art and to celebrating its diverse range of material.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 22:41
Thirteen artisans gathered in New York on November 17, 1785, to establish the General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen, a craftsmen’s mutual aid organization intended to assist brethren in need and promote the significance of manufacturing to the local economy. Less than a year later, when the group’s ranks had swelled three-fold, providing confidence and security for the society’s sense of purpose, a committee was formed to commission a membership certificate suitable to its mission. An early printing of this document survives in the Winterthur collection (Fig. 1) as a testament to the ambitious and civic-minded tradesmen who established the association.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 16:19
At the twenty-fifth annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design in 1850, Francis William Edmonds (1806–1863) exhibited two paintings, Courtship in New Amsterdam and The Two Culprits, his first submissions since 1848. Horace Greeley visited the exhibition on May 1st and restricted himself to commentary on but “a few pictures that pleased me” in his editorial of the following day. Greeley thought that Edmonds’ entry, Courtship in New Amsterdam, was “full of quaint, deep humor” and admitted to initially mistaking it as from the hand of William Sidney Mount.1 Four days later, however, a review appeared that included a criticism of the work: