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New England was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was also a prime location for the rise of the middle class and evolution of the American folk art movement.

These elements of 19th century American life are documented in a new exhibition Folk Art, Lovingly Collected, on view at the Worcester Art Museum July 15-Nov. 29.

It features more than 40 works from an important private collection, based in central Massachusetts that is recognized as one of the best of its kind in existence.

Published in News
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 16:28

Folk Art: Silent Companions

It is 1777 and the British Army has just occupied Philadelphia. You are visiting friends outside of the city. You arrive in the black of night. The front door opens and you are expecting to enter a warm home of like-minded patriots. Instead, you see a figure in a brightly colored red uniform casting an ominous shadow in the candle-lit entrance. You turn and run, thinking the Redcoats have reached this safe haven. Only later do you discover you were surprised by a painted wooden object. This is a trick that...

Published in News
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 13:28

A Way of Life: Adventures in Collecting

Long before this quiet New Jersey couple met, little did they know that together they were destined to form one of the greatest collections of folk art in America. As a teenager, the wife saved her babysitting money to purchase her first piece—a small side table, at which her mother just shook her head. The husband grew up on a ranch in Nevada where he learned the skills to become a superb woodworker, gaining an understanding for the craftsmanship involved in antiques.

Their prairie-style home is set on a secluded hilltop and houses just a portion of their...

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This remarkable secretary was the centerpiece of Allan and Penny Katz’s booth at the 2015 Winter Antiques Show this January. Alyce Perry Englund, the Richard Koopman Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, was among the many struck by the historic value and artistry of the secretary; the museum acquired the piece soon after the show. “We are thrilled to add this stunning piece to the collection,” says Englund, adding, “In addition to the exquisite craftsmanship, it tells a story so tragic and deeply-rooted in our country’s heritage, it is a treasure to behold for art and history buffs alike.” Allan Katz remarked...

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Since 1984, Cullman & Kravis has been crafting elegant yet inviting interiors that exude a “modern traditional” aesthetic. From posh penthouses to breezy beach homes and sophisticated ski retreats, every  Cullman & Kravis interior...

To continue reading this article about Cullman & Kravis' Top InCollect picks, visit

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Barbara Westbrook of Atlanta’s Westbrook Interiors believes that when it comes to designing a home, comfort is one of the most important considerations. An expert at crafting incredibly inviting spaces, Westbrook’s elegant yet effortless interiors reflect the character of the home as well as her clients’ tastes. Whether she is working on a traditional, transitional or contemporary project, Westbrook manages to cultivate a...

To continue reading this article about leading interior designer Barbara Westbrook's top InCollect picks, visit

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The charming folk portrait of a little girl in a blue dress holding an orange has been a part of my life for over forty years. It was purchased in the early 1970s by my mother, Peggy Schorsch, from Kenneth and Stephen Snow, well-known father and son antiquarians from Newburyport, Massachusetts. The Snows had acquired the portrait locally. It was believed to have been painted by an itinerant artist who had lodged with the family of the little girl in Newburyport over several weeks, during which time he also painted portraits of her parents. These details were bolstered by an inscription on the back of the canvas...

Continue reading this article about folk art portraiture by David A. Schorsch on

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Fraktur—decorated Germanic manuscripts and printed documents—have long been admired as an extraordinarily vibrant and creative art form (Fig. 1). A European tradition brought to America by German-speaking immigrants, who began settling in southeastern Pennsylvania in 1683, fraktur are among the most distinctive and iconic forms of American folk art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art was one of the first major institutions to collect Pennsylvania German fraktur and decorative arts. In 1897, then-curator Edwin Atlee Barber acquired the museum’s first fraktur and, in 1929, the museum opened to the public the first period rooms of Pennsylvania German art. Many of the furnishings were donated by J. Stogdell Stokes, with additional furniture, ironwork, textiles, redware, and other objects acquired from Titus C. Geesey. The museum’s fraktur were never on par with the rest of the collection, but with the recent promised gift of nearly 250 fraktur from the collection of Joan and Victor Johnson (Fig. 2), the museum’s fraktur collection is now one of the finest in the country.

The Johnsons, Philadelphia natives, began collecting fraktur nearly sixty years ago, initially to help fill the walls of a historic farmhouse they bought and restored after their marriage in 1955. Joan, who studied contemporary art at Goucher College, loved the Bauhaus and planned to collect accordingly—but Victor, who worked in the computer industry, didn’t want to live with modern art.

Visit to read more about Pennsylvania German Fraktur.

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A stunning presentation of American folk art made primarily in rural areas of New England, the Midwest, and the South between 1800 and 1925 opened at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City March 28. "A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America" celebrates art rooted in personal and cultural identity and made by self-taught or minimally trained artists and artisans. Drawn from the prestigious collection of Barbara L. Gordon, "A Shared Legacy" highlights 63 outstanding examples of American folk art. Vivid portraits, still lifes, and landscapes, as well as distinctive examples of painted furniture from the German American community, carved boxes, sculpture and decorative arts of the highest quality offer an introduction to more than a century of America’s rich and diverse folk art traditions and exemplify the breadth of American creative expression.

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Bill Traylor (1853-1949), one of the most celebrated self-taught artists, spent most of his life as a sharecropper on the Alabama plantation where he was born. Traylor’s talent as an artist emerged suddenly after he left the plantation for Montgomery, where he took up residence at the Ross Clayton Funeral Parlor. After sleeping on a pallet among the caskets, Traylor would spend his days drawing, attracting spectators and children from the neighborhood. According to the book Bill Traylor, Unfiltered, published by Just Folk, “It is a mystery as to what could have motivated an 83-year-old man, born into slavery, who could not read or write, and had no training or exposure to art, to pick up a pencil and a straight-edged stick and start drawing figures on discarded cardboard in the spring of 1939. What is even more amazing is that, from that point, he almost never stopped drawing for the next three years, creating an incredible output of work, which is estimated at 1,2001,600 pieces.”   

Visit to learn more about the Met's Bill Traylor exhibit.

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