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Thursday, 03 January 2013 04:18

If you have ever driven to Maine, you will have been greeted by a sign: “Welcome to Maine, The Way Life Should Be” as you cross state lines. Having lived in the Pine Tree State for nearly a decade, the owner of this collection couldn’t agree more. “My parents used to take my siblings and me to Maine when we were young and I have many fond memories of time spent in and around Phippsburg and Bath,” he recalls. “As an adult, I wanted to be near the ocean so my wife and I bought a place on Nantucket—but it just got too congested with cars and people.” He adds, “So we decided to look for a less populated coastal property. We went to Essex, Connecticut, and drove north. Every time we could turn right, we did, so that we hugged the coast. We wanted to acquire some acreage for privacy and didn’t find a large undeveloped parcel until we got to Maine.” A number of years ago he decided to make the state his permanent home, and has never regretted it.

Wednesday, 02 January 2013 00:31

To hear visitors speak about Fuller Craft Museum is like listening to someone speak of an old friend. They remember the last time they came, who they were with, and the occasion for their visit. They apologize for how long it has been since their last stopover.

Saturday, 29 December 2012 05:55

Winslow Homer (1836–1910) arrived at Prouts Neck, Maine, in 1883 a well-known, albeit critically controversial figure in the then-small circle of established American artists. Born in Boston in 1836 and trained as a commercial illustrator in the antebellum era, Homer came to national attention during the Civil War as a special correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. With the support of a close-knit family, he transitioned to a career as a fine artist while living in New York City at the end of the conflict and made a name for himself painting images of the war and producing genre scenes for an expanding nation.

Saturday, 29 December 2012 05:35

In the 2012 Anniversary issue of Antiques & Fine Art, Peter Kenny, administrator of the Met’s American Wing, introduced readers to the landmark exhibition Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in June and extends through September 9, 2012. It is fitting that this retrospective was conceived at the Met, since that venerable institution was responsible for bringing Phyfe to the attention of the American public in 1909, and ever since has played a leading role in championing his work.

Saturday, 29 December 2012 05:07

In 2011, when Purvis Young’s Mary and Jesus (Fig. 1) realized a $25,000 (hammer) price at Slotin’s Fall Masterpiece Sale, it was a watershed moment for the Miami-based African-American folk artist who passed away a little over a year earlier after a long battle with diabetes. The sale doubled the previous auction record price for an example of Young’s work. Without any formal training, or even a high school diploma, Young overcame an adolescence of crime to become one of the most important outsider artists; his work both known and shown throughout the world, and in over fifty museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia; the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Bass Museum in Miami (Fig. 2).

Friday, 28 December 2012 04:19

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.

Friday, 28 December 2012 03:56

The high ceilings and light-filled space of the entry reflect the relaxed mood of the house. Of the ensemble by the doorway, the wife claims she had no set theme but that the elements “just kind of work.” “I would find things and pull them together,” she says. “For parties we light up the torcheres.” The clock face was from a bank in St. Louis. “We set the hands to the time of the birth of our daughter.” It hangs over an early seventeenth-century Spanish refectory table. The rooster and tea tins are from two pubs in England. About the transferware vase the wife notes that she is always looking for something interesting for flowers from the cutting garden.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 06:22

World’s fairs have served to educate the public in human accomplishments through science and the arts, have forged links between cultures, and have set in motion events that might never otherwise have taken place. After his visit to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Andrew Carnegie was not only inspired to establish Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the museum’s noteworthy cast collections, he also introduced the annual Carnegie International exhibition in 1896. If it were not for the 1933 Chicago fair, James McNeill Whistler’s iconic painting Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother, also known as Whistler’s Mother, would not have traveled to the Midwest and been the star work at the opening of the William Rockhill Nelson-Gallery of Art (now the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) in Kansas City, Missouri, in December 1933.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 06:11

Much of the early American painted tinware that survives today was made between the 1820s and the early 1900s. Tinsmiths created domestic and workplace items from relatively inexpensive and vulnerable material—sheets of rolled iron coated on both sides with shiny white tin—and heavily worn objects were disposed of rather than treasured.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 05:51

In November 1962, a group of seven men in Bath, Maine, organized the Marine Research Society of Bath, to write and publish a maritime history of the area. Although the possibility of establishing a museum was discussed, most were leery of doing so, believing it would detract from the primary purpose of the organization. A few months later, Bill Mussenden and I, who had been added to the board after the initial meeting, opened the Bath Marine Museum in downtown Bath.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 05:39

The Anglo-American tradition of jewelry to mourn and remember a deceased loved one began to proliferate after the execution of Charles I in 1649, when royalists wore rings or small lockets with portraits of the king secreted beneath their clothes. After the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, the production of mourning jewelry gained ground primarily due to the increase in wealth across a larger segment of society. Rings, the most common type of mourning jewel, were usually distributed at funerals, and the typical late-seventeenth-century mourning ring was a plain gold band embossed with a winged skull and crossbones. The name, date of death, and age of the deceased were engraved inside the band, but by the eighteenth century, rings were often enameled black with the dedication in gold letters on the outside. By the mid-eighteenth century, bands took on a scrolling form as the rococo style emerged, and central crystals with hair or tiny paper skulls underneath also became common. Other common styles included ribbon slides, lockets and portrait miniatures, often with a panel of hairwork on the reverse.

Saturday, 22 December 2012 05:23

For William Matthew Prior, art was a business. While living in Portland, Maine, in the 1820s, he received some sort of art instruction that enabled him to paint in a manner that approached an academic model. From his earliest work in the 1820s until his final efforts in the early-1870s, he adapted his painting style to respond to the economic variables that affected his clientele. He created “short hand” methods of taking likenesses for many who could not afford—or did not desire—his more sophisticated examples. Prior’s decorative paintings appealed to a solidly middle-class taste and, after an early venture into the world of the art establishment in Boston, he viewed himself as an artisan, not a fine artist. He actively responded to the social issues of his time and his religious beliefs added a significant dimension to his life and work. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he never had to pursue another occupation to support his large family and he remained a painter throughout his life. Prior’s mastery of his craft—and his pragmatic marketing strategy—made art available to a previously overlooked group of Americans.

Thursday, 20 December 2012 04:30

Following his death from appendicitis at the age of forty-two, Bellows’ multifaceted career was often reduced to myth. He became celebrated as the brash baseball player from the heartland who had reputedly rejected an offer to play for the Cincinnati Reds and went on to conquer the New York art world.

Thursday, 20 December 2012 04:07

The saga of the Wyeth family stands out as unique in the history of American art. No other family has produced nationally significant painters in three successive generations. The work of all three painters of the Wyeth family is now featured in a major exhibition at the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas—the first museum exhibition in Texas since 1987 to feature the three generations of Wyeths and only includes works drawn from private and public collections within the state.

Saturday, 15 December 2012 06:35

The Federal Art Project (FAP), which opened in August 1935, was the visual arts division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created to provide economic relief during the Great Depression. In Connecticut, 169 artists produced nearly 5000 easel paintings, sculptures, and murals that were placed in public spaces such as hospitals, schools and libraries. Most of the art was not well preserved; much of it was lost and some destroyed as the Project ended abruptly in April 1943 when the United States became more involved in World War II. Today, approximately 1500 Connecticut FAP works have been located, among them several significant mural studies and paintings produced by Milton Bellin (1913–1997).

Saturday, 15 December 2012 06:06

At the mention of Edith Halpert’s (1900–1970) name most modern art dealers, gallery owners, and auction appraisers can’t help but applaud. A renegade of the modern art world, Halpert brought recognition and eventual market success to a number of unsung artists. “Some critics and dealers thought she was at risk showing the artists she exhibited during her early days, but for her it was the intrinsic relevance of the art in which she believed,” says Allan Kollar of A.J. Kollar Fine Painting.

Saturday, 15 December 2012 05:45

Tall case clocks, also known today as grandfather clocks, evoke a nostalgic sense of family and home. Acquired originally for their timekeeping properties, they were functional, decorative, and costly. Due to the expense, clock ownership was quite limited in the eighteenth century and reflected economic status. It wasn’t until the commencement of mass production in the early nineteenth-century that the middle class could afford to own the form.

Friday, 14 December 2012 04:47

For the first time in its long history, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has a gallery dedicated to the display and interpretation of the magnificent arts of Native Americans. The new gallery presents a broad overview of the diverse works of art created by Native Americans across the continent from ancient times to the present day. Many rarely seen textiles and other light-sensitive objects will be displayed for the first time, with additional examples going on view in rotation in the future. Centrally located in the new Art of the Americas Wing, the Native American Gallery is situated next to galleries devoted to the arts of ancient Central and South America, presenting a long sweep of the arts of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012 04:01

On the night of August 8, 1850, abolitionist William Chaplin attempted to carry out a plan he had successfully executed many times before—ferrying runaway slaves out of the District of Columbia, through Maryland, to freedom. The slaves in question belonged to Georgia representatives Robert Toombs, later vice president of the Confederacy, and Andrew Stephens, later Confederate secretary of state and army general. As Chaplin and the two men tried to cross into Montgomery County, local authorities descended on their carriage. Chaplin and the slaves opened fire, but managed little injury to the officers, the greatest wound falling to Richard Butt, a local bureaucrat who took a bullet in the arm. The Chaplin affair made national news; the abolitionist's bullet-ridden carriage was put on display and viewed by thousands on a street corner in Washington, and stories ran in papers as far away as Wisconsin. None, however, mentioned that Richard Butt had, some years earlier, been the proprietor of Washington's most prolific stoneware manufactory.

Thursday, 06 December 2012 04:36

Founded in 1998 by husband and wife team Judy Goffman Cutler and Laurence S. Cutler, the National Museum of American Illustration art (NMAI) is the first institution in the country to be devoted entirely to American illustration (Fig. 1). A private, nonprofit organization, the NMAI was originally built to house the Cutlers' personal art collection, an assemblage of works from the Golden Age of American illustration, a period lasting from 1895 until 1945. The Golden Age was a direct result of the vast improvements in printing technology at a time when newspapers, magazines, and illustrated books were the main source of media. No longer constrained by the limits of the medium, illustrators were able to freely experiment with color and new techniques. With assistance from the National Arts Club, a private club devoted to promoting public interest in the arts, the NMAI opened its doors to the public in 2000.