Category: Scholarship

Fulling “Country Cloth” in the Early Republic

Eliza West, an independent scholar from Richmond, VT, was a Carolyn and Michael McNamara Young Scholar Lecturer at Colonial Williamsburg’s 72nd Annual Antiques Forum in February 2020, an opportunity sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust. As part of her thesis research in the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, West investigated the process of “fulling” wool for different types of 18th-century garments in her presentation Keeping it Close to Home: Fulling “Country Cloth” in the Early Republic

Enjoy this recording of West’s lecture on our YouTube channel

Read this Antiques Forum blog post for more information about the 2020 event, and visit the Decorative Arts Trust website for more information about emerging scholar lecture grants. The Decorative Arts Trust has many other initiatives supporting Emerging Scholars. For updates, sign up for the Trust’s e-newsletter or follow us on social media

John Wentworth and 18th-Century New Hampshire Design

by Steven McNeil

A Decorative Arts Trust Summer Research Grant supported research for my doctoral thesis examining the residences built for the Governors of Canada’s Maritime Provinces during the early 19th century. I have focused on the objects that were commissioned for and installed within these residences, as well as the design and use of the interior spaces of the residences. My thesis argues that these residences were both important centers of artistic patronage and sites through which Governors could cultivate identities through material objects. 

The earliest and most elaborate of these residences was built at Halifax, Nova Scotia, between 1800 and 1808, under the direction of Sir John Wentworth (1737-1820), Governor of Nova Scotia from 1792 to 1808. Wentworth previously served as the last Royal Governor of New Hampshire from 1767 to 1775. A crucial part of my research included learning as much as possible about the spaces and objects Wentworth surrounded himself with in New Hampshire. The grant from the Decorative Arts Trust allowed me to visit multiple sites and collections throughout New Hampshire to view first-hand the material evidence of Wentworth’s tenure as the last Royal Governor of New Hampshire.  

In Hanover, I went to the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College to view the pastel portrait of John Wentworth by Copley and an amazing silver Monteith donated by Wentworth to Dartmouth’s first President.  

In Concord, I visited the New Hampshire State Archives where I was able to consult original 18th-century inventories of the grand house Wentworth built at Wolfeboro, NH. I visited the New Hampshire Historical Society, also in Concord, to see a range of objects, including silver and porcelain, that once belonged to Wentworth and his wife, Frances Deering Wentworth. An ivory miniature portrait depicts the Wentworths’ son, Charles Mary Wentworth. An 18th-century sign once hung outside the Wolfe Tavern, owned by a Wentworth family member and used as a rest stop during trips between the Wentworth houses in Portsmouth and Wolfeboro. The NHHS owns a number of portraits commissioned by Governor Benning Wentworth (John Wentworth’s uncle). 

In Portsmouth, I visited the Portsmouth Athenaeum, where I was able to study the library of 18th-century architectural books that belonged to John Wentworth’s brother-in-law, John Fisher, and were hugely important to Wentworth’s architectural patronage. At the Moffatt-Ladd House, also in Portsmouth, I was able to view and study first-hand an amazing set of Chinoiserie furniture that was once owned by the Wentworth family; to visit the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion that was occupied by John Wentworth’s aforementioned uncle, Governor Benning Wentworth, and to visit the John Wentworth House (now a private retirement home), where one room has retained original flock damask wallpaper installed during his occupancy. 

The trip was absolutely amazing and allowed me to see many objects and historic interiors that have proved crucial to my doctoral research in the Art History program at Queen’s University, Kingston, in Ontario, Canada, and most importantly, to see and learn from objects first hand.  

The Decorative Arts Trusts offers grants, scholarships, and many more opportunities for young researchers and curators as part of the Emerging Scholars Program. To support this program, consider becoming a member of the Trust.

Studying Southern Ceramics from Newcomb Pottery and Lycett Studios

by Elyse D. Gerstenecker

A Marie Zimmermann Summer Research Grant allowed me to travel to several collections and archives in Louisiana and Georgia essential to my PhD dissertation in the University of Virginia’s Art & Architectural History department. 

Titled “In Some Way Southern: Lycett Studios, Newcomb Pottery, and Design in the New South, 1883-1910,” this dissertation resituates these stylistically divergent ceramic producers within the dynamic context of the post-Reconstruction South. Probing their chosen design vocabularies and their emulation of ceramic and artistic production in the Northeast, my research asserts that the manufacturers’ production signals emerging Southern identities to their consumers and can potentially be viewed as expressions of competing cultural hegemonies.

The Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University proved a fruitful starting point for surveying Newcomb Pottery’s ceramic production from 1895 to 1910. I examined a wide range of forms, including several early works. Particularly significant is a porcelain Limoges plate painted in 1895 that evinces the similarities between Newcomb’s artistic practices and those of Lycett. Close analysis directed my attention to details such as the body’s thickness and the ornament’s textural finishes. Several of the objects retain their original labels, which, in my view, signify both their status as art objects and their depiction of “exotic” subjects in need of translation to the viewer.

This research has also afforded further consideration of the design languages in which Newcomb Pottery participated. For example, the designs’ linearity, saturation of color, and high-gloss glaze suggest strong aesthetic relationships to contemporaneous stained glass and graphic design that were also influenced by japonisme.

Archival research was equally productive. Tulane’s University Archives contained numerous illuminating period articles on the Pottery, but most important for this dissertation are the pamphlets from the Pottery’s early period that promote a narrative of the products as particularly “Southern” and unique.

I then traveled to Georgia to examine painted china from the Lycett Studios, as well as to delve into local archival materials. At the Atlanta History Center, I studied Lycett’s famed “white and gold” ware (ornament and monograms painted in gold on white porcelain) to ascertain the range of porcelain forms that Lycett imported and modes of gilt ornament. I also viewed several examples of specialty work. Tracing the Lycett Studios’ company history and local advertisements has led me to question some of the prevailing assumptions about the company’s structure.

In Athens, GA, I analyzed a group of showpiece Lycett china at the Georgia Museum of Art and met with Dale Couch, Curator of Decorative Arts, to discuss the project. Seeing Lycett china in person prompted and renewed questions about the relationship, or lack thereof, between form and ornament on the objects, the continued regional popularity of European porcelain from the Antebellum period, the scale of monograms and their relationship to familial heritage, and the significance of gilding. 

Because my dissertation relies upon close object analysis, the grant from the Decorative Arts Trust and the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund was critical to my progress.

The Decorative Arts Trusts offers grants, scholarships, and many more opportunities for young researchers and curators as part of the Emerging Scholars Program. To support this program, consider becoming a member of the Trust. 

Lecture Recordings for 2020 NYC Emerging Scholars Colloquium Now Available

A sold-out audience enjoyed the fourth annual Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York on January 26, 2020. Hosted in conjunction with the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and sponsored in part by the Wunsch Americana Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Ayres, III, the Colloquium was held at the lovely George F. Baker Carriage House. 

Attendees were inspired by the recent research presented that day, and the Decorative Arts Trust is delighted to share these recordings: 

Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing

Katherine C. Hughes, Peggy N. Gerry Research Scholar, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Eameses and The Case Study House Program: Introducing Scandinavian Design to Mid-Century America

Rachel Pool Fillhouer, History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

A Tale of Two Families: An Engraved Tea Service in Antebellum Augusta, Georgia

Kayli Rideout, American Studies, Boston University

If you enjoy these recordings, please check out our YouTube channel to view more content.

Read more about this program in the 2020 Emerging Scholars Colloquium blog post. View our online calendar of events to learn more about the Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York and New York Antiques Weekend. Also see our Emerging Scholars Program information to learn how to support or apply for grants, internships, and awards from the Decorative Arts Trust. For the latest news and updates, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media

Blanche Lazzell, Patty Willis, and American Modernist Design

by Alison Printz 

A Decorative Arts Summer Research Grant supported by the Center for American Art allowed me to make concrete connections that constitute the basis for a chapter of my dissertation on Modern Appalachian Art. This research created an opportunity to expand conversations of regionalisms in American Art to include the Appalachian region. 

Thanks to the grant, I studied American modernist works by Blanche Lazzell at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), The Art Museum at West Virginia University (WVU), and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Additionally, I studied the work of Patty Willis, a contemporary and friend of Lazzell, who worked in similar mediums and locations.

Lazzell spent much of her life traveling between her home in West Virginia and Provincetown, MA, New York, NY, and Pittsburgh, PA, but remained informed by her heritage. I was first struck by Lazzell’s work when I encountered Zinnias, a woodcut from 1920, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After examining Appalachian images in my doctoral studies at the Tyler School of Art, Lazzell quickly became a prime example of regionalism through her Provincetown print method and paintings, combining sleek design elements with rustic botanical depictions specific to Appalachia. I viewed Zinnias in conjunction with several other works created for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s, including The Blue Jug from 1937, and was able to see her methods continue as her career developed. 

Through my research in the MoMA archives, I discovered that Lazzell was involved in a large show of WPA works in 1936, New Horizons in American Art, curated by Holger Cahill, who was the national director of the WPA. I was able to view the show’s catalog and curatorial files. 

In Morgantown, WV, I met with Bob Bridges, the director of the Art Museum of WVU and one of the authors of Lazzell’s catalog raisonné. WVU holds the largest public collection of Lazzell’s work, and I was able to view several prints and paintings, including her 1934 mural, Justice, for the county courthouse in Morgantown. Although working within the confines of a government-funded, large-scale project, Lazzell incorporated Cubist elements and stayed true to her artistic style. 

I focused on the work of Lazzell’s contemporary, Patty Willis, in Jefferson County, WV, cataloging her large collection of work in tandem with her estate. Willis shared training abroad with French artists Fernand Legér and Albert Gleizes, contributing to their Cubist variants in design. In preparation for an upcoming show at WVU, I attempted to make connections between Willis and Lazzell through both craft and fine art, and, fortunately, they share many. 

This Summer Research Grant allowed me to explore connections in design, Cubism, and Appalachian Regionalism through the works of Blanche Lazzell and Patty Willis. Their careers were informed by American Art and the transnational exchange with Europe but remained true to the regional aesthetic of their West Virginia roots.

Scholars Speak About Daniel Clay Furniture, Face Vessels, and Fulling Cloth at 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum

One of the highlights of the year in the decorative arts field is the Annual Antiques Forum hosted each February at Colonial Williamsburg.

During the 72nd Annual Antiques Forum, Decorative Arts Trust staff, as well as 150 of our members, enjoyed catching up with colleagues and meeting new enthusiasts in curatorial, research, design, and appraisal roles. 

Forum participants especially appreciated the Carolyn and Michael McNamara Young Scholar Lectures (sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust) on Monday, February 24. Colonial Williamsburg Deputy Chief Curator (and Trust Governor) Margaret Beck Pritchard presided over the session, introducing the audience to the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program and the new Decorative Arts Trust Prize for Excellence and Innovation

Sarah Bryan, Daniel Sousa, and Eliza West speak at the 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum
Sarah Bryan, Daniel Sousa, and Eliza West speak at the 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum

The lectures began with Eliza West, an independent scholar from Richmond, VT, presenting Keeping it Close to Home: Fulling “Country Cloth” in the Early Republic. She studied colonial documentation and images to investigate the process of fulling wool for women’s garments (such as petticoats) and men’s garments (such as jackets). By working with expert craftspeople and using the scientific method and her parents’ washing machine, Eliza was able to recreate texture and shrinkage comparable to 18th-century records. She brought samples of the original woven wool cloth and two treatments of the “fulled” wool for Forum audiences to see up-close. 

North Carolina Folklife Institute Executive Director Sarah Bryan spoke about John Bull, Esquire: Reconsidering the Origins of a Southern Face Vessel. She shared her research into determining the maker of a face vessel with the words “John Bull, Esqr.” incised. The jug resembles several other face vessels but not precisely enough to definitively attribute it to one potter or pottery. The fact that “John Bull” was a personification of Great Britain and that this vessel is missing a protruding tongue further add interest and mystery to this distinctive object. 

Daniel Sousa, Assistant Curator at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts, lectured on “Keeping it in the Family”: The Furniture of Daniel Clay, 1795-1829. He analyzed furniture passed down through generations of a family to gain an invaluable understanding into how objects were used in homes over the centuries. 

The presentations were followed by a lively reception where Trust members mingled with the speakers, staff, and other attendees passionate about the decorative arts and material culture. 

Other highlights of the 2020 Antiques Forum included visiting the expansive new Art Museum galleries, learning about the Carter House restoration, and interacting with the Custis Square archaeological investigation. Colonial Williamsburg announced that a group of donors created an endowment for the position of curators of maps and prints, which will be named in honor of the aforementioned Margaret Pritchard. Also, Decorative Arts Trust Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow was pleased to present a lecture to the Vintage Ladies of Williamsburg on the country houses of Yorkshire. 

The Decorative Arts Trust has many other initiatives supporting Emerging Scholars and educational travel programs about the decorative arts. For updates, sign up for the Trust’s e-newsletter or follow us on social media

Erica Lome Named Concord Museum Curatorial Associate as Part of Decorative Arts Trust Curatorial Internship Grant

The Concord Museum and the Decorative Arts Trust are pleased to announce that Erica Lome will be joining the Museum’s curatorial staff as part of a two-year Curatorial Internship Grant funded by the Decorative Arts Trust. 

As part of the New Museum Experience, the Concord Museum is implementing a 16-month initiative to redesign, fabricate, and install 14 new galleries. As Curatorial Associate, Erica will be involved in this exciting undertaking and will assist with collections research, writing and editing text, installation, maintaining project schedules and analyzing visitor experience.

“The Museum is honored to have been chosen by the Decorative Arts Trust for this prestigious two-year grant that will bring Erica to Concord to assist us in our dramatic re-design of our permanent galleries,” stated Tom Putnam, Edward W. Kane Executive Director.

Erica Lome cataloging and photographing New England furniture for the Boston Furniture Archive

Erica has worked at Winterthur Museum’s Boston Furniture Archive; Nemours; and the New York Historical Society. She is currently completing her doctorate at the University of Delaware. Her dissertation “Heirlooms of Tomorrow: Consuming American Reproduction Furniture, 1890-1945” explores the reproduction furniture trade during the Colonial Revival. She earned her undergraduate degree in Art History and Master of Arts in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture at Bard. She is also the recipient of a Summer Research Grant from the Decorative Arts Trust and has written a number of articles for academic and antique journals. Her article, “The Many Reproductions of Elder Brewster’s Chair,” was featured in the Winter 2019-2020 issue of The Magazine of The Decorative Arts Trust, and she will serve as the John A.H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecturer in the Trust’s upcoming symposium in Kentucky, where she will lecture on the African American craftsman Milton Paul. 

The Decorative Arts Trust is passionate about helping to create opportunities for up-and-coming curators through the Emerging Scholars Program. The Program is supported by Trust members and donors. For updates on application deadlines and other news, sign up for the e-newsletter and follow the Trust on social media

Concord Museum image by Chuck Choi


Colloquium Features Newport Scholars and Historic Home Tours

The Decorative Arts Trust was honored to partner with the Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) once again for an Emerging Scholars Colloquium in Newport, RI.

On Saturday, February 8, 2020, three decorative arts scholars shared their recent research at the historic Isaac Bell House.

The Isaac Bell House was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White in 1883 for Isaac Bell, a wealthy cotton broker and investor. After passing through a succession of owners, PSNC purchased the house in 1996. One of the best surviving examples of Shingle Style architecture in the country, the house visually represents the search for an American mode of architectural design and is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Isaac Bell House, Newport, RI
Isaac Bell House, Newport, RI

Mathilde Tollet began the Colloquium’s presentations with her lecture “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport.” Tollet (2018 M.A., Museology & Conservation, l’Ecole du Louvre, Paris, and Complutense University, Madrid) is a 2020 PSNC Research Fellow. She spoke about how the gilded bronze “trophies” on the railing along the Jules Allard-designed main staircase depict mythological themes: Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion, Tritons fighting a sea monster, the shield of the Amazons and the Medusa. Mathilde studied the original models for these designs, which are based on sculptures in a garden at Versailles, and has seen drawings  from the late 17th century by the original sculptors that match the images in the Marble House bronzes.

Mathilde Tollet presents “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport”
Mathilde Tollet presents “The Ornate Staircase Railing at Marble House: A Unique and Exceptional Reflection of Versailles in Newport”

2020 PSNC Research Fellow Sébastien Dutton shared information about “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details.” Dutton (2019 M.A., Design Studies and Historic Preservation, Boston Architectural College) examined the remarkable variety of door hardware designs, styles, and uses at The Breakers and how each was employed to distinguish a hierarchy between public, private, family, and service spaces.

Sébastien Dutton presents “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details"
Sébastien Dutton presents “Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details”

Kate Hughes, 2018-2020 Peggy N. Gerry Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, presented “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing.” Hughes, 2014 M.A., Sotheby’s Institute of Art–New York, shared her experience researching 19th-century stoneware of South Carolina’s Old Edgefield District at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). Her lecture included investigations of face vessels, storage jars, and other significant stoneware pieces. Read more about Hughes’s research in this article from The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust.

Kate Hughes presents “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing”
Kate Hughes presents “Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing”

The Colloquium concluded with a tour of the Isaac Bell House by Director of Museum Affairs & Chief Curator Leslie Jones. Participants were then given complimentary access to Preservation Society properties including the Elms and The Breakers, both of which were subjects of the morning’s presentations.

Touring the Bell House
Touring the Bell House

The Decorative Arts Trust is committed to encouraging the next generation of museum curators and decorative arts historians through the Emerging Scholars Program. For updates on grant deadlines and special events, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on social media. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early pre-registration for events.

Sold-Out New York Colloquium a Big Success

The Decorative Arts Trust is passionate about highlighting the work of emerging scholars in the field. One of our most enjoyable ways to do this is to gather recent research grant, interns, and scholarship recipients for a chance to share their research with Trust members during New York’s Americana Week. 

The 2020 Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York City was a fabulous event for members and speakers alike, who joined a sold-out crowd for this fourth installation of the program. Co-hosted with the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and sponsored in part by the Wunsch Americana Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Ayres, III, the Colloquium featured five scholars showcasing their discoveries in the field of material culture. 

Classical American Homes Preservation Trust Co-President Margize Howell welcomed the group to the George F. Baker Carriage House. Especially notable on the exterior of the Baker complex of houses is the Ionic colonnade on the east façade of 69 East 93rd Street. The colonnade, consisting of four matched pairs of fluted Ionic columns two stories high, frames a second floor loggia. These tall columns provide an elegant backdrop to what was once the Bakers’ “French Courtyard.” 

The Decorative Arts Trust’s Director of Educational Programs Kristina Gray and board member Ralph Harvard introduced the presenters:

  • Edgefield Stoneware in The Met’s American Wing
    Katherine C. Hughes, Peggy N. Gerry Research Scholar, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Textiles and Design Exchanges between India and the United States in the Mid-Twentieth Century
    Vishal Khandelwal, Department of the History of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • The Eameses and The Case Study House Program: Introducing Scandinavian Design to Mid-Century America
    Rachel Pool Fillhouer, History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • A Tale of Two Families: An Engraved Tea Service in Antebellum Augusta, Georgia
    Kayli Rideout, American Studies, Boston University
  • Transpacific Scopic Frames: the Folded Spaces of Two 18th-Century Pueblan Cabinets
    Celia Rodríguez Tejuca, Art History, Johns Hopkins University

Peter M. Kenny, Classical American Homes Preservation Trust’s other Co-President, concluded the program by thanking the group and ushering them next door to the George F. Baker House for a Bloody Mary Brunch Benefit to support the Decorative Arts Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program. Formerly the private residence of the late Richard H. Jenrette, the beautifully decorated house boasts high ceilings, tall French windows, Classical marble mantels, arched doorways, and an elegant spiral staircase that brings in light from a domed skylight above. 

We plan to post recordings of the lectures on the Trust’s YouTube channel within the next few months. 

Look for information about the January 2021 Emerging Scholars Colloquium in New York in late fall 2020. The Trust also is partnering with the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island for an Emerging Scholars Colloquium in Newport on Saturday, February 8. The Trust has many other special programs and events scheduled as well. For updates, sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Members at the Ambassador level and above receive early pre-registration for events.

Watch Videos About Antebellum Charleston, Edgefield Pottery, Maryland’s Governor’s Mansion, and New York Jacquard Coverlets

At the Decorative Arts Trust, we’re passionate about sharing new research and scholarship with decorative arts enthusiasts. Please enjoy these lecture recordings from emerging scholars from recent educational programs and events.  

“Her Fingers O’er this Canvas Move”: Unraveling the Threads of Race, Class, and Female Education in Antebellum Charleston
Alexandra Cade 
Colonial Williamsburg McNamara Young Scholar Lectures at the Antiques Forum, February 2019

MESDA’s Edgefield Bowl: The Black and White Landscape of the B.F. Landrum Pottery Site
Katherine C. Hughes 
Colonial Williamsburg McNamara Young Scholar Lectures at the Antiques Forum, February 2019

Seized Possessions: Reconstructing Maryland’s First Governor’s Mansion
Michelle Fitzgerald 
Decorative Arts Trust Spring 2019 Symposium in Annapolis, MD

Women, Weavers & Jacquard Coverlets in New York State
Britney Schline Yatrakis
Decorative Arts Trust Spring 2018 Symposium in Upper Hudson

Visit our Youtube channel for more videos about the decorative arts and material culture. 

If these decorative arts subjects interested you, we encourage you to learn more about our Emerging Scholars Program, upcoming events, and the benefits of Trust membership