Presentation on theme: "Styles of American Furniture Copyright 2004, Learning Seed."— Presentation transcript:
Styles of American Furniture Copyright 2004, Learning Seed
These carved side chairs were carefully crafted in Philadelphia between 1740 and 1755 in the popular Queen Anne style. These chairs were built before the United States existed as a country so followed English tastes in style. The chairs reflect the modern English style of their time, but they are American in style, not English. The Colonists slowly developed an American style of spoken English in much the same way they developed styles of furniture with uniquely American accents and words. Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut, and the Southern states each spoke a different accent of the Queen Anne style. Experts identify the origins of a piece of furniture by looking for these unique accents. These chairs show key elements of the Queen Anne style. The splat (center back support) takes the shape of a vase. Its graceful curves rise to a shaped crest (crowning the splat) carved in a shell design. The shell motif is repeated atop the cabriole legs. Carving is the most common form of Queen Anne style decoration. 1. Pair of Queen Anne Carved Side Chairs
2. Queen Anne Table Queen Anne furniture is light and graceful, especially compared to the William and Mary style it replaced. The cabriole leg is a Queen Anne hallmark. Cabriole comes from the Italian word for a galloping animal. The graceful curve gives movement and grace to an otherwise static object. The legs on this table are especially thin and graceful, ending in delicate slipper feet. This table was made in Rhode Island between 1720 and 1740 of curly maple, a variation of the more common straight grain maple. You can see the distinct pattern and color variations in the wood. Notice the elegantly shaped skirt -- sometimes called an apron or friezethat forms a horizontal support beneath the table top. Skirts are also used beneath chair rails or as the bottom framing for case furniture.
3. Leg Close-up The table in the previous image had no carved decoration. This leg illustrates a fan carving and an ball-and-claw foot. Only the highest quality Queen Anne pieces featured the ball and claw. Carvings of fans and shells were common Queen Anne motifs. The carving requires considerable time and skill so was limited to what could be called the luxury editions of furniture, usually done by large city cabinetmakers. Rural craftsmen made less complex designs and that distinctions explains todays division between country style and more formal furniture styles.
4. Details of Two Feet The pad foot on the right is more typical of Queen Anne furniture, while the carved ball-and-claw on the left indicates a high quality piece. Both are still found in contemporary reproductions. Both these illustrations are from modern pieces, not antiques. The ball-and-claw foot was fashionable in the 18th century buts its exact origin is unknown. Some historians believe it was a European borrowing from a Chinese image of a dragons claw grasping a pearl.
5. William and Mary Style This room at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art illustrates the William and Mary style that Queen Anne replaced. The graceful curves and lightness of the new style were quite different from the blocks and angles of the William and Mary period. The walnut gate leg table was made in New England between 1700 and The legs swing (hence the name gate leg) under the table and the top is hinged. The chairs feature rush seats and combine William and Mary bases with Queen Anne backs. The chairs illustrate that transitions between styles are often gradual with "transition pieces" showing characteristics of both periods. Traces of the William and Mary style can be found today in more casual "Colonial" furniture, but is less popular than the later Queen Anne and Chippendale styles.
6. Queen Anne Wing Armchairs These walnut armchairs were made in New England around They are Queen Anne in style as seen in the elegant curves of the crested back, the wings, the scrolled arms, and the front cabriole legs ending in pad feet. For added strength, the legs are joined by stretchers. The stretcher used on these chairs is called block and ring, after the combination of blocks and ring shaped dowels visible in their construction. Both chairs feature typical Queen Anne pad feet.
7. Queen Anne Breakfast Table This reproduction of an 18th Century ( ) Queen Anne style drop leaf table features a tiger maple top. Tiger maple refers to the striped grain pattern in the wood. Other grain patterns such as bird's eye, and curly gave variety to eighteenth century maple furniture. Many contemporary reproductions of "Colonial styles" leave the maple a reddish brown that is neither authentic nor especially beautiful. This table also features a gate leg to save space. When closed the table is only ten inches wide, when open it easily accommodates breakfast for two.
8. Breakfast Table Closed Here is the same table with leaves dropped. In what way is this piece Queen Anne? Slender cabriole legs end in pad feet that were common especially in New England. The graceful curves so often seen in Queen Anne appear in the small shaped skirt, in the oval top, and the cabriole legs.
9. Queen Anne Flat-top Highboy This tall chest of drawers is made in two sections. The upper chest rests on a table, or lowboy, with fairly long legs. This English creation was very popular in eighteenth century America. The British call this a "tallboy." The word "highboy" appeared first in the late nineteenth century. In its own time these were known as high chests or as a chest on frame. The top is flat (compare to the next slide with a more elaborate pediment) but has a molded cornice. The cornice serves as a frame, much as a cornice frames a building. Here the skirt is shaped with a carved shell pattern in the center. The legs are removable, angular cabriole, and end in pad feet. Note how balance and proportion are carefully maintained. The height of each of the four drawer sections in the top unit varies with the deepest on the bottom and the most shallow on top. The piece would lose some of its beauty if all drawers were the same height. The brass keyholes and pulls (handles) are original to this piece which was made in Rhode Island about The wood is cherry.
10. Contemporary Queen Anne Highboy This Queen Anne style highboy can be found in furniture showrooms today. Unlike the antique in the previous slide, this piece features a decorative bonnet top. This particular piece is a copy of a New England highboy made around Notice the drawers are graduated in height. The center drawer at the base features a scallop shell carving, a shaped skirt, and cabriole legs ending in pad feet. The shell is a common motif in Queen Anne furniture and was inspired by designs found on Phoenician coins. Greek and Roman architecture supplied many shapes and forms for Queen Anne furniture. Even the proportion is influenced by Greek mathematics. The height of a chest might be two times the width. Drawers might be five, seven, nine and eleven inches deep, each two inches deeper than the preceding. Such attention to detail gives the furniture pleasing proportions. If you remember your vocabulary from the previous slide you should recognize the skirt as shaped and carved. The two decorative pieces that hang down from the skirt are pendants.
11. Bonnet Top Here is a close up of the highboy's bonnet top. The decorations here set this apart as a finer piece than the flat top highboy seen earlier. The curve forming the top of this highboy is a swan's neck crest. Such ornamental constructions are called pediments and were likely inspired by gables on classical Greek or Roman temples. A design with a gap in the center (as in this illustration) is called a broken pediment. The center gap is often filled with an elaborately carved finial, or in the later Federal period, an eagle carving. This pediment is topped by three spiral carved finials. The "finials" are so named because they mark the final height, the finishing touch.
12. Queen Anne Splat This chair illustrates the Queen Anne vase like splat typical of the period. This picture clearly shows the silhouette of the splat. You can see why scholars believe the shape was likely inspired by the graceful curves of Greek vases. This contemporary chair has no carving. A fine Queen Anne chair would often have a carved fan or shell motif at the crest. The most finely carved and shaped Queen Anne chairs were constructed without a single right angle.
13. Queen Anne Writing Table This Queen Anne style desk is sold today in furniture stores and features many typical Queen Anne elements. Although not hand carved and crafted, this table illustrates that the elegance of the mid eighteenth century style is still valued today. You should recognize the cabriole legs, the fan motif on the knees of the legs, the shaped skirt, and ball and claw feet.
14. Close-up of Table In this close up of a tea table you can see the elegant curves of the cabriole legs, the scalloped skirt and the practical tray top. The tray is formed by a raised edge of applied molding. All these design elements are from the Queen Anne period. This table also features a candleslide, a rare part of original tea tables. The tray could be pulled out to hold a candle to provide light.
15. Furniture Display Here, almost 250 years later the shapes and decorative elements of the Queen Anne style still thrive. This display in a furniture showroom clearly shows the style remains popular. But, like all styles, Queen Anne was replaced in popularity by a new style, today called Chippendale. Chippendale was not as radical a change from Queen Anne, as Queen Anne was from William and Mary.
16. Carved Chippendale Side Chair Compare this chair with the side chairs in previous slides and you will understand both the differences and similarities between Queen Anne and Chippendale. This chair looks thicker and heavier, features more ornate carving, and sits upon Chippendales hairy paw feet. The carving atop the cabriole legs is called acanthus and is quite common in Greek architecture. Similar motifs can also be found in earlier Queen Anne and later Empire styles. The splat is elaborately carved and features an interlacing pattern and leaf motif. Even the rails (sides of the chair beneath the cushion) are carved and decorated. Not all Chippendale furniture is this elaborate. This chair is made of mahogany and was built in Philadelphia around 1770.
17. Desk Molding Close-up This close up of molding on the edge of a desk top illustrates simple decorative carving. The design here is probably of Chinese inspiration. Asian artwork provided American furniture with many designs and shapes from Queen Anne, through Chippendale, the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, and even contemporary furniture. The shape of the hardware on the drawer is quite traditional. Chippendale's directory included sketches of escutcheons the brass plate behind the handle. Escutcheons were both decorative and practical. They served to prevent wear to wood from frequent use. The user's hand would touch only the escutcheon (a replaceable part of the furniture) rather than tarnish unprotected wood.
18. Chair Back Close-up The shape of this chair splat resembles a Greek urn, and the rail is decorated with acanthus carvings. The acanthus is a plant that grows near the Mediterranean. Its shape is often reproduced on Greek and Roman buildings and furniture. This chair back is of contemporary manufacture. Modern production methods can create a carved look with machines or even plastic disguised to look like wood. But in Colonial times, the more carving and decoration, the more expense.
19. Table Front Close-up The carving here is quite intricate and resembles intertwined bamboo. This general motif can be found in many of the more decorative Chippendale pieces. Chippendale offered a series of chairs and tables in what he called the "Chinese" style.
20. Chippendale Mahogany Card Table This Chippendale card table features fine hand carving. It was made around 1770 from mahogany. Such a table is museum quality and quite rare. Its quality places it in the category of art and would demand a museum level price tag at auction. The top is hinged to allow enough space for a card game. The legs are cabriole in shape and end in carved "hairy paw" feet. (Return to slide 34)
21. Queen Anne Card Table People played cards before Chippendale. Compare this Queen Anne card table with the Chippendale table in the previous slide to further your understanding of how the two styles differ. This photo illustrates the hinged top complete with dished money wells and carved candle hollows for gaming well past the midnight hours. The transition from Queen Anne to Chippendale was gradual, with much sharing of design elements.
22. Queen Anne Chair (left) Chippendale Chair (right) How would you describe the differences between these two chairs? The chair on the left is Queen Anne, the side chair on the right is Chippendale. The Chippendale features more intricate carving and is generally more decorative. The Queen Anne features the traditional vase shaped splat and crested back, while the Chippendale splat is carved in an intertwining design. The Queen Anne chair has more elaborately decorated legs than was typical for such a chair, but the Chippendale has even more decoration. The Queen Anne is a side chair while the Chippendale is an arm chair. The Chippendale chair back has characteristic Chippendale "ears" while the Queen Anne back is rounded. Both chairs are of contemporary.
23. Chippendale Dressing Table This dressing table clearly shows that decorative carving ruled the Chippendale period. The table bears many similarities to earlier Queen Anne tables, but its overall look is heavier and more ornate. This table illustrates what the soon to be popular Federal style rejected carved ornamentation. Although quite skillful and difficult to produce, carving as a decoration was later rejected in favor of other forms. (Return to slide 25)
24. Chippendale Sofa Sofa's did exist in the 18th century, but they were rare and mostly for the upper classes. The shape of the back of this sofa is usually called camel back even though it bears little resemblance to the shape of an actual camel's back. The upholstered arms are scrolled, the square mahogany legs are joined by stretchers. This sofa was made around 1770 and is signed "John Harris, Newburyport, Massachusetts." The sofa is original but the upholstery is not.
25. Chippendale High Chest Compare this fine Chippendale high chest to a Queen Anne version in the next slide. Switch between the two slides now and note both differences and similarities. Both have similar proportions and shapes, but the Queen Anne piece has longer legs. The carving on the Chippendale is very elaborate. The bonnet top has carvings of shell and floral designs and impressive finials. The Queen Anne has no decorative pediment. The edges of the Chippendale are fluted columns, not plain ninety degree corners. The handles (called pulls) are brass. The decorative brass plates behind the handles and around the keyholes on the drawers are called escutcheons. Again, the Chippendale chest showcases more elaborate shapes. Compare this high chest to the dressing table in slide 23 and you see that the piece is really a chest-on-chest. The bottom is a lowboy or dressing table with the chest atop.slide 23
26. Queen Anne Highboy Use the arrow buttons to return to #25
27. Kneehole Dressing Table – Block Front So far, much of the furniture illustrated, although made in America, was very similar to pieces found in England. A unique American contribution was the hand carved block front made in Boston and Newport, Rhode Island. A block front means a hand carved front (from a block of wood) featuring both concave and convex carving. The style is best represented by the Goddard Townsend furniture makers of Newport. This dressing table was made by Goddard Townsend around 1765 and is more a functional sculpture than mere furniture. The table features three carved shell designs, the center one concave, the others convex. The interior (not seen here) has a writing compartment and a cupboard door opening to a shelved interior. The table is widely accepted as a masterpiece because each line and curve fits so perfectly in its overall effect. No line could be omitted without harming its beauty, and none could be added that would enhance its beauty.
28. Block Front Chest This block front chest is far from the masterpiece of the previous image, but it is a skillfully manufactured contemporary reproduction. Back in the eighteenth century this style could be built only by the finest furniture craftsmen working for many months. Owning a block front chest was within reach only of the richest families. Today, machines replace the hand carving, but the process is still expensive. The block front gives the chest a depth and sculptured effect. On less expensive pieces, molded plastic is used to imitate the block front idea.
29. Chippendale Chest of Drawers This chest of drawers is from Connecticut and was crafted around One of its unique features is the gentle curves on the drawers, called an oxbow front. The top features a molded edge. The drawers are graduated in height. The side edges feature fluted columns. The carvings at the bottom edge of the chest is a gadrooned skirt, and the legs end in ball- and-claw feet.
30. Bombe Chest Yet another way to give the front of a chest visual interest other than decoration or block carving is to shape the front in curves called bombefrom the French word meaning simply to bulge. This shape is more common in French and English pieces, but was popular among Boston furniture makers. In fact, the this elegant shape was made in America almost exclusively in Boston. Cabinetmakers fashioned the curves from solid mahogany boards in a kind of creative warping.
You could say there are only two styles of furniture -- plain and fancy. The two "design philosophies" wax and wane in popularity over decades. The move to Federal Style from Chippendale was only one of many movements from "fancy" to "plain." This slide illustrates a style you are not likely to find in homes today. Today, we prefer simpler designs, clean lines, beauty in function rather than decoration. Today, plain" rules. But in ten or twenty years…? Elaborate furniture such as this presents a cross between sculpture and architecture. One can easily see this etagere built in New York around 1875 as a miniature temple or church. Even in 1875, this piece was valued for its decorative or aesthetic qualities, not as a practical household storage piece. Its designs can be traced to 16th century Renaissance Europe. Recently such pieces were seen as "Victorian excess" or "clumsy and overdone." But the craftsmanship in the construction of the painted and gilded walnut "shrine" has to be respected and admired. If this slide illustrates furniture design at the heights of decoration, the next shows a prime example of simplicity. 31. Etagere, 1875
Here is a grouping of 19th century New England Shaker style furniture. The "Shakers" were a religious group whose design of physical objects grew out of their religious beliefs. They lived an ethic of simplicity exemplified even in their furnishings. The chair is maple and ash and was made perhaps a few years before the etagere in the previous slide. The simple lines and practical function of these pieces could hardly be more different than the Victorian etagere. These pieces (quite valued today by collectors and museums) illustrate beauty through simplicity. In fact, they could be seen as similar in concept to some sleek, contemporary designs. Neither the style of the etagere in the previous slide nor the Shaker style became popular nationwide; extremes rarely rule taste. But the simpler Federal style did become popular as it replaced Chippendale. The Federal style favored simplicity over the more decorative styles it replaced. 32. Shaker Furniture
This chest, of contemporary manufacture, shows the key elements of the Federal style. Decoration here is by an inlaid band of lighter wood around each drawer. There is no decorative carving, no elaborate legs or feet, and no shaped skirts or cabriole legs. Federal designs favor geometric shapes such as ovals, circles and rectangles. Notice the oval hardware on this piece as compared to the elaborate curves in similar hardware in pieces illustrated earlier. Like both Queen Anne and Chippendale, this style is still popular. Chests like this can be found in most quality furniture stores and in millions of homes in America and worldwide. 33. Federal Style Chest
These card tables (the tops are hinged and open to a larger surface) clearly show the differences introduced in the Federal period. Compare their overall shapes to the card tables in slides 20 and 21. (Go to slide 20)(Go to slide 20) There are still graceful curves in these tables, but subdued when compared to earlier styles. The tops and sides are serpentine in shape. Instead of carving, these tables are "decorated" with inlays of satinwood that contrasts with the darker mahogany used as the basic wood. The horizontal board beneath the top is called a frieze. It is gracefully curved and highlighted by gold colored band and contrasting wood tones, but it is not shaped or carved. The tapered and fluted legs end in vase form feet. The overall effect of the style is beauty achieved by form and simplicity rather than applied ornamentation. 34. Pair of Federal Inlaid Card Tables
Both the card tables in the previous slide and this sideboard were made in approximately This dinning room piece features a serpentine front and convex cupboard doors. Doors and drawers are banded but the wood grain is the main "decoration." The legs are square and tapered, an important design feature of the Federal period. Notice the oval shaped brasses and key holes and the contrasting wood tones. The brass metalwork around the top of the sideboard is called a gallery 35. Federal Side-board
This chest of drawers achieves beauty through classic proportions, a slightly bowed front, and extensive use of inlay. Each drawer features a fan design inlay, an element characteristic of furniture makers in Portsmouth, New Hampshire around The chest is made of mahogany with contrasting bird's eye maple. The legs are in the French style Note the use of geometric shapes in the keyholes and pulls. Compare them to the far more elaborate items in either Queen Anne or Chippendale styles. 36. Federal Chest
In the examples of Federal style furniture so far, the classical influence has been muted. Europeans borrowed from classical shapes and motifs much more than Americans. This room in Derbyshire, England illustrates the English origins of the Federal style on a grand scale. The door, its pediment, pillars, the urns on either side of the door (they are actually heating units), the art, and the furniture are all inspired by Classical designs. You can easily see that Greek temples and Roman arches inspired this scheme. Robert Adam was the most influential Englishman behind what was sometimes called the "style antique." He wrote that "we have been able to seize, with some degree of success, the beautiful spirit of antiquity, and to transfer it, with novelty and variety, through all our numerous works." Although muted, American furniture also reflected classical designs. 37. Neo-Classic Interior
This is a close up of a decorative top on a cabinet of contemporary manufacture. This Federal style pediment (another example of a broken pediment) clearly shows that architecture and furniture are related in style and often design. It also illustrates classical influence on American furniture. This decorative device is inspired by classical architecture and is seen in many public buildings. Furniture designs borrow from the architecture of the past as well as its furniture. The decorative series of "cubes" on this pediment is called dentil molding. The molding adds visual rhythm to the lines with its repeated forms, much as a drum adds an audio "beat" to music. 38. Classical Influence Furniture
This slides illustrates similar design ideas applied to a building instead of furniture. The two arts often use similar motifs, patterns, and designs. Notice the classic pillars topped by a pediment and the same dentil molding seen in the previous slide atop a china case. The main difference is that the broken pediment topping the china cabinet was in proportion to the size of the piece. Here, the pillars and pediment overwhelm the rest of the building. 39. Classical Architecture
This example of Federal style furniture is called a "gentleman's secretary" and was made around 1800, probably in Salem, Massachusetts. Compare it to previous slides to understand that American Federal was usually a simpler, more geometrical style than in Europe. The eagle finial is typically American, but the flanking urn finials again reveal classic influences. Notice that beauty is achieved through a light colored wood inlays that contrast with the darker basic wood. The oval shapes on the front are repeated in the brass hardware. There are no carvings or flower designs in this furniture; a piece that would still fit comfortably in a traditional house. The secretary has the appeal of a well-designed structure and it relates favorably to architecture. 40. Federal Style Breakfront
This highly decorative Empire style secretary clearly shows its inspiration in Roman antiquities. This piece was most likely made by Joseph Meeks and Sons in New York around It is of mahogany and brass and stands over one hundred inches tall. Notice how the pillars with brass trim and the elaborate roof-like top give an architectural quality. The ionic pillars are as much inspired by classical forms as the pillars and pediments seen in previous slides. The feet are carved paws. The abundant decorations include carving, stenciling, gilding, brass trim, and pleated silk behind the glass doors. Look at slide #31 for another example of this "New York school" of Empire design. The Empire style became popular around It was imported from Paris (whose designs have always fascinated Americans) as the official style of the Napoleonic Empire. We've seen other borrowing of shapes and designs from Roman antiquity, but the Empire style didn't merely borrow, it copied. Common design elements include the extensive use of veneer. Veneer is a thin sheet of wood glued to the surface of a thicker board. Carving was revived, as were stencil designs, gilding, and brass plaques. Empire furniture tends to be massive and heavy. Legs are often lyre or scroll shaped or carved to resemble animal paws. 41. Empire Style Secretary
This room from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is called the "Richmond Room" and re creates a luxurious room in Richmond, Virginia around Consider this room a high point of early 19th century elegance. The chairs in this room were ordered from famed furniture maker Duncan Phyfe. Their legs are "Grecian cross" in style. The chairs are matched by the sofa also from the Duncan Phyfe workshop. The card table features an elaborate winged woman carving and hairy paw legs. This particular table was owned by Philip Hone, mayor of New York in the first quarter of the 19th century. 42. Complete Room -- Empire Style
The Empire style did not leave a lasting impression on contemporary American furniture styles, nor did its later phase, sometimes called Greek Revival. The two decades preceding the Civil War marked a period of fascination with the styles and designs of ancient Greece. You can still see the influence in city mansions and banks, state capitals, schools and even stores and main street facades dating from the nineteenth century. If you see the similarity between Greek temples and older public buildings, you see Greek Revival at work. This side chair illustrates how the fascination with all things Greek was translated into furniture. The painted designs are copied from earlier Greek examples. 43. Empire Chair Showing Greek Revival
This catalog page from the Joseph Meeks & Sons furniture manufacturing company illustrates the basic scroll and pillar shapes of the Greek revival period. Meeks was a competitor of Duncan Phyfe who produced this plain, heavy, style of furniture that fit the high ceiling rooms of the then popular Greek Revival houses. Furniture styles from before the Civil War until as recently as 1900 were dominated by a series of revivals varying from gothic, to Egyptian, to rococo. 44. Joseph Meeks Catalog Page
A renewed interest in fifteenth century gothic styles was one of many revivals during the nineteenth century. The gothic style suggests Medieval cathedrals and ecclesiastical motifs. Its popularity was very likely related to a religious awakening which swept many parts of the country after the Civil War. Another possibility is that the revival was fueled by the popularity of romantic "gothic" novels by writers such as Sir Walter Scott. Dark rosewood or oak were the woods of choice and decorative shapes included the Gothic arch, trefoils, and spool and ball turnings. 45. Gothic Revival Items
This spindle backed chair exists in a variety of forms, yet its beginnings are lost in history. We know the term Windsor" was applied to this kind of chair in England as early as 1720 and that they were made in America ever since But no one knows for sure why they are called Windsor" or where the style began. In America the style caught on and shared floor space with Queen Anne, Chippendale, and many later styles. Windsor chairs are popular today and exist in countless American homes. Windsor chairs are characterized by stick legs and spindles driven into a plank seat. Tough, springy woods such as hickory and ash were ideal for such construction which required no screws or nails. Windsors were the all American chair of the eighteenth century. The Continental Congress sat on Windsor chairs while voting for independence. 46. Windsor Chair
This Windsor is called a "sack back" or "hoop back" chair. It is of contemporary manufacture. Although the methods of manufacture have changed in the past two hundred fifty years, the basic style is still popular. 47. Contemporary Windsor Chair
Since the Civil War furniture style is often a revival or a combination of older styles. Styles are influenced by popular books, the lines of leading furniture manufacturers, or fads and fancies from entertainment to the arts. There were Colonial revivals, Italian Renaissance, Louis XV, Rococo, Gothic and even Byzantine and Aztec styles. These eclectic decades were supported by large scale furniture production centers in towns such as Grand Rapids, Michigan. Furniture from this period is often grouped under the term "Victorian", even though Queen Victoria herself had no special interest in the arts or influence on design. The cabinet in this slide was made in New York around 1866 by Alexander Roux, a French émigré and a leading cabinetmaker of his day. The ornamentation is Louis XVI in style. A work such as this could be shown at a World Fair or perhaps purchased by a wealthy patron, but was never intended for the mass market. The decorations on this cabinet include ormolu moldings. Ormolu (from the French "ground gold") is a cast bronze with a finish of gold applied by mercury gilding. Powdered gold in mercury was spread on the piece to be gilded, and the piece was then heated. The mercury vaporized, leaving a thin film of gold on the bronze. The process was repeated so the gold was just thick enough to polish. The process was abandoned because of the danger of mercury poisoning and replaced with one using an alloy of metals to resemble gold Revivals Roux Cabinet
This page from a 1902 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog illustrates so called "Victorian furniture often found today at flea markets, country auctions, re-sale stores, and "antique" stores. The catalog clearly shows a taste for the "fancy," as mass producers attempted to capture some of the elegance of revival styles. These combination sideboards and dressing tables were made of light colored oak called "golden oak." Wood cutting and carving machinery made the elaborate shapes and carvings that were once the mark of hand craftsmanship available to the masses. These sideboards sold for eleven to twenty five dollars Sears Catalog
This page from the same catalog shows the "Victorian" love for decoration and elaborate shapes. Notice the "Roman Divan Couch" advertised as "The latest invention in upholstered furniture." The early machine age era was definitely one of a taste for the "fancy." In a sense, it was democracy in action. What had previously been limited only to the rich was now available by mail order for $12.95 furniture became a commodity for the masses Sears Catalog (Upholstered Pieces)
William Morris and John Ruskin were Englishmen who served as intellectual leaders in what became known as the "arts and crafts movement." The movement spread to America around 1900 where it condemned the "black walnut parlour suits" mass produced by furniture factories. It favored sturdiness, unpainted wood, and furniture that was "the expression of an individuality the craftsman." Their idea was to reunite art and craftsmanship. The Craftsman magazine published by Gustav Stickley was the oracle of the movement. In a 1907 advertisement for his furniture Stickley explained his philosophy of a chair: The piece... is first, last and all the time a chair, and not an imitation of a throne, nor an exhibit of snakes and dragons in a wild riot of misapplied wood carving. Later, Arts and Crafts furniture became known as the "mission style" and still attracts a dedicated following. 51. Arts and Crafts Movement
Frank Lloyd is one of the most influential American architects of the 20th century. His furniture designs bear some resemblance to the "Mission" style, but they also show Japanese influence. Wright considered furniture an integral part of the house, not something to be added after the owners moved in. His houses featured built in furniture that was more architecture than decoration. Wright's style of furniture never became universally popular, but his concept of furniture as an integral part of the living environment influenced later designers. 52. Frank Lloyd Wright
Twentieth century technology presented new materials that could be shaped for chairs. Marcel Breuer constructed this chair in 1928 from stainless steel tubes, cane, and celluloid. Although not the first piece of "modern" furniture, the design shows that new technology can create elegant designs. You might not think of this design as revolutionary since you've seen so many variations on it. But remember the heavy wood and elaborate furniture found in many houses at the time, and you can see a new vision of simplicity replacing "fancy." 53. Breuer Tabular Chair, 1926
This chair was designed by architect Charles Eames in 1956 and has been manufactured continuously since then by Herman Miller, Inc. The chair shows some relation to an English club chair. It is tufted and leather covered over molded rosewood plywood. Many imitations of this chair exist today. Its combination of sculpture, comfort, and organic materials have made it a contemporary classic. 54. Eames Chair
Today's preferences run toward simple designs. Elegance is shown in the lines of the piece itself, in its material and colors rather than by applied decorations. This pedestal chair is designed by Italian designer and architect Eliel Saarinen and represents what is sometimes called the "International" school of design. Its shape is made possible by the use of plastic, a material that will profoundly influence furniture design in the future. Will more elaborate and decorative designs again rule our tastes? Will future generations look at pieces such as this and rebel against its stark simplicity, labelling it "sterile"? We don't know, but history suggests that tastes will change. Yet modern furniture is still a minority taste. Most modern houses are furnished in styles our great grandparents would recognize. Styles such as Queen Anne and Federal have survived the test of time. 55. International School Pedestal Chair