Published: April 11, 2017
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
HARTFORD, CONN. – If you want convenience, order online. If you want to experience the past in a visceral way, be in the company of old things.
“One of the most fascinating things about antiques is the lives they’ve lived through generations of people who’ve wanted them and cared for them,” said Karen DiSaia, who, with her husband, Ralph, manages the 44-year-old Connecticut Spring Antiques Show, where connecting with the past is what matters.
Old things in magnificent profusion greeted visitors to the Hartford Armory the weekend of March 25-26. Founded in 1973 by Higganum, Conn., resident Frances Walker Phipps, the Connecticut Show is an essential destination for pre-1840s American furniture and accessories. It is gradually becoming something more as the DiSaias work with charity sponsor Haddam Historical Society to expand the show’s range of content and appeal to buyers.
“People liked what they saw this time,” Karen DiSaia told us. Two new exhibitors, garden antiques specialist Village Braider and Leatherwood Antiques, known for an eclectic range of folk art, children’s china and Black Forest carving, did well.
Organizers rebalanced their promotional efforts, offsetting print advertising aimed at seasoned connoisseurs with a Google AdWords campaign intended to reach a younger, less knowledgable crowd. Their effort paid off in attendance, up 15 percent overall.
“We were especially pleased with Sunday’s gate. It was steady through the day, which isn’t always the case,” said show chairman Tracy LaComb. Two programs, a Saturday talk on recent excavations at the Haddam Historical Society’s Thankful Arnold House and Jeff Bridgman’s Sunday talk on political textiles, were well received.
Social media is next on the team’s agenda. “We have a good Facebook following. We will reach out to the Twitter world at some point,” said Elizabeth Hart Malloy, Haddam Historical’s executive director.
Exhibitors, who travel to the fair from 14 states, were generally pleased with sales, though many reported greater interest in accessories than furniture.
“I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen for a while, and a lot of people I’d never seen,” said Peter Eaton. The Newbury, Mass., dealer wrote up banister back arm and side chairs, several stands, an early paneled chest on ball feet and a half-dozen smalls. His wife, Joan Brownstein, parted with a watercolor portrait by the “Puffy Sleeve” artist, a J.H. Davis portrait of a child and a large quilt with a chintz border.
Across the aisle from Eaton, Elliott and Grace Snyder had their best Hartford in roughly 45 years. Grace explained, “We’d just come back from a trip to Europe and were lucky enough to find an unusually high number of fine, early pieces, mostly candlesticks, rushlights and excellent early Rhenish stoneware. We also brought a few pieces of American paint-decorated furniture that have been in a private collection we formed about 20 years ago and were fresh to the market. We sold a fine American bible box, Eighteenth Century English needlework, quite a few pieces of the German stoneware, some great pairs of candlesticks and a variety of other accessories. As has been usual for us in our last few shows, early accessories – brass, needlework, iron and ceramics – were in demand.”
Maine dealers Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan led with an American flag hooked rug and an Uncle Sam whirligig, objects illustrated in American Hooked and Sewn Rugs: Folk Art Underfoot and Stars and Stripes: Patriotic Themes in American Folk Art. Jewett and Berdan sold their flag rug along with a recently rediscovered Eighteenth Century carved spoon rack pictured in Russell Kettell’s seminal book The Pine Furniture of Early New England.
Swarmed by buyers of antique jewelry, Swampscott, Mass., dealer Sandy Jacobs also found a customer for an 18-foot-long carved and painted wooden Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad train model of about 1920.
Kirtland Crump augmented his offering of American tall, shelf and wall clocks with a circa 1690 English long clock housed in an inlaid case. The Madison, Conn., dealer sold well both days.
“We sold a corner cupboard, a pair of portraits, a small Queen Anne drop leaf table, a tavern table, stands, a stack of painted pantry boxes, a mirror and a bunch of smalls,” said Woodbury, Conn., dealer Tucker Frey, pleased to have found new customers.
“We sold two pieces of furniture, two pieces of stoneware and got cleaned out of our coin silver,” said Lorraine German of Mad River Antiques, Granby, Conn.
“My favorite sale was a Scandinavian blanket chest for $300 to a young couple who loved the fineness of the decoration and could not believe what a bargain it was. They are going to use it as a coffee table. Bringing inexpensive things of good quality to a show like this is important. It may not pay the booth rent, but it makes the idea of furnishing with antiques accessible to a new generation. It’s a simple thing we should all be doing to build for a better future in the business,” said John Chaski, an up-and-coming dealer from Delaware.
Another young dealer, Taylor Thistlethwaite of Kentucky, observed, “I saw many wonderful collectors who really knew their stuff. I had a lot of interest in a Boston chest of drawers, as well as a great deal of curiosity in my Southern material. I sold a wonderful painted chest built by a Scots Irish cabinetmaker in North Georgia. I’m already saving for next year’s Hartford.”
For all its emphasis on decorative arts, the Connecticut Show boasts strength in regional American painting, as well. Highlights included “The Old Homestead” by Waterford, Conn.-born painter Henry Pember Smith (1854-1914) at The Hanebergs Antiques; “On The Green River, South Williamstown, Massachusetts” by John Lee Fitch (1836-1895) at the Cooley Gallery; the watercolor on paper marine view “Catboat PAL off Mason’s Island” by Mystic, Conn., painter Y.E. Soderberg at Port ‘N Starboard Gallery; works by Connecticut Impressionists Walter Robinson and Frank Bicknell at Kmetz American Paintings; the Andrew Wyeth watercolor “Patrolling The Nets” at Roberto Freitas; and a Samuel Kilbourne painting of a brook trout at Mark and Marjorie Allen.
West Hartford, Conn., dealer Kevin Rita of Garvey Rita Art emphasized paintings by Connecticut Modernist Howard Rackliffe (1917-1987), the subject of a current display Rita helped assemble at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
A trio of paintings by Aldro Hibbard and Emile Gruppe anchored the center wall at Blue Heron Fine Art of Cohasset, Mass. “We sold Hibbard’s wonderful ‘Winter Hillside,’ plus paintings by Max Kuehne and Robert Natkin,” said Jim Puzinas.
It would be remiss not to mention the bounty of wonderful material deeply rooted in Connecticut – colony, state and river valley. At Nathan Liverant and Son, the past manifested itself in a Stonington highboy and Liverpool jug commemorating the Battle of Stonington, ribbon back side chairs from the Chapin shops of Hartford and Windsor, compelling pastel portraits of Lyme residents Lois Matson and Deacon Nathaniel Matson and a 1772 Silas Merriman of New Haven tall case clock. Bette and Melvyn Wolf arrayed Connecticut pewter. Mad River Antiques showed cobalt-decorated Connecticut stoneware. Sam Herrup featured a Hartford silk embroidery. Peter Eaton sold a coastal Connecticut Carver chair with bold turnings. Taken together, pieces such as these, endowed with beauty and meaning, make the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show itself a living treasure.
For more information, visit www.ctspringantiquesshow.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm