Published: August 16, 2016
Review and Photos By Laura Beach
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. — Lavishly beautiful and cosmopolitan, but leisurely, as well, the Newport Antiques Show occupies a special place in the summer calendar, perhaps because the city and society it inhabits is itself so distinctive.
Benefiting the Newport Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport, the fair, which celebrated its tenth anniversary at St George’s School in Middletown, a stone’s throw from Newport proper, opened with a gala preview party on Thursday, July 21, continuing through the weekend.
Seventy-four miles south of Boston with a population of 24,000, Newport would be an unlikely place for a major show were it not for its celebrated history and glittering society. Here at the Newport Antiques Show, it is the people — committee, patrons and exhibitors — who make the difference.
The Newport Antiques show is chaired by Anne Hamilton and managed by Diana Bittel with the logistical help of Ralph DiSaia. Hamilton and Bittel, both Philadelphians, bring significant clout to bear assembling all necessary talent. This year, Nicholas and Shelley Schorsch and William and Elizabeth Kahane were the show’s presenting sponsors. Franklin & Company underwrote the preview. The program lists more than three dozen other supporters, many of them familiar from the style pages of The New York Times and Town and Country. Opening night at the Newport Antiques Show can feel like Palm Beach with better food, though one knowledgeable source assures us that the jewelry is less ostentatious.
The alliance between Newport and Philadelphia is both historical and contemporary. One thinks of the Eighteenth Century Quaker cabinetmakers who articulated style in both places, and of the Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show, also chaired by Anne Hamilton and managed by Diana Bittel with Karen and Ralph DiSaia. For a summer show, Newport has an unexpected number of exhibitors who participate in the Philadelphia and Delaware Antiques Shows, the latter also managed by Bittel, as well as in New York’s Winter Antiques Show. “I see who I need to see in Newport,” one satisfied exhibitor from Philadelphia told Bittel.
The town’s tradition of sumptuous hospitality begins before the fair opens, with an annual fete for exhibitors and volunteers at a local home of note. Ronald Lee Fleming hosted this year’s party on Wednesday, July 20, at Bellevue House. Ogden Codman Jr designed the 1910 Colonial Revival mansion that once belonged to heiress Martha Codman and her opera-singer husband, Maxim Karolik, whose collections of American fine and decorative arts are a centerpiece of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Forty-one exhibitors set up at St George’s School. Occupying the show’s central court were Avery Galleries, Oriental Rugs Ltd, Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, William Vareika Fine Arts, Georgian Manor Antiques, James M. Kilvington, Diana H. Bittel Antiques and the Cooley Gallery. Drawn from the Newport Historical Society’s archives and special collections, a loan exhibit, “Curating The Future: Trends in Collecting Today,” looked at the social and cultural diversity underpinning the institution’s scope.
Luxuries sell well here. Operated by Virgil Rogers, the vintage handbags specialist Only Authentics is said to have sold five special pieces to a California socialite. Jewelry and silver did well at Three Golden Apples, David Rovinsky and the Silver Vault.
New to the fair, Schorr & Dobinsky of Bridgehampton, N.Y., brought garden furniture and accessories and vintage Hermes scarves and bracelets. All scarves are identified by pattern and date, and no design is still in production, said Rosemary Schorr.
Fine arts, often with a nautical emphasis, are one of the Newport Antiques Show’s great strengths. Avery Galleries of Pennsylvania and New York pulled out all the stops, displaying a large, shimmering view of Gloucester Harbor by Jane Peterson on one wall and coastal views by Charles Herbert Woodbury, Reynolds Beal, Antonio Pietro Martino and Theresa Bernstein on another. Of special note was a view of Deer Isle, Maine, by John Marin. On the reverse of the signed and dated 1928 watercolor, the artist wrote “My best — to me — of the period.”
Newport dealer William Vareika showcased the work of American masters, particularly William Trost Richards and others with ties to Rhode Island. Of special note was “Hollyhocks,” a circa 1881 opalescent leaded-glass window by John La Farge. A watercolor design at the MFA Boston suggests the work was made for J. Pierpont Morgan’s New York residence.
“If I were to live with one thing here, it would be this,” Old Lyme, Conn., dealer Jeffrey Cooley said of “Catskill Mountain Vista” by William Bliss Baker. The dramatic 1885 landscape is rooted in the Hudson River tradition, but with something of the Pre-Raphaelite era’s brilliant lighting and meticulous detail. On another wall, Cooley hung “June,” an outstanding example of the work of Old Lyme artist Harry L. Hoffman, next to “Angel Fish and Morays, No. 5,” a wool tapestry by his wife, Beatrice A. Hoffman.
The noted marine artist John Stobart was on hand at Rehs Gallery, where a new work by the contemporary master, “Nantucket Arrival — Shenandoah Off Brant Point” joined his earlier picture “New York, Shipping on the East River.” A centerpiece of Rehs display was “At the Water’s Edge,” a signed and inscribed oil on canvas by the Nineteenth Century artist Daniel Ridgway Knight.
Newport has, of course, been an important naval center since Colonial times. Addressing the current market for naval art and artifacts, Maine dealer James L. Kochan offered a monumental group portrait of a Scottish naval officer and his family by George Watson, the first president of the Royal Scottish Academy. The painting surfaced in North Carolina, where many Scots settled. On a more whimsical note, Leatherwood Antiques featured a patriotic hooked run decorated with the insignia of the US Navy Fleet Readiness Center.
Travel and trade was a popular theme among paper specialists. Arader Galleries offered Nineteenth Century gouache on paper port views of Philadelphia and New York City by Nicolino V. Calyo. Old Lyme, Conn., dealers Hanes & Ruskin hung a signed 1885 portrait in watercolor, gouache and ink by Domenico Gavarrone of the barque William Woodside, constructed by the Pennell Shipbuilding Company in Brunswick, Maine. The showstopper at Hill-Stone, Inc, was the Paul Gauguin lithograph “Mano Tupapau (Watched By The Spirits of The Dead).”
American or English, most of the furniture in the show was formal, and much was paired with art. Litchfield, Conn., dealer Jeffrey Tillou featured ships’ portraits by the husband and wife painters William G. Yorke and Mary E. Yorke and a Connecticut Queen Anne flattop highboy from the Glastonbury area, attributed to Isaac Tryon, circa 1760–70.
Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas hung “Landscape with White House” by Ernest Lawson over a circa 1750 blockfront chest of drawers from Marblehead, Mass., setting off the latter with a Chinese export porcelain tureen.
Delaware dealer James M. Kilvington, whose sales included a marble top New York table retailed by Israel Sack Inc in the 1950s, offered Newport views by James Hamilton and Edmond Darch Lewis and a pair of 1745–50 George II parcel-gilt japanned side chairs attributed to Giles Grendey, described in his time as a “great dealer in the cabinet way” and as an “eminent Timber Merchant.’’ Kilvington knows of similar chairs in a private collection in Italy and at Colonial Williamsburg.
Providence, R.I., dealer Stanley Weiss hung “New York Harbor” by James Hamilton over a Newport sideboard.
Internationalism prevailed at Philip Colleck, Ltd, where “Marineros” by Spanish artist Jose Amat Pages complemented a George III ormolu-mounted mahogany commode.
Regrettably, the Newport Antiques Show remains something of an inside secret, mainly enjoyed by Newport residents, seasonal and otherwise. The locals should consider themselves fortunate indeed. All others should make an effort to get to this special show. Word is that the Newport Antiques Show will be roughly a week later in 2017 but happily still at St George’s School.
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