Published: April 4, 2017
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. – When the friends and colleagues of Patricia E. Kane gather in Philadelphia on Friday evening, April 21, for the Antiques Dealers Association of America’s (ADA) annual Award of Merit dinner, they will celebrate an individual as much revered for her management acumen as for her meticulous scholarship. Kane’s latest bravura performance was in September 2016, when she welcomed a standing-room-only crowd to the two-day symposium accompanying “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830.” Kane, the Friends of American Arts curator of American decorative arts at Yale University Art Gallery, marshaled the multiyear study culminating in the first major survey of the subject in half a century, a project resulting in a book and exhibition. The curator, a trusted advisor to many top collectors, performed a similar feat for Massachusetts silver a little more than a decade before. But for all the emphasis on her scholarship, it should be noted that Kane is first and foremost an objects person. A youthful encounter with copperplate-printed textiles at the Connecticut Historical Society set her on her career path. She arrived at the Art Gallery in 1968 and in the ensuing decades updated and enhanced the university’s already exceptional collections of American arts. Here, Kane shares with readers some of the most notable acquisitions made by the museum under her watch. “For God, for Country and for Yale!,” as the anthem goes.
My Favorite Things
By Patricia E. Kane
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Because the Award of Merit is being presented by the ADA, I have chosen to talk about my acquisitions in the art market rather than acquisitions made through gifts or bequests. Of the more that 225 objects I have acquired through purchase during my almost half-century at Yale, I have chosen those of which I am most proud and that represent priorities I set for the collection. The Yale Art Gallery is blessed to have the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection with its extraordinary strengths in all media up to about 1840. When Charles Montgomery came to Yale in 1970 to be professor of the history of art and curator of the Garvan collection, he recognized the need to build the collections from 1840 to the present. I have followed his lead. Certainly there have been some purchases of earlier material, particularly in the field of silver through the Josephine Setze Fund for the John Marshall Phillips Collection, which honors Phillips’s interest in American silver of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries, but the majority of purchases have been of objects made between 1840 and the present. From the time of Charles Montgomery’s curatorship until the year 2000, most of the fundraising efforts went to the annual operating budget and building endowments to underwrite those costs. Once those endowment funds grew and covered the departmental needs, individuals and the Friends of American Arts at Yale established endowments for acquisitions that have benefited the curators in recent years.
A Modern Tea and Coffee Service
Tea and coffee service, designer Ilonka Karasz, Paye and Baker Manufacturing Company, 1928. Electroplated nickel silver and Bakelite with brass. Gift of M. Josephine Dial in memory of Gregory T. Dial, BS 1930, Fund. Shortly after the exhibition “At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression,” on view at Yale in late 1983 into early 1984, I became aware that the Manhattan gallery Fifty-Fifty still had material from Ilonka Karasz’s estate, including this service. One evening in New York my husband, Scott Braznell, harangued three curators — myself, Kevin Stayton of the Brooklyn Museum and Ulysses Dietz of Newark — about how this set had to be bought. He argued that it was a noteworthy work in American silver that eclipsed contemporaneous German Bauhaus silver. He analyzed its ingenious aspects of having all the pieces made with interchangeable parts from the same extruded cylinder for the bodies and the same rod of Bakelite for the handles. Furthermore, he noted it had belonged to Karasz herself. The exposition was delivered with such passion that the next day I called up dealer Mark McDonald and told him we wanted to pursue the purchase. The service has become an acknowledged icon of 1920s American design.
An Art Deco Desk and Bookcase
Desk and bookcase by Paul T. Frankl, circa 1927. Mahogany, cedrela, zebrawood, yellow poplar and pine with aluminum leaf. Bequest of Clara Migeon Swayze, by exchange. We had a desk of this type in “At Home in Manhattan,” so when this example came up for sale at Christie’s with a fabulous provenance of having been made for the guest suite of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s house Mar-a-Lago, we pounced. The use of rich textiles, metallic surfaces and bold geometric shapes in Frankl’s work for Mar-a-Lago resulted in some of the most exuberant American Art Deco furniture. The desk came to be at Christie’s because after Post bequeathed Mar-a-Lago to the United States government, the government sold the property to Donald J. Trump, who sold off portions of the original interiors to local antiques dealers.
A French-American Pitcher
Pitcher by Antoine Oneille, 1810–15. Silver. Josephine Setze Fund for the John Marshall Phillips Collection. This silver pitcher was made between 1810 and 1815 in Sainte Genevieve, Mo., in what was known as the Illinois Country, which was settled by immigrants from France and French Canada. The region was ceded to Spain in 1762, returned to France in 1800 and sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. French Canadian and Creole culture dominated in the area until the early Nineteenth Century. This pitcher’s maker and owner were both of French descent. The maker, Antoine Oneille, was a Quebec-born silversmith who worked in Canada, Detroit and Vincennes, Ind., before arriving in Sainte Genevieve, where he largely made silver for the fur trade. The engraved initials “CR” inside a bright-cut medallion with a bowknot stand for Constance Roy and may have been part of her wedding silver when she married Ferdinand Rozier in Sainte Genevieve in 1812 or 1813. Other acquisitions followed. It has been said that we have the largest collection of central Mississippi Valley French silver of any museum.
An Arts and Crafts Box
Box by Elizabeth Copeland, 1907–16. Sterling silver with colored enamels. Mrs Paul Moore Fund. Following the show “The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1876-1916” at Princeton University Art Museum in 1972, Yale curators focused on building collections that responded to this change in taste at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Shunning the machine and the factory system to return to handcraft practice of the preindustrial era, rich traditions are found in art pottery and metalsmithing. My first venture in building this aspect of the collection after becoming head curator in 1978 was to purchase this enameled silver box by Elizabeth Copeland from the firm of Lillian Nassau. Copeland worked in Boston. Her enamels evoke medieval prototypes and are consciously primitivistic. This stellar example of her work has a large enameled panel on the top and smaller ones on all four sides.
A New Mexican Chest
Chest, maker unknown, 1775–1825. Probably ponderosa pine and iron. Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange. Under Spanish rule, the most typical piece of movable furniture that would be found in colonial New Mexican homes was the chest or “caja.” This chest belongs to a group joined with dovetails and pegs and decorated with low-relief carving. The carved imagery, particularly the carved lions and pomegranates, heralds back to Spain. Chests with this distinctive construction and carving may have originated in the Rio Abajo area of New Mexico. Fewer early New Mexican chests survive than do colonial chests from the Atlantic coast. At the time the chest was purchased, it was the only New Mexican chest in a museum collection east of the Mississippi.
A Leaded Glass Window
“Cherry Blossoms Against Spring Freshet” by John La Farge, 1882–83. Opalescent, antique and confetti glass and pressed-glass jewels in lead cames with plating. Purchased with gifts from Friends of American Arts at Yale and others. The Art Gallery had no examples of American stained glass until it purchased this window by John La Farge. The fashion for stained-glass windows in domestic architecture came into its own in the United States in the 1870s. John La Farge and his rival Louis Comfort Tiffany were the leading artists in this medium. La Farge is credited with having introduced the use of opalescent glass to windows. La Farge also experimented with other techniques of manipulating glass, such as plating multiple layers of glass to achieve tonal variation and shading without resorting to paint. All these techniques come into play in this window, a striking example of Japonisme in Nineteenth Century American art. It was removed from the Michael Jenkins House in Baltimore when the house was demolished in 1951 and then became part of the interior décor of Maxwell’s Plum restaurant in New York before gracing the Yale galleries.
Model No. 1760 Mesa table, designer Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings, manufacturer Widdicomb Furniture Company, designed 1951, introduced 1952. Walnut-veneered plywood, maple braces, birch blocks and yellow poplar apron supports. Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange. I had never seen a Mesa table until I encountered this example in Mark McDonald’s Gansevoort Gallery. I was captivated. It was designed by Terence Robsjohn-Gibbings, who had a top-tier clientele of socialites and celebrities and also designed for Widdicomb, a leading American furniture manufacturer. Introduced in 1952, it was his most important design for them and measures nearly 9 feet long. As the name suggests, it was inspired by a distinctive aspect of America’s Western landscape. Its sprawling scale recalls the expansive open plan and split-level ranch-style favored in American postwar residential design. This example resided in Longleat, the home of Evelyn and Robert Wood Johnson II of Princeton, N.J. Their capacious living room incorporated a large fieldstone fireplace. The table is now a central feature of our mid-Twentieth Century gallery.
A California Compote
Compote by Clemens Friedell, 1914. Sterling silver. Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange. In 2001, when scanning through a Skinner Discovery auction catalog, I was surprised to find this extraordinary compote with buxom lady fairies sitting amid California poppies by Clemens Friedell, recognized since the 1970s as an important Southern California silversmith from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Born in Louisiana, but trained as a silversmith in Vienna, Friedell was hired by the Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, R.I., in 1901 where he worked in the chasing room. He brought his formidable chasing skills to the company’s deluxe Martelé line that featured repousséd and chased ornament in the Art Nouveau style. He later moved to California and established a shop in Pasadena by 1911. Because of his familiarity with Gorham designs, floral ornament and forms frequently characterize Friedell’s silverware, but it is notably Pasadena’s abundant flowers that inspired the design of this compote.
An Alligator Bench
Alligator bench, designer Judy Kensley McKie, manufacturer Mussi Artworks Foundry, 1993. Bronze. Please Be Seated Collection, funded by Julian H. Fisher, BA, 1969, in memory of Wilbur J. Fisher, BA, 1926, and Janet H. Fisher. Yale alumnus Julian Fisher supported a Please Be Seated collection at Yale for a number of years, which allowed us to purchase works by contemporary makers to use as public seating in the galleries. Thereby we have assembled about 25 examples of seating furniture ranging in date from 1978 to 2006. Judy McKie began incorporating abstract animal imagery into her work in 1977 to develop a personalized sense of vitality that can be seen in her Alligator bench. Its playful stance and gaping grin make it a favorite with Art Gallery visitors.
The Wood Turner’s Art
Plate by Bob Stocksdale, 1952 or 1953. English harewood. Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange, and a gift from Stephen S. Lash, BA,1962, in honor of Ruth and David Waterbury, BA, 1958. In addition to manufactured objects, we also collect contemporary handcrafted work. This plate by Bob Stocksdale represents a concerted effort in that regard since it was part of the exhibition “Wood Turning in North America Since 1930” that we organized with the Wood Turning Center (now the Center for Art in Wood) in Philadelphia. A goal of the show was to establish the canon in this medium. This plate by Bob Stocksdale has an important place in that canon. It is an early example of Stocksdale’s ability to capitalize on the features of a special piece of wood, in this case English harewood with a spectacular streak of color variation through its center, creating an unusually painterly composition. Its additional importance is that it was shown in the pioneering Craftmen’s Educational Council exhibition “Designer-Craftsmen, U.S.A.” 1953. An endowment established by Ruth and David Waterbury enables us to acquire work in this field.
A Japanesque Center Table
Center table by Herter Brothers, circa 1878. Rosewood, mahogany, rosewood veneer, lightwood and tropical wood inlay, gilt-bronze, steel and rubber. Leonard C. Hanna Jr, Class of 1913, Fund and others. When the opportunity to purchase this table came along, our endowment income was not very flush and acquiring it meant forgoing other opportunities for a few years, but we felt it was worth it. This center table is a superlative example of the Japanese-inspired furniture Herter Brothers introduced in the mid-1870s. This table’s reliance upon design reform and Japanesque ideals clearly shows the direction of Christian Herter, coupled with the firm’s tradition of meticulous craftsmanship and quality materials. The acquisition of the table ramped up the strength of the Aesthetic Movement display just in time for Yale’s galleries to open in 2012.
A Volcanic Vase
Vase, designer Hugh C. Robertson, manufacturer Dedham Pottery, 1895–1908. Stoneware with “volcanic” glaze. Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, by exchange. When New Haven dealer and collector Rosalie Berberian decided to sell her collection of Arts and Crafts ceramics through Rago Auctions in 1993, we seized on the opportunity to buy rare examples of work by many of the well-known Arts and Crafts ceramists. Perhaps the star acquisition of the 14 lots we bought was this vase by Hugh Robertson. It is a monumental example of his experimental Volcanic Wares with a thick buildup of glazes ranging in color from blue and pale green to red luster.
ADA Award Of Merit Dinner
Recognizing outstanding contributions to the fields of American fine and decorative arts and the business of buying and selling antiques, the ADA Award of Merit this year goes to Patricia E. Kane, PhD, the Friends of American Arts curator of American decorative arts at Yale University Art Gallery.
WHEN: Friday, April 21, at 8 pm
WHERE: At the Philadelphia Antiques & Art Show at the Navy Yard, Marine Parade Grounds, South Broad Street and Intrepid Avenue in Philadelphia.
WHO: Kane’s colleagues David L. Barquist, the H. Richard Dietrich Jr curator of American decorative arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and John Stuart Gordon, the Benjamin Attmore Hewitt associate curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery, will present the award.
TO BUY TICKETS: Seating is limited. To purchase tickets, which are $95 each, contact ADA executive director Judith Livingston Loto at 603-942-6498 or visit www.adadealers.com.
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