Published: August 14, 2018
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Is it possible for an antiques show to be both playful and serious? To offer variety and depth? In the case of the Newport Antiques Show, the answer is resoundingly yes.
The resort community’s most upscale fair completed another year at St George’s School in Middletown, a few minutes from Newport’s historic center, on July 29. Chaired by Anne Hamilton and managed by Diana Bittel with assistance from facilities manager Ralph DiSaia, the show is the star of the summer season. It draws a well-heeled crowd tempted by a novel assortment of fine, decorative and wearable art. Its greatest strength may be marine art and antiques, followed by furniture – American, English and outdoor – and jewelry.
The Newport Antiques Show benefits the Newport Historical Society and the Boys and Girls Club of Newport County. Its committee, drawn from Newport society’s top ranks, insists that exhibitors and patrons enjoy themselves. As is their annual custom, organizers threw a preshow party for dealers, this year at an elegant Hammersmith Road carriage house. The gala preview party on Friday, July 27, was, as always, a catering marvel, with passed hors d’oeuvres and generous serving stations positioned at either end of the converted rink where the exposition sets up. Additional amenities included the loan exhibit “Great Design in Architecture & Attire: Photographs from the Newport Historical Society,” plus talks by designer Patrick Ahearn, author of Timeless: Classic American Architecture for Contemporary Living, and by fashion authority Cameron Silver, author of Decades.
William Vareika anchored the premier booth on the show’s central court. The Newport dealer in historic American paintings set the tone with “A View of the East Coast of Conanicut Island” by William Trost Richards. Priced $585,000, the 32-by-56-inch oil on canvas, on the market for the first time, descended in the family of Isaac Clothier of Philadelphia, and Jamestown, R.I. The Clothiers purchased the work directly from Newport’s best-known artist. No longer accessible by boat only, Conanicut Island is spanned by the Claiborne Pell Bridge, linking Newport to mainland Rhode Island across Narragansett Bay.
Among its many treasures, the Cooley Gallery offered a first-rate painting by Old Lyme colony artist Ivan Olinsky. Evoking the best of summer, the portrait of a young woman with a basket of peaches joined works by Percival Rousseau, Nelson C. White and Warren Sheppard.
Circa 1820 likenesses of Chester and Eliza Holmes Dickenson by Boston-area painter Cephas Thompson brightened Jim Kilvington’s booth. Rehs Galleries and Carole Pinto Fine Arts dominated the early to late Twentieth Century paintings category. At Guarisco Gallery of Washington, DC, a larger than life mosaic portrait of Grateful Dead star Jerry Garcia was made entirely of recycled computer keys.
Starting with Diana H. Bittel, who paired ships’ portraits and sailors’ valentines with golden-toned American furniture, marine themes prevailed. New to the show, Maine dealers James and Nancy Glazer offered coastal treasures in a range of prices, from fish decoys, nine for $4,800, to an extraordinary folk art mermaid on a trolley. The early Twentieth Century figure in original paint was $16,000.
A highlight of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge’s display was an eight-sided sailor’s valentine set into a Regency center table. Nearby were sailors’ woolworks and a pair of late Nineteenth Century Bradley and Hubbard dolphin andirons, circa 1886-1900.
Port ‘N Starboard Gallery, a marine art and antiques specialist from Durham, Maine, featured the oval portrait of the ship Spiridion off Liverpool by William Gay Yorke, a Canadian-born artist active on both sides of the pond.
A great pair of China Trade paintings depicting the nine-stage pagoda at Whampoa and a Chinese junk off the Dutch Folly Fort were on offer at the Hanebergs, Connecticut dealers who paired them with ships’ portraits by Antonio Jacobsen and handsome specimens of high-style American furniture in rich mahogany.
In the works on paper category, Arader Galleries of Philadelphia hung watercolor ship portraits by the French artists Roux and Pellegrin next to “The Sailor’s Adieu” and “The Sailor’s Return” by Nathaniel Currier and James Ives. At the high end was “The Last of the Buffalo,” a Goupil photogravure with hand coloring by Albert Bierstadt, and “American Bison or Buffalo,” a hand colored lithograph by John James Audubon and James Woodhouse.
Newport’s immaculately groomed gardens are just the spot for outdoor décor, be it iron, stone, wicker or oak. Philadelphia dealer Francis Purcell dazzled with fountains by J.W. Fiske of New York City, including one cast iron example based on the mid-Nineteenth Century “Boy and Dolphin” fountain made for the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany, it in turn modeled after Verrocchio’s Fifteenth Century “Putto with Dolphin” fountain. Purcell came well-stocked with cast iron garden benches and chairs in the fern and Gothic patterns, traditional favorites in Newport.
“He did a lot in Ocala, Fla.,” Bruce Emond of Village Braider Antiques said of Jean-Claude Buisson, the contemporary French sculptor who fashioned two enchanting outdoor planters or fountains with seaweed-like cast bases supporting large, reclaimed shells.
Indoor furniture also takes its cue from Newport’s grand residences, historically decorated with an eclectic mix of English, Continental and American objects. Gary Sergeant dazzled with a George IV breakfront bookcase with grillwork-mounted doors. The Connecticut dealer attributed the circa 1815-25 piece to the English firm Gillows. With it, Sergeant showed “The Wreck,” a 1939 watercolor by Andrew Wyeth, on the market for the first time and in the Wyeth catalogue raisonné.
Several aisles away, Kentucky dealer Jayne Thompson anchored her stand with an English mahogany breakfront bookcase with Gothic glazed doors, which she showed with a comely paneled-back English settle of circa 1780.
Joy Hanes, who wrote the feature article, “Penwork: Young Ladies Imitating Ivory,” for the March 2018 issue of New England Antiques Journal, brought a rare English Sheraton one-drawer stand with a fanciful penwork-decorated top.
Litchfield dealer Jeffrey Tillou countered with a Federal New England painted secretary, possibly of Maine origin, and an exuberant antler desk, which, judging by secondary woods, was of British origin.
“My customers love the early things, but taste here is eclectic,” reported A.J. Warren of Maria and Peter Warren Antiques. Majolica, Chamberlain’s Worcester dinner plates and fruitwood tea caddies combined nicely for the Connecticut dealer, who showed the pieces with a charming English drabware teapot, miniature in scale, with applied relief and a mid-Eighteenth Century circa date.
Whimsy was the order of the day at Leatherwood Antiques, whose catalog piece was a colorful needlework map of Rhode Island. Dotted with sailboats, lighthouses and an occasional mansion, the framed work bore the date 1931.
“Buyers tend to be looking for summery kinds of things here. I sold sailors’ valentines,” Bittel said after wrapping up for another season. At exhibitors’ requests, next year’s Newport Antiques Show may return to its four-day format, with a gala preview on Thursday, rather than Friday, night. Let us hope all involved appreciate this summer charmer, one of the circuit’s very best.
For more information on the Newport Antiques Show, visit www.newportshow.com or 401-846-2669.
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