Published: February 1, 2011
“I am tired, but really happy,” Karen DiSaia said a few days after the closing of TAAS, The American Antiques Show, which ended its three-day run at the Metropolitan Pavilion on Sunday, January 23. “The show really went well for the majority of the exhibitors, there was energy on the floor, and it was so nice to see people interested and buying again,” she added.
Karen has been manager of the show for the past six years, and “this was probably the best one. We had four new exhibitors, and one returnee after a few years absence,” she said.
Now in its tenth year, TAAS continues to be a formidable showcase for American folk art, furniture, works of art, fabrics and a mixture of things that date to the early Twentieth Century. It is a blend of collecting interests that continues to draw an impressive gathering of collectors and buyers year after year. And more of the same is already being planned for next year.
This show, a benefit for the American Folk Art Museum, has a committee devoted to producing a top-notch event. In fact, it takes almost a full page in the catalog just to mention those who put their shoulder to the wheel to make it happen. And a perfect example of this is Barry Briskin, who not only serves as one of the co-chairs of the show, but is also chairperson for the board of trustees. Prior to the show opening, he is in working clothes, moving furniture, arranging chairs and hanging posters. When the preview begins, he is all suited-up and extends warm welcomes to show attendees all evening long. And so it goes for three more days.
The entrance to the show is wide, allowing patrons to go straight into one of several booths or head down an aisle. Tim Hill was set up to the left, Allan Katz straight ahead, Spencer Marks to the sharp right, and Garthoeffner Galley was slightly to the right, where a very large metal hat, with buckle above the brim in front, painted red and white in the style of Uncle Sam, was displayed by the Lititz, Penn., dealer. Much interest was shown in the hat, which sold right after the preview opened.
“We have known about this hat for a number of years, but we just got it in time to have a sturdy stand made and bring to the show,” Rich Garthoeffner said. It was formerly a trade sign and had its original painted surface. It was shown next to another trade sign in the form of a clock, cast iron and tin, once used by B.C. Hartman Jewelry shop in Stanton, Va., circa 1880.
“It’s a great rug, and you need a big space to display it,” Samuel Herrup, Sheffield, Mass., said of his circa 1900 hooked rug depicting a large white recumbent dog resting in a red circle with a floral background. Professionally mounted, it measured 52 by 101 inches. A New England cherry day bed, circa 1770‱790, probably Connecticut, with bold stretcher and shaped apron, measured 63 inches long.
Chairs and tall case clocks dominated the booth of Gary R. Sullivan, Inc, Sharon, Mass., including a set of ten Federal dining chairs in mahogany, Newport, R.I., Hepplewhite, dating circa 1805‱810. Among the tall case clocks was a rare musical example, Leslie & Williams, New Brunswick, N.J., circa 1795‱798. The mahogany case was labeled by the maker, Joseph Ward, and it measured 99½ inches.
Shining brightly at the booth of Spencer Marks, Southampton, Mass., was the McKeon vase, an American silver covered presentation vase, James Thomson, designed by Robert Ball Hughes, New York. It dated 1837.
Allan Katz, who really should be known as “the red dot man,” once again had a booth filled with wonderful pieces of folk art, neatly arranged against dark gray walls. Among the objects selling on preview night was an American carved eagle of pine, with the original polychrome surface, dating from the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century and measuring 48¼ inches wide and 147/8 inches tall. It was signed on the reverse “J.T. Lothrop maker.” Also sporting a red dot, and rumored to have been purchased by a museum, was the William Edmonson sculpture of “Adam and Eve,” circa 1935, sitting side by side and both dressed in gowns. The carved stone piece measured 13 inches high, 30 inches long and 12 inches deep.
“We had a great show, selling just about all of our major pieces; it was extremely active,” Allan said. In addition to the eagle and the Edmonson, he sold the violin and case, the tin anniversary flowers in vase, and the countertop tobacco trade figure, New York City, circa 1845, measuring 21½ inches high, among other pieces.
Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Mich., again presented a booth of exceptional folk art pieces, including a carved and painted wood figure of Father Time, circa 1890, maker unknown. This symbolic fraternal lodge figure measures 34 inches high. Among several whirligigs offered was a band master, circa 1880, New England origin, of painted wood, gold leaf and tacks and measuring 30 inches high. It was formerly in the Martin collection. “We did well and had a very positive response to our booth,” Tim said, mentioning that he had sold his large waterwheel whirligig, a large relief carving, two Native American pieces, six whirligigs that were displayed on the column at the front of his booth and a number of smaller pieces. “There was lots more interest this year than in the immediate past,” he said.
“With the exception of a few pieces, I brought less traditional things to the show this year,” Peter Eaton of Newbury, Mass., said. Falling into this category was a rare Sheraton sideboard with swelled “cookie corner” top, reeded water leaf carved posts, turned legs ending in bulbous feet and dating circa 1815. The piece is attributed to William Hook, Salem, Mass., and has a 45-inch-wide case. The sideboard descended in the Moody family, York, Maine, and was removed from the 1684 Moody family house.
On a more formal note was a mahogany reverse serpentine Chippendale chest of drawers with inlaid edge top, original brasses, old surface and measuring 33¾ inches wide. It was from the North Shore, Mass., and dates circa 1780‱785. Works of art shown in the shared booth by Joan R. Brownstein included a portrait of Ann Miller Tompkins, born in Somers, N.Y., by Ammi Phillips. A portrait of a seated child in a green rocker under a large tree by Jacob Maentel showed a landscape setting with rolling hills, a barn and a house.
Clifford A. Wallach, Greenwich, Conn., had an interesting collection of tramp art pieces, with lots of attention paid to a carousel with bisque children riding sheep and horses. It was made by railroad workers, circa 1914, and it closely resembles the Bushnell carousel in Hartford, Conn. A favorite in the booth was a white painted tramp art trolley car, complete with a conductor and passengers. It had interior lighting, dated circa 1930s, and was from the Midwest. Both pieces sold.
“I saw that trolley about 15 years ago, traced it down and it was sold, and it finally came back around just a short time ago. It was like a magnet, drawing people into the booth,” Clifford said. He went on the say that he sold all but one of his most important pieces, that there had been some follow-up after the show, and that sold pieces were scattered all about the country, including California, Texas and Florida. “The show sparkled, and it was one of the best we have ever had,” he said.
Colette Donovan of Merrimacport, Mass., set up a booth that was ready to move right into an empty room. A chopping table in the original paint, designed to look like a drum, American, mid-Nineteenth Century, was between two wing chairs, a Chippendale example, circa 1760, from Massachusetts, and the other an easy chair of New England origin dated 1810. It had a single pine board seat and was upholstered in linsey-woolsey. A pair of straw slippers was near one of them, and a basket for reading material at the other. This setting was complete, facing a country sofa with end table. That setting did not last long, as Colette experienced a very strong show.
“It was great, kind of nice, and people had lots of interest and questions. It was far more active than last year,” she said. She sold her 1840 Ohio wedding quilt, two whole cloth quilts, a sofa, bed, wing chair, baskets, hooked rugs and a good number of smalls. This was her second year at the show and she was “very pleased and relieved.”
Moving away from upholstered furniture, Cherry Gallery, Damariscotta, Maine, showed a set of four armchairs by the Rustic Hickory Furniture Co., LaPorte, Ind., circa 1925. A mosaic drop front twig desk was made by Charles Albert Summer while being a caretaker at Birch Point Camps in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine, circa 1920. And a dresser made by Ernest Stowe of Upper Saranac Lake, N.Y., circa 1905, six drawers with applied white birch bark and yellow birch twig trim, labeled as “Rustic’s Finest Expression,” was among the 15 pieces of furniture sold. “It was a really great show for us,” Kass Hogan said, “We sold about 65 items and are doing some follow-up business.”
“We had a couple come in who collect animal figures and they bought five from us, including an over-sized beaver which I loaded into a cab and delivered to 96th Street,” added Jeff Cherry. In addition to some local sales, a couple pieces of rustic furniture went to a home in Kentucky.
Greg Kramer & Co., Robesonia, Penn., known for filling a booth, and then some, was in fine form at TAAS, offering a collection of painted furniture, lots of folk sculpture and cases of smalls. Taking up a major portion of one wall was a painted and carved trade sign, the figure of a prized pig, measuring 57½ inches wide and 38 inches tall. Probably of English origin, and dating from the Nineteenth Century, the lettering on the pig’s side reads “Hudson’s Superior Pork Butcher.” A carved folk art bald eagle was outfitted as an airplane, with props on each wing, and the wings were in a raised position to show the red and white painted surface with blue stars. It dated from the early Twentieth Century. A folk art figure of a carved and polychromed man, possibly Rip Van Winkle, was more than 6 feet tall and attributed to Noah West (1824‱907), Northampton County, Penn. The figure wore a hat and long beard.
Mo Wajselfish of Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich, Mass., said that when people heard he was doing TAAS, they questioned his interest in American objects. “I brought lots of American pieces,” he said, pointing out a hooked rug, a game table, painted boxes and wood carvings. Of note was an Arts and Crafts table, circa 1917, 30 inches high and 35 inches wide, with an inlaid top featuring stars and an American flag. A brown horse with black mane, tail and hoofs was depicted on a 25-by-24-inch hooked rug, late Nineteenth Century, with a red and black check border. Staffordshire plates and cups filled a shelf in one of the cases, and another case was just bronzes, with figures ranging from large rabbits to baby chicks.
An interesting picture was by John Kane (American, 1866‱934), depicting John Kane painting a farm scene in his living room with his wife looking over his shoulder. An oil on canvas, circa 1928, it measured 23 by 23 inches and hung in the booth of Galerie St Etienne, New York City. Israel Litwak (American, 1868‱960) did an oil and pencil on board of Bernard Baruch on a park bench, 1943, signed and dated and measuring 237/8 by 18 inches.
A folk art carving of a man seated on a stump, with cane in hand, circa 1900, from the Kentucky/Tennessee border, was shown by Judith and James Milne, New York City. “We just got the tennis weathervane, and it sold right away preview night,” Judy Milne said. With gilt surface, the vane featured a tennis racquet over an arrow. Three colorful and interesting sports signs taken from a gymnasium in Chicago hung on the back wall, featuring baseball, tennis and basketball.
The spotlight was on a paint decorated blanket chest, very colorful, shown at the front of the booth of The Herrs, Lancaster, Penn. The chest, with applied half spindles and circular design corner blocks, dated from the Nineteenth Century and was from York County, Penn. The chest was signed N.H. Heindel and measured 41½ inches long, 25 inches high and 19¼ inches deep.
Jeff and Holly Noordsy of Cornwall, Vt., filled a hanging shelf with an assembled collection of 15 early Nineteenth Century New England chestnut bottles, and displayed a Nineteenth Century embroidered appliquéd table mat with flower design in great colors, over an Eighteenth Century tiger maple Queen Anne splay leg tap table with button feet. “The show went very well for us, it was our best in the past three years, and we sold about 30 objects,” Jeff said. Stoneware, glass and two paintings were among the items sold, and, Jeff added, “We saw a very strong interest in glass, which has been building over the years, and more and more people are displaying glass in their homes.”
A red painted ash burl bowl, circa 1780, 14¾ inches in diameter and 7½ inches high, certainly lived up to the “gutsy” notation on the tag in the booth of Steven S. Powers, Brooklyn, N.Y. An Ohio grain painted step back cupboard, miniature, circa 1875‱880, measures 18 inches wide, 21½ inches high and 10 inches deep, was made by Christian Sprang.
John Keith Russell of South Salem, N.Y., is a well-known Shaker dealer and his booth was brimming over with both Shaker furniture and accessories. A hanging cupboard, Harvard, Mass., circa 1840, measured 40½ inches high, 383/8 inches wide and 143/8 inches deep, had a Fruitlands Museum provenance. The Shaker sewing desk from Enfield, Conn., circa 1830, was outfitted with a rare and fine Shaker spool rack and spools, probably from New Lebanon, circa 1840. John’s other strong interest, redware, was well represented with plates and jugs, many with slip decoration, and he branched off into folk art with a sheet metal eagle weathervane with original surface.
From Reading, Penn., Outsider Folk Art Gallery brought a maiden and papoose tobacconist figure, white pine with polychrome surface, 73½ inches high, by Thomas Brooks of New York City. It dated from the second quarter of the Nineteenth Century. A locomotive weathervane, early Twentieth Century, was 25 inches long, and a gentleman’s ship figurehead, 36 inches high, dated circa 1830. The figure, of carved and painted wood, showed the man in a black coat with white scarf.
Jesse Goldberg of Artemis Gallery, North Salem, N.Y., labeled his American pedestal-base desk “possibly unique,” a piece by Stephen Smith, Boston, circa 1830, with the original tooled leather writing surface. It measured 6 feet long, 38½ inches wide and 30½ inches high. A server with marble top, probably Massachusetts, square tapered reeded legs, dated circa 1800, and an inlaid Hepplewhite tambour lady’s secretary, Massachusetts or New Hampshire, circa 1800, had a mahogany case with a variety of inlays.
In addition to a well-stocked booth, Just Folk of Summerland, Calif., had a computer slide show going on a table at the front of the booth. There to be seen and touched were a large sheet metal elephant weathervane with rusted surface and a selection of walking sticks with handles carved as faces and hands. A large hooked rug pictured General George Washington in full red, white and blue dress, complete with his prancing gray horse.
“The Freedom Quilt,” magnificent in its blazing red, white, blue and yellow colors, was an eye-stopper in the booth of Stephen Score of Boston. Dating about 1880 and measuring 86 by 86 inches, this quilt was hand pieced, appliquéd and quilted, cotton, and hand embroidered in red below the blue field of stars was “Hope of our country,” “The Star of Freedom,” and “M.W.L. to C.M.L.” It was made by a member of the Lewis family of Boston and St Louis who was related to the great painter of Mississippi River steamboat panoramas, Henry Lewis (1819‱904). The description tag on the quilt picked up a red dot early in the preview. A model of the Empire State Building, carved wood constructed of seven tapering drawers, circa 1940, was painted black, gold and silver and measured 33½ inches high. And no penguin fancier could pass up the American carved and painted fellow, happily dancing along with one foot in the air. The carving dated circa 1940 and was found in the Midwest.
Aarne Anton, complete in his preview outfit with top hat, showed people around his American Primitive Gallery booth that was filled with all manner of sculpture, from a rare pair of horse head hitching posts to a cast iron net weight in the form of a fish that was once used in Michigan. A bicycle handle came mounted and complete with about eight different bells on it, and one of the best shooting gallery targets known, a rooster with star by Wurfflein, Philadelphia, was spotlighted at the front of the booth. A row of smaller targets, numbering 15, included a whale, bear, deer, elephant, ducks, swan and chicken. “I have been collecting shooting gallery targets for a long time and there are some in that row that I have never seen before,” Aarne said.
The walls of the booth were covered with samplers, as was the facing wall across the aisle, in the display of M. Finkel & Daughter, Philadelphia. Ruthey Lock did one of the Massachusetts samplers, dated 1802, depicting a brick house, five figures and baskets of flowers, while a pair of samplers was by sisters from Andover, Mass., Charlotte and Miranda Frye, dated 1811 and 1822, complete with alphabets and verse. Below the wall of samplers was a neoclassical country settee, probably Vermont, circa 1830, yellow birch and white pine, upholstered, and with the original painted black arms, frame and legs.
As usual, Steve and Leon Weiss of Gemini Antiques, Oldwick, N.J., were there pushing buttons to make mechanical banks do their thing and showing clients cast iron and tin toys they had been saving for the show. In addition, they offered a selection of firefighting equipment models, including hook and ladders, hose reels, hand pumpers and rotary pumpers, all from the Smithsonian collection. A number of artist’s mannequins, in various sizes, were displayed, and a large painting depicted the Anderson Prison, Andersonville, Ga., a large oil on canvas dating circa 1870.
The American Folk Art Museum, 45 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, is showing “Super Stars: Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum” through September 25. The museum will also present “Infinite Variety, Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” at the Park Avenue Armory, between 66th and 67th Streets, from March 25 to 30, and will feature 650 quilts on loan from the private collection of Joanna S. Rose. For information, 212-265-1040, extension 381, or www.folkartmuseum.org .
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