Published: June 5, 2019
MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. — The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms’ new exhibition will continue through Sunday, January 5. The exhibition will be guest curated by David Cathers, scholar and author of Gustav Stickley and Stickley Style. Installed in the Log House dining room, the exhibition will examine the American Arts and Crafts chair through 13 featured side chairs, from early Twentieth Century handicraft-oriented manufacturers — among them Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops, the L. & J.G. Stickley Company and the Charles P. Limbert Company — to small craft-oriented workshops, including Charles Rohlfs, the Roycroft Shops, Byrdcliffe Arts Colony and Rose Valley Shops.
“I wanted to focus this exhibition on Arts and Crafts side chairs,” Cathers notes, “because a chair can reveal so much: decorative motifs, the colors and textures of materials, construction methods, even design philosophy, all in a compact and readily comprehensible form. My hope is that the museum’s display of 13 exemplary side chairs will be beautiful and also enlightening.”
The museum’s educational mission has been a key part of the exhibition’s development. As executive director Vonda Givens states, “For a large portion of our audience, a museum tour provides foundational knowledge on Stickley and the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, on which they can build. With this exhibition, we will be able to demonstrate an historical context for Stickley in an immediate and gratifying way.” Givens continues, “Beyond its educational goals, I am delighted by the exhibition’s exuberant title and by its assertion that a chair serves as both a functional object and an embodiment of ideas.”
Regarding this title and the concept of the exhibition, Cathers writes, “the architect Will Price wrote that a well-designed, well-made chair ‘is something more than a good chair. It is also a message of honesty and joy to the possessor and a cause of growth and joy to the worker.’ He stressed that a good chair brought joy to its owner because it was comfortable, functional, and durable and that it also brought joy because of the “honesty” of its visible joinery, clearly defined form and respectful use of natural materials. It was a joy to the worker because it offered the cabinetmaker the satisfaction of using craft skills to create a worthwhile object. This Arts and Crafts formulation is not hard to understand: owning a nice thing is a pleasure, and making that object can be a pleasure, too.
Cathers continues, “Will Price had a talent for articulating Arts and Crafts thoughts, and the quote from him used in our exhibition’s title expresses some of the movement’s highest ideals. I think all the chair makers included in this exhibition worked in the same spirit, producing work that expressed honesty and joy….”
The exhibition will be accompanied by an in-depth Visitor Guide, presented by Toomey & Co Auctioneers. This guide, which is free with museum admission, opens with an essay by Cathers and features the work of seven writers, including Kevin Tucker, Adrienne Spinozzi, Jonathan Clancy and Jill Thomas-Clark, who were invited to by Cathers to submit commentaries on individual chairs.
The exhibition may be viewed on all regular guided tours of the Log House. Led by docents, tours run hourly each week from Thursday to Sunday, 12:15 to 3:15 pm. On weekends only, the exhibition will be open for self-guided tours from noon to 3:30 pm. Reservations are not required. Admission is free for members. Admission for nonmembers is $10 for the docent-led tour (recommended) and $7 for the exhibition-only self-guided tour (weekends only).
The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is at 2352 NJ-10. For more information, www.stickleymuseum.org or 973-540-0311.
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