Published: April 6, 2016
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
HARTFORD, CONN. — It is rare that things entering the Hartford Armory are older than the building, but such is the case with the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show, conducted March 19–20, where nearly all of it is. At 43 years running, it is more grounded in tradition and the loyalty of its audience than ever before, ideally positioned to prosper as the longest-running show in the state, finding a home in one of the oldest cities in the state, in one of the oldest states in the country. By now, the show has a good grasp on itself and its audience, dealers and friends. For that, attendees responded with warmth, patronage and bustling sales from the get-go.
Karen DiSaia, show manager, has made it her goal to maintain the quality tradition of the event. “It continues to be one of the shows where people who are interested in early Americana can go and see a show that is filled with just that.”
While many shows have broadened to include Modern or contemporary material, this one has not. Its patrons are grateful.
“We did broaden to folk art and I think that was fun,” said DiSaia. “The show will evolve as we move along because it is necessary to do that, but we will always focus on objects that are handmade, one of a kind and, of course, old.”
The Connecticut Spring Antiques Show has been at the Hartford Armory for the majority of its existence. Approaching the building, you can not help but think of its long history. A blocky, stalwart structure backed by an enormous great room, the armory was completed 107 years ago in 1909 and stands nearly a quarter-mile long on its broad side. Since its inauguration, the building has housed the state’s National Guard and Military Department as well as the adjutant general and the state’s Emergency Center. It has seen a plethora of events ranging from auto shows to circuses, but none that touch so aptly upon the history and lives of the people who settled and lived in Connecticut or the surrounding areas.
Exhibitors convened at the Hartford Armory from all over the country, with the majority from Connecticut and Massachusetts, but others traveling from as far as Kansas and Michigan. Appropriately, the presentation offered an abundance of fine and decorative art native to the state, from country furniture and folk art to canvases by the artists affiliated with its leading schools and movements.
One Connecticut treasure was a fine heart and crown, banister back side chair for sale at Elliott and Grace Snyder Antiques. The chair was maple, ash and poplar, with a woven seat and old painted finish, made in Stratford between 1725 and 1745. After reminiscing about her long history exhibiting at the show, Grace Snyder was happy to report, “This was the best year we’ve had in several years,” detailing sales of two needleworks, a rare Portsmouth side chair and many smalls.
Nathan Liverant and Son, from Colchester, Conn., exhibited and sold a Connecticut Queen Anne cherry server with sunburst carved center drawer and a silver basting spoon by Joseph Copp, active in New London, Conn., between 1757 and 1776. Hanging above the server was a portrait by Martha’s Vineyard painter Frederick Mayhew. Also of note was a Queen Anne maple porringer-top tea table with a cyma curve scrolled apron. The piece is inscribed “Mrs. J.W. Wheeler” twice under its top and is attributed to Isaiah Tiffany of Lebanon, Conn., 1735 to 1760.
Arthur Liverant, who has exhibited at the event since its inception, said, “The show still has a lot of great New England, Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic material. The collectors have changed, the dealers have changed, but what’s offered has not. The spring show is still very highly thought of for many good reasons.”
Samuel Herrup Antiques from Sheffield, Mass., featured three handsome specimens of Bristol County, Mass., redware ranging in age from 1800 to 1810.
Peter Eaton Antiques, Newbury, Mass., brought a Queen Anne desk on frame, made from cherry in old red paint. The piece is most likely from eastern Connecticut, circa 1740–60, and has a fanciful interior, heart cutout in its skirt and unusual pigeon-toed back feet.
Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, Litchfield, Conn., showed a Liverpool pitcher decorated with the ship Packett of Salem, Mass., on top of a Chippendale tilt-top tea table, also probably from Salem, Mass. Nearby, Tillou presented a Hudson River view attributed to Thomas Chambers.
Jewett-Berdan sold a beautiful tavern sign reading “W. Jones” beneath a sheaf of wheat. William Jones was the owner of a tavern and stagecoach stop in Haddam, Conn., around 1805. The sign, untouched and in as-found condition, was originally advertised in The Magazine Antiques in 1985.
Butch Berdan said, “It was a good show for us, we were very pleased. We also sold a William Kennedy portrait, some furniture, paint decorated boxes and a 1776 sampler from Middleton Mass.”
He continued, “The thing about Hartford is that there are people here that you don’t see at any other shows. The clientele very much appreciates and understands the material. They’re aware of what they are looking at.”
Adorning the front of Hilary and Paulette Nolan’s booth was an outstanding set of Connecticut River Valley double doors with old color, raised panels and original hardware, circa 1780.
Perhaps best known for late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Connecticut art, the Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., mounted a curated display of small works paintings.
Garvey Rita Art & Antiques of West Hartford, Conn., featured works by Howard Rackliffe, a self-taught Modernist painter from New Britain, Conn., active throughout much of the Twentieth Century. Kevin Rita said, “His work recalls that of Hartley, Dove and Avery, but he had his own handwriting.”
Blue Heron Fine Art put together a handsome booth and reported solid sales, writing up significant paintings by Max Kuehne and Emile Gruppe. “The show felt stronger this year,” said gallery owners Jim Puzinas and Shelley Brown.
Joan Brownstein, a Newbury, Mass, authority on portraiture, combined primitive likenesses and Nineteenth Century photographic portraits. One highlight was a watercolor, pencil and ink on paper portrait depicting a family before a fire. Joseph H. Davis completed the early work in Maine or New Hampshire, probably in 1833.
Portsmouth, N.H., dealer Hollis Brodrick reported the sale of a rare iron fireback inscribed “G. Washington, General of the Continental Army in America” above a Romanesque figure. The fireback was modeled after the first medal ever done of George Washington in 1778, designed by Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire.
“We did steady business all day, opening day, from 15 minutes after it opened until 15 minutes to closing. People were upbeat and interested, a lot of new blood on the floor, some people traveled a distance to come to the show and they were happy to have found some things,” said Brodrick.
On the scene were a handful of new exhibitors, including Emele’s Antiques from Dublin, Penn.; Matt Greig Antiques from Lewes, Del.; Firehouse Antiques from Galena, Md.; and W.T. Thistlethwaite Antiques from Glasgow, Ky.
W.T. Thistlethwaite offered Americana, much of it from the South, displaying a pair of paintings depicting African American cotton workers by William Aiken Walker; a folky Midwest stepback chest of drawers constructed of walnut and poplar, likely from Indiana or Ohio; and a Virginia or North Carolina sugar chest.
Stiles House Antiques presented a New London, Conn., Chippendale figured bird’s-eye maple and cherry wood secretary bookcase in two parts, circa 1770.
Stoneware made no small showing at Mad River Antiques from North Granby, Conn. Among a fine selection of Bennington stoneware, Steve German pointed to a J&E Norton jug decorated with a lion and called it “the best of the bunch.”
Like any good event, the Connecticut Spring Antiques show comes with a worthy cause. The show is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Haddam Historical Society. Lisa Malloy, director, remarked, “It was wonderful. We were happy with the gate, the dealers and, of course, the weather.” Malloy noted that their free Sunday admission for collectors 35 years and under had more takers this year, a hopeful sign that young collectors are on the rise. Malloy added, “We’re really looking forward to next year. We love being back at the Hartford Armory.”
For additional information, www.ctspringantiquesshow.com or 860-908-0076.
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