Published: April 22, 2003
By Bob Jackman
WILLMINGTON, DEL. — Highly pleased American furniture collectors found the March furniture forum at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens to be a rich learning environment.
“The staff has packed a lot of experiences into three days. Participants include some of the most advanced collectors along with novices and everybody in between. People are fully engrossed learning the material that is most pertinent to them,” commented a New York dealer participating in the event.
The forum entitled “Clues for the Connoisseur: Tools and Techniques for Understanding Old Furniture” integrated slide presentations, hand-on workshops, field trips and informal discussions.
Collector Jeff Clemmer of Pennsylvania commented, “It is my first time at an antiques seminar. I am learning from both the organized programs and from discussions with other participants. Alternating between the two types of experience is really beneficial. The lectures contain so much information, but then conversing with other participants you get a chance to put things into a personal perspective.”
The most popular presentations were those with a workshop that closely followed up upon an earlier lecture. Clemmer opined, “My favorite presentation involved the Boston bombe desk and bookcase. It was something special to hear Wendy Cooper’s lecture in the morning and then to attend a workshop where I could see the marks and changes that she spoke about. The lesson really registered when it came in two different settings.”
Several lectures, including Cooper’s presentation on the desk and bookcase, acknowledged alterations to furniture rdf_Descriptions before they entered the Winterthur collection.
Longtime Massachusetts dealer Frank McNamee added, “The organizers have done a great job assembling a really ambitious program and top-notch presenters. I have learned a lot and had a wonderful time.” Other nota-ble dealers in the attendance included Albert Sack and Ron Bourgeault of Northeast auctions and Susan Pope of Arthur Anderson Restorations.
Program officials responded by expanding the program to 120 seats. That still left 20 disappointed collectors on the waiting list. Participants came from across the nation.
For decades Winterthur has conducted three-day forums, but traditionally those have covered a spectrum of topics. The 2002 forum was the first devoted solely to furniture, and it attracted 40 collectors. Attendees were highly enthusiastic about that program, and their excrdf_Descriptionent triggered the aggressive sign-up for the 2003 forum.
While most presenters delivered one lecture and several workshops, Boston furniture conservator Robert Mussey presented two lectures. His first talk, “Early Aspects of Mechanization in Furniture Manufacture, 1790-1830,” contained a wealth of fresh, unpublished material. During his ten-year research of Seymour furniture, Mussey compiled an extensive body of material on mechanization in America. He discovered that the labor-starved American economy eagerly embraced mechanization while British guilds and unions resisted mechanization.
Mussey’s second presentation was on the hallmarks of Seymour furniture. John Townsend, another cabinetmaker who obsessively overbuilt furniture, was the subject of a fine presentation by Morrison Heckscher, chairman of the American wing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Several speakers presented research based upon logbooks and other archival material that lent insight into the working environment of early cabinetmakers. A significant and riveting presentation by Jay Stiefel provided a solid foundation for reinterpreting Colonial Philadelphia furniture.
Next year’s forum will focus on American upholstered furniture in a program entitled “From Leather to Loose Covers: Perspectives on Upholstered Furniture in Fashionable American Interiors.” A partial list of presenters includes Mark Anderson, Nancy Britton, Linda Eaton, Leroy Graves, Brock Jobe, Betsy Lahikainen and Robert Trent.
For further information, contact the museum at 800-448-3883, or www.winterthur.org.
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