Celebrating two collectors’ passion for Americana and the window it provides into the everyday beauty of the past.
Becoming America offers a multifaceted view of one of the foremost collections of 18th- and 19th-century American folk and decorative art from the rural Northeast. Essays by leading specialists discuss the culture of furniture workshops, exuberant painted decoration, techniques of sewing and quilting, and poignant stories about the families depicted in the portraits. The collection itself includes Shaker boxes, a beaded Iroquois hat, embroidered samplers, metalwork, scrimshaw, handwoven rugs, ceramics, and a weather vane. The majority of these works have never before been published. With lively essays and profuse illustrations, this handsome volume brings to life the aesthetic of early Americans living in the countryside and is an essential exploration of the period’s taste and style.
This book is the catalogue for the ongoing exhibition Becoming America, on view in the Fielding Wing of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
James Glisson is the former Bradford and Christine Mishler Associate Curator of American Art at The Huntington.
From a review by The Magazine Antiques:Stacy Hollander, former curator at the American Folk Art Museum, surveys themes in landscape and still-life painting in early America, while independent curator Robin Jaffee Frank closely examines three family portraits in the Fielding collection. Elizabeth V. Warren sorts through the textiles, which range from quilts and samplers to hooked rugs and beadwork. Virginia antiquarian Sumpter Priddy offers an illuminating look at the “fancy” painting style and the kaleidoscope motif in early American design. There’s also an engaging interview with antiques dealer David Wheatcroft, who served as the Fieldings’ Sacagawea in the world of American folk art, about the building of the collection and the methods he uses to weigh the merits and defects of antiques. Perhaps the most affecting essay comes from Yale historian John Demos. It’s ostensibly a kind of primer on early American furniture, but Demos goes beyond details of the making and the stylistic attributes of the chests and chairs under discussion to examine their significance and what it means to collect them.
From a review by Antiques and The Arts Weekly:
“The most compelling objects in the Fielding collection are the most humble, primitive lighting and hearth equipment made extraordinary by everyday Americans with the kind of imagination and initiative that, writ large, built this country.”
From a review in Art & Object:
Becoming America takes us through how Americans shaped their new country and recorded their lives through their artistry and craftsmanship. Be it everyday objects like quilts and furniture, or portraits and still lives, Americans have always forged new identities and told their stories through beautiful objects.
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