Rich and Tasty: Shelburne Museum showcases Vermont furniture

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Rich and Tasty: Shelburne Museum showcases Vermont furniture
Nahum Parker, Sofa, ca. 1830. Mahogany, pine and brass, 35 x 84 x 20 1/2 in. Collection of J. Brooks Buxton.

SHELBURNE, VT.- Rich and Tasty: Vermont Furniture to 1850, organized by Shelburne Museum, is be on view at the Museum’s Pizzagalli Center for Art & Education from July 25 to November 1, 2015. The exhibition dramatically expands popular understanding of Vermont high style furniture. These examples reveal the exquisite craftsmanship of individual forms and will encourage a wider audience to learn about regional taste and economics that help define Vermont furniture’s stylistic features and unexpected aesthetic innovations in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Approximately 40 documented pieces are displayed, the majority of which have never been on view before. In addition to showcasing pieces from Shelburne Museum’s extensive permanent collection, public and private collections contributing pieces in the Northeast include: the Vermont Historical Society, the Collection of the Woodstock Historical Society, Fleming Museum of Art, The University of Vermont, Historic Deerfield, Inc., the Collection of J. Brooks Buxton, the Collection of Norman and Mary Gronning, the Collection of the Fowler Family, and other private collections.

According to Museum Director Tom Denenberg, “Vermont furniture has long held a special place in the hearts of students of American decorative arts; it is idiosyncratic yet elegant and very much of this place. In fact, nineteenth-century Vermont proves to be the perfect microcosm to study regional furniture making. The creation of a communal aesthetic here was unique, persistent and made up of influences from near and far. This exhibition and catalogue will open eyes to the skills and innovative spirit of Vermont furniture makers and stand as the definitive reference for years to come.”

The journey to this exhibition began in 1995, when Shelburne museum hosted an exhibition titled The Best the Country Affords: Vermont Furniture 1765-1850 organized by colleagues at the Bennington Museum. At the same time, Shelburne Museum published “Vermont Cabinetmakers & Chairmakers Before 1855: A Checklist.” This book was a revelation to many in the field as furniture in the northeast, and Vermont in particular, remained largely unidentified by scholars and collectors. Equipped with the seminal knowledge gained by this first exhibition and book, a small cadre of Vermont connoisseurs began discovering unusual and well-documented pieces to add to their private collections.

The exhibition’s companion catalogue, Rich and Tasty: Vermont Furniture to 1850, was organized by Curator Emerita Jean M. Burks, with introductory essays by Burks and Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield (Deerfield, MA). The book features 75 full color photographs by Boston photographer David Bohl, accompanied by individual entries and descriptive captions focusing on signed and documented furniture from all areas of the Green Mountain State to include: A Legacy in Specialization: Clockmaking; Neoclassical Vermont; A Distinctive Vermont Form-The Half Sideboard; One Vermont Town’s Furniture – Woodstock; Vermont Uncorked and, The Vermont Furniture A-List.

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