Society of North America 31st Annual Conference
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
Fine and Folk: Traditional Decorative Arts of Maryland.
Elizabeth Broman. Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library.
Kathy Woodrell. Library of Congress.
Anita Jones. Associate Curator, Decorative Arts for Textiles, Baltimore Museum of Art.
Cynthia Schaffner. Author and Independent furniture historian. Adjunct curator, Halsey House, Southampton, N.Y.
Gregory R. Weidman, Furnishing Project Coordinator, Historic Hampton, Inc.
James Abbott, Curator of Decorative Arts, Baltimore Museum of Art.
Stephen Van Dyk, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
Anita Jones spoke on the topic of Baltimore and Maryland
Album Quilts. Quilts, created in
the 19th century, visually document events and members of area families much
like album books do. Ms.
Jones, with the aid of slides, presented a survey of the types of quilts that
were developed focusing on mid-19th century styles. The first album quilts were simple – generally simple grid
patterns with borders of chintz. Later
developments used the “Parson” print that showed shadowing on the images,
others used “Turkey-Red” fabrics, and a popular motif was the fruit or
flower basket. The “fondue
or rainbow” print on these quilts allowed varying intensities –at times
giving a rippling or wood grain effect. Ms.
Jones then identified various sources that inspired Maryland album quilts
including copper print plates, printed sources such as newspaper images,
furniture and architectural ornament, fraternal, religious and temperance
tracts, and decorative Staffordshire plates.
Common motifs on these beautifully crafted quilts ranged from period
inventions such as steamboats and fire engines to Baltimore landmarks, notably
the Washington Monument, area gardens and fountains to political figures and
events such as the Mexican-American War. Jones
concluded with an examination of an intricately designed wedding quilt
containing numerous images and patterns.
Cynthia Schaffner’s talk centered on sources and examples
of Baltimore regional painted furniture dating from 1790 to 1840.
She used slides to link key print sources (mostly European pattern books)
to examples of painted furniture created in the area.
During the 1800-1840 period Baltimore was the center of the painted
furniture manufacturing in America. During the late 18th century to
the early 19th century –“fancy” furniture was developed
inspired by such sources as Hepplewhite, Robert Adam, and Sheraton.
Major producers of these painted furniture pieces in Baltimore were John
and Hugh Finlay and Francis Guy. The
pre-1820 pieces were therefore strongly inspired by British sources and had a
folk-like quality (flower and fruit basket motifs).
The later styles in painted furniture were inspired by French and English
neo-classical/neo-Grecian styles. Influences included the paintings of David and
the pattern books of Percier & Fontaine, and Thomas Hope.
Hugh Finlay also went to Europe in 1810 and viewed classical motifs
there. The motifs in painted
furniture after 1815-1820, therefore, featured scrolling acanthus leaves, winged
thunderbolts, and palmettes –many inspired by Grecian vases and murals from
Pompeii. Ms. Schaffner concluded by
showing an interior that contained many Maryland painted furniture pieces in
this neo-classical style.
The discussion of Maryland furniture continued with a slide
talk given by Gregory Weidman who focused on select cabinetmakers of the area.
There were few notable cabinetmakers in Baltimore until shortly after the
American Revolution when Gerard Hopkins and Robert Moore began working in the
area. Baltimore grew
significantly from 1790 to 1800 and many cabinetmakers migrated to the city,
notably Richard Lawson and John Bankston. The
firm of Bankston & Lawson brought London high styles to Baltimore and was
known for their exquisite inlay work. In the early decades of the 19th
century Baltimore cabinetmakers, such as Thomas Shearer, created precise copies
of Hepplewhite and Sheraton and, at the same time, mixed pattern book styles.
Fine pieces with delicate ornamental inlay work were created by such
cabinetmakers as Levin Tarr, John Needles, and William Camp.
At this time, Baltimore furniture makers began using exotic woods such as
imported satinwood, Australian woods, and mahoganies.
Ms. Weidman concluded with showing examples of finely crafted pieces
produced after 1815 that were strongly influenced by French neo-classical
James Abbott, the final speaker, initially noted that the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) owns significant collections of objects created by regional craftsmen. His slide presentation surveyed the production of silverware in Maryland in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Silver, in these periods, was considered a valuable commodity and also a status symbol. As the city grew in the 1790’s, Baltimore became a major center for the production of fine silver objects and tableware in America. William Ferris, William Ball, and Christopher Hughes were major Baltimore silversmiths who were inspired by English tastes in the Rococo style of the time. At the turn of the century, however, a minimal style with simpler and more delicate lines emerged (in contrast to the ornate Adamesque pieces), inspired perhaps by nearby Philadelphia. In the 1820’s, silversmiths such as Simon Wedge and William Thompson developed pieces in a “monumental” neo-classical style. A number of revival styles can be seen in later 19th century Maryland silver pieces reflecting an interest in Chinese and American Indian patterns. James concluded this presentation by showing several very elaborate Victorian silver pieces noting that the metalwork industry had continued in Baltimore on into the late 19th century.