Stylish Books: Designing Philadelphia Furniture Symposium Speakers

Brock Jobe
Professor Emeritus of American Decorative Arts
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

In 2000 Brock Jobe was appointed professor of American decorative arts in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture after a 28-year career as a museum curator and administrator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Colonial Williamsburg, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England), and Winterthur. He has authored or edited seven books and written dozens of articles.  His newest publication, Crafting Excellence: The Furniture of Nathan Lumbard and His Circle, which he co-authored with Christie Jackson and Clark Pearce, appeared in January 2018.  Brock retired from his professorship in June 2015, but retains an office at Winterthur and continues to study, write, and lecture about American furniture.

Presentation Overview

The Divergent Paths of Two Masters of British 18th-Century Design, Thomas Johnson and Thomas Sheraton

Pattern books had widespread influence throughout the Georgian era in both Britain and colonial America.  Yet the authors of these volumes often remain hidden in the shadows, their personal lives largely unknown.  This presentation will explore two exceptions to the rule.  The London carver and designer Thomas Johnson left behind an autobiography, which chronicles his career in remarkable detail.  A second key figure, the noted cabinetmaker and drawing master Thomas Sheraton, comes to life through the reminiscences of a visitor who resided with Sheraton and his family in London.  From these first-hand accounts emerge a surprising picture of the continual challenges facing talented craftsmen in their quest for success.

Alyce Perry Englund
Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alyce Perry Englund, Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, joined the department in June 2015, and oversees the seventeenth- to early nineteenth-century furniture collections. Previously, she worked at the Wadsworth Atheneum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Historic New England (SPNEA). She received her MA from the Winterthur Program in American material culture, a BA in art history from the University of Vermont, and is an alumna of The Attingham Study Programme. She has organized exhibitions on topics such as decorative arts from Connecticut, poetry and art, and the Civil War, and has published scholarship on japanned furniture, Connecticut’s Federal Era cabinetmakers, and folk art. At The Met, she curated Simple Gifts: Shaker at the Met (2016–17) and co-curated Chippendale’s Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker (May 2018 through January 2019).

Presentation Overview

Thomas Chippendale’s Director in America: Popularity, Parody, and Perseverance

For more than 250 years, Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director played a leading role in British and American furniture design. The Chippendale style is arguably the longest-surviving furniture tradition in the Anglo world. However, the pervasiveness of the Chippendale style incited ridicule from modern reformers trying to break from tradition. This lecture will illustrate the celebrity and satire surrounding Chippendale’s Director with special mention of the role that eighteenth-century Philadelphia furniture played in perpetuating design motifs and myths.

Alexandra Kirtley
Montgomery-Garvan Curator of American Decorative Arts

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Alexandra Kirtley, the Montgomery-Garvan Curator of American Decorative Arts, since joining the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s American Art curatorial staff in 2001, has been responsible for acquisitions including porcelain of the pre-Revolutionary War era and furniture of the colonial and early national eras. Among the exhibitions she has organized are Colonial Philadelphia Porcelain: The Art of Bonnin & Morris and Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House. She serves on the Curatorial Advisory Board of the United States Senate’s Commission on Art; is a trustee of The Andalusia Foundation, which oversees the Biddle family’s Delaware River estate; and is a member of the Board of Governors of The Decorative Arts Trust. Mrs. Kirtley received her A.B. degree with honors in the History of Art from Hamilton College in 1993 and an MA from the University of Delaware-Winterthur Program in Early American Culture in 1999. She lectures frequently at conferences around the country and publishes scholarly articles and several stand alone books.  Her current project, a catalogue of the PMA’s American furniture dating from 1650 to 1840, is forthcoming in 2020.

Presentation Overview

From Design Book to Design–The Philadelphia Cabinetmakers’ Companions and Guides, 1750-1800

As distinctive as the geography of the city, Philadelphia furniture is the product of joiners and cabinetmakers who hailed from all points of the European continent. So what was the stabilizing force that created the Philadelphia paradigm? This talk will examine surviving furniture and manuscript evidence to consider how Philadelphia’s furniture artisans relied on imported furniture, architecture books, and, by the 1750s, publications like Chippendale’s Director to meet the demand of a sophisticated clientele.

Femke Speelberg
Associate Curator of Historic Ornament
Design and Architecture in the Department of Drawings & Prints
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Femke Speelberg is Associate Curator of Historic Ornament, Design and Architecture in the Department of Drawings & Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Her research focuses on topics of artistic exchange and the history of design from the late Middle Ages until the first half of the twentieth century. She studied Art History (BA) and Art & Visual Culture (MPhil) at the Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and completed her studies with a thesis on the origins of the 16th-century strapwork ornament at the Castle of Fontainebleau. After several research and curatorial positions in the Netherlands, she joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum in 2011 where she curated the exhibition Living in Style. Five Centuries of Interior Design from the Collection of Drawings and Prints (2013); Fashion & Virtue. Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520-1620 (2015-16), and most recently Chippendale’ Director. The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker (2018-19).

Presentation Overview

Chippendale’s Director. The Rise of Print and Promotion in 18th-Century England

Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director is often taken for granted within his oeuvre and career. However, nothing about the book of 160 pages of furniture designs was self-evident when it was first published in London in 1754. This presentation will explore the unique events that led to its creation, and the significance the book held for the launch of Chippendale’s career as a cabinetmaker in the capital of the British Empire.

Generously Supported By:

This exhibition and programming is supported in part by the Center for American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Freeman’s; and Jay Robert Stiefel.