Photography by Gavin Ashworth | It took knowledge—knowledge and taste together," according to Harry Hartman of Harry B. Hartman Antiques and Interiors who helped to form this exceptional private collection of American furniture and folk art and American and Chinese export paintings. For nearly fifty years, the Hartman name has been synonymous with purveying fine antiques from southeastern Pennsylvania. This house and collection show that off, as well as Hartman's other talent—well-designed spaces in which to live comfortably with antiques.
The owners began collecting in the mid-1980s when they were newly engaged to be married. She was already clear on what she liked, but he had grown up in a Navy family that moved frequently and he had not yet experienced the passion that collecting can instill. In thinking about furnishing the house they had just purchased, they decided to visit the Delaware Antiques Show in Wilmington. There they met Hartman, who sold them a red-painted New England chair-table, which he kindly offered to deliver. When Hartman arrived with the table, he was surprised to be greeted by a longtime friend who lived just west of his Marietta, Pennsylvania, shop. She turned out to be the mother of one of his new clients. Now a trusted and dear friend to two generations, the couple credits Hartman with cultivating their taste and encouraging them to read about and study the objects they collect.
Twenty years later, their house is best described as a collection of collections. Fine Philadelphia-area mahogany and walnut furniture with veneered and carved decoration is juxtaposed with collections of yellow ware and salt-glazed stoneware, late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century baskets of all shapes and styles, Canton porcelain, Chinese export paintings and gouaches, early Pennsylvania samplers (see Fig. 14) and fraktur, chalkware cats, milliners' forms, hatboxes, and weather vanes, among other things. The American paintings in the collection have a broad reach too, ranging from a Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (see Figs. 2, 12) to twentieth-century paintings by Ben Austrian, Edward Willis Redfield, and African American Horace Pippin (see Figs. 1, 10).
The house itself was designed in 1939 by the well-known Main Line Philadelphia architect Walter K. Durham.1 One of Durham's classic "French country" designs, it was brimming with charm and elegance, although several additions had been made over the years. "It had all the right bones," Hartman says. Working closely with him to honor those bones, the couple had earlier additions removed that conflicted with the original design and expanded only where the lines of the house naturally welcomed them. Inside, each room and nook became a canvas for the works of art they acquired on weekly jaunts with Hartman to the numerous antiques shows and auctions in the Delaware Valley and central Pennsylvania. With their focus on the arts produced in the region, they came to know and patronize local dealers—including the Schwarz Gallery (paintings), M. Finkel and Daughter (samplers), Philip H. Bradley and his son Philip W. (furniture), H. L. Chalfant (furniture and decorative arts), Diane Bryman (Oriental rugs), and the late Elinor Gordon (Chinese export porcelain). And as their taste and knowledge have expanded, they now also travel to New York for the major furniture and paintings shows and sales.