Museum accessions, part 2

Editorial Staff Furniture & Decorative Arts

This short list of notable acquisitions began with a request to decorative arts curators in major American museums to choose and discuss a favorite recent gift or purchase.

The design of this elegant Gothic revival center table is attributed to the renowned Alexander Jackson Davis. The leading advocate for the “pointed style” in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, Davis incorporated medieval elements in his architecture, furnishings, and interiors.  Strikingly similar to his center table illustrated in Andrew Jackson Downing’s Architecture of Country Houses (1850), this recent acquisition features a hexagonal white marble top supported by a bracketed apron with drops and turrets, a suspended pierced tracery cage, three-clustered columns, and a tripod base. Its fine craftsmanship suggests that it was produced in the New York shop of Alexander Roux, the émigré cabinetmaker whose knowledge of European styles and techniques attracted elite customers with progressive tastes. This important table is a significant addition to the museum’s holdings of nineteenth-century revival furnishings and will be featured prominently in the upcoming installation of the new McGlothlin American Art Galleries.— Elizabeth L. O’Leary, associate curator of American art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

When this chair, designed by English architect A. H. Mackmurdo about 1883, was introduced to the public at the “Inventions Exhibition” in Liverpool in 1885, critics praised its “very original design” and “breaking away from custom.” Now, when discussing the genesis of art nouveau, virtually every book on the subject includes an image of it. With undulating seaweed forms on its fretwork back, the chair predates by about a decade the curvilinear motifs that characterized art nouveau on the Continent. An equally seminal example of the arts and crafts movement, the chair was produced by the Century Guild, the first organization after William Morris’s company to declare complete allegiance to the unification of all art forms and a return to the handmade. It is the first joint purchase by the Los Angeles County Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens-two museums with world-class collections of British design and a particular commitment to interpreting and displaying the arts and crafts movement. Visitors to the Huntington’s Art Collections may see the chair in gallery 220 at present. — Wendy Kaplan, department head and curator, Decorative Arts and Design, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Catherine Hess, chief curator of European Art, Huntington Art Collections.

Belgian-born Henry van de Velde was a leading avant-garde designer in the French art nouveau and German Jugendstil movements. His sinuously curving interiors and furniture demonstrate the harmony of Gesamtkunstwerk—a total work of art—in which architecture, furnishings, and fittings were conceived as a whole.

This rare games table exhibits the curvilinear elements characteristic of both styles. Van de Velde’s strong confident lines animate the sturdy compact form. The tabletop’s four triangular sections fold out to form a larger leather-covered, square gaming surface. Small shelves below can be used for games counters or drinks.
This delightful object enriches the Minneapolis Institute’s furniture holdings within its prominent modernism collection, which features the work of such architect-designers as Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, Peter Behrens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Frank Lloyd Wright. — Jennifer Komar Olivarez, associate curator, Decorative Arts, Textiles, and Sculpture, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Viennese designer Marianne Rath’s flower bowl mixes blown and carved glass techniques to create the effect of rock crystal.  It is one of a group of 162 glassworks made by the Austrian firm J. and L. Lobmeyr between 1830 and 2008 that form a major acquisition by the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
The Lobmeyr firm’s collaboration with eminent designers, coupled with its superb quality of glass production throughout its 180-year history, provides a unique opportunity to study the interaction between design and production in one medium by one of the most important and influential Central European manufacturers. The collection ranges from nineteenth-century pieces by Josef and Ludwig Lobmeyr to early twentieth-century designs by Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Stefan Rath, Michael Powolny, and Oswald Haerdtl, to works by the American designer Ted Mueh­ling made in 2008. The impact of this continuum on contemporary design will be evident when Muehling serves as guest curator for the forthcoming exhibition, Ted Muehling Selects: Lobmeyr Glass 1830-2008, opening at the museum on April 22. — Sarah D. Coffin, curator and head, Product Design and Decorative Arts Department, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design.

Images from above: Center table, design attributed to Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892), c. 1845-1850. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; purchase, J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art and partial gift of Juliana Terian Gilbert in memory of Peter G. Terian.

Chair designed by Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (1851-1942) for the Century Guild, London; made by Collinson and Lock, London, c. 1883. Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, purchased jointly with funds provided by MaryLou Boone, Max Palevsky and Jodie Evans, the Decorative Arts and Design Council, the Frances Crandall Dyke Bequest, and the Schweppe Art Acquisitions Fund.

Games table designed by Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) and made by H. Scheidemantel Hofkunsttischlerei, Weimar, Germany, c. 1906. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of Roberto Polo.

Flower bowl designed by Marianne Rath (1904-1985) and manufactured by J. and L. Lobmeyr, Vienna, 1923-1924. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, museum purchase.