Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time Certified Appraiser of Personal Property. Designated with the International Society of Appraisers in Antiques, Furnishings + Decorative Art. Twenty years of personal property appraisal experience, since 1999. Generalist appraiser specializing in estates and large collections. Specialty in art glass. Member of the Desert Estate Planning Council, Decorative Arts Trust, Foundation For Appraisal Education, ArtTable and Art Alliance For Contemporary Glass.
760-205-2582 (Palm Desert); 619-670-4455 (San Diego)
Serving the Palm Desert and San Diego, California regions. Willing to travel for large projects.
Wildfires, as we have seen recently in
California, are the most destructive force in nature. Nothing can be done to
avert the phenomenon of a wall of fire consuming everything in its path. They
seem to flare up quickly and spread rapidly in dry and windy conditions.
In 2016 alone, over 67,000 wildfires
were reported across the United States. You can’t outrun a fast-moving
firestorm. If you live in a fire-prone area, there are steps you can take to
protect your family, home and possessions by at least minimizing some of the
Don’t wait until a wildfire is
imminent to prepare. Think ahead because preparation is vitally important. It
is recommended that brush and dead branches, undergrowth, leaves and wood piles
be cleared a minimum of 30 feet and more around the perimeter of the house. You
don’t want to give burning embers additional fuel as they get closer to your
home. Make sure you have enough garden hoses.
Store important papers including home
inventory, appraisals and insurance policies in a fire-resistant metal box or
safe or in another secure location off the property. Assess your possessions
and decide which valuables are most important to you. What would you take with
you if you had to evacuate? Make certain they are things that can be moved
easily and quickly into your car.
Prepare an emergency “go bag” with
water, face masks, some type of food and a first-aid kit. Store it so you have easy access and can grab
it on your way out. Have a plan in mind for what to do with your pets.
If you face possible evacuation but have some time, these steps might help protect your property. Move furniture to the center of the room and take down drapes and curtains. Close all windows and doors to prevent drafts. Shut off gas from the source. Turn on all lights so that firefighters can see your house easily through the smoke.
The article How to Save What’s
Priceless When Disaster Strikes onthe website houzz.com advises on
what to do immediately following a fire and how to assess damage. The author, Gwendolyn
Purdom, particularly stresses before and after documentation. Photograph
everything in your home for your records. Afterward take pictures of what has
been damaged or destroyed. Disasters are extremely stressful, and photos are a
valuable aid for insurance purposes.
Floods and mudslides are often the
result of the aftermath of a major fire. Ms. Purdom discusses fire and flood damage and how and
what it is possible to rescue and restore. Check your fire and earthquake insurance
policies and make certain they are up-to-date. Flood insurance might also be a consideration.
Earthquakes and wildfires are ever
present calamities waiting to happen, particularly in California. Knowing
you’ve done all you can do to protect your home and family before a disaster
strikes is really all that can be done.
In 2016, records show 19,000
earthquakes, about 52 a day, had occurred all over the United States. Major
temblors have struck various areas of the country throughout its history.
Were you aware California averages 19
earthquakes a day? The entire state of California is riddled with faults, so
earthquakes happen more frequently and are usually of greater magnitude. You
may not even be aware one has happened, or you might feel a slight jiggle,
tremble or even a short, sharp jolt. You
never know when one will strike. The last major quake in California in 2014
struck Napa and the wine country north of San Francisco, resulting in a
half-billion dollars in damages.
The possibility of an earthquake may be buried in the back of one’s mind, but there is always an awareness— sooner or later it’s going to happen. Hopefully, not The Big One.
There are hazards in living near an
active fault line. If you construct your home on a steep hillside to take advantage
of the view, potential landslides must be taken into consideration. An
oceanfront home can easily be destroyed by an earthquake-triggered tsunami. Poor construction, especially in older
structures, can cause a building to collapse into a heap of rubble. These are
some of the things you must keep in mind if you live in an area prone to
Landslides, tsunami’s and building
collapse may be extreme results of a powerful earthquake. But you can protect
your possessions in more moderate shaking by earthquake-proofing the furniture
and valuable items in your home.
This is a fairly inexpensive and
easily accomplished do-it-yourself project. It simply requires properly
securing any object that might fall over and be damaged or broken. This not
only protects your valuables, but also you and your family.
There are a number of products on the
market for this purpose: furniture anchors and wall straps for securing
bookcases, hutches and curio cabinets to the wall, safety straps for heavy
objects such as wall-mounted TV’s, framed artworks and sculptures and cabinet
safety latches to keep doors from flying open.
Quake Hold, a soft, easily removable
and non-damaging putty-like substance, keeps breakables and collectibles
securely in place during an earthquake. In use by museums everywhere, it is a
valuable tool for minimizing damage due to breakage.
A good hardware store, as well as
Lowe’s and Home Depot will have all the necessary supplies needed as well as
advice from knowledgeable staff. Everything is also available on Amazon and
other internet sites.
The Hartford website is a valuable
source of information on earthquake safety. Excellent advice on how to secure
everything in your home can be found on doityourself.com.
Natural disasters can strike suddenly.
They can’t be predicted. You can only be as prepared as possible in order to
ensure the safety of your family, home and valuable possessions.
As a personal property appraiser, I am often asked
to assist with claims after the fact. It
is much better to have your valuables documented and appraised before a
The style of furniture referred to as Chippendale stems from an evolution of various styles in fashion in the last half of the 18th Century. The first ever to be named for a cabinetmaker rather than bearing the name of a reigning monarch, Chippendale eventually became the most famous name in the history of English furniture when this type of craftsmanship was at its high point.
Thomas Chippendale was born on June 4, 1718 in the market town of Otley, Yorkshire. He was apprenticed to his cabinetmaker father and later worked as a journeyman to Robert Wood of York. He later moved to London and established his own shop and workrooms.
In 1754 he published a book of designs titled The Gentlemen and Cabinet Maker’s Director. Under the title on the first page, Chippendale describes the book as:
“Being a Large Collection of the Most Elegant and Useful Designs of Household Furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and Modern Taste and Other Ornaments…”
A pattern book, Chippendale’s Director was used by many other cabinetmakers and the designs were adapted by artisans in England, on the European continent and in the American Colonies. The success of this book led to his reputation as one of the leading cabinetmakers of the 18th Century.
He published three editions in 1754, 1755 and 1762. Each edition revealed Chippendale’s designs evolving, reflecting changing British tastes and fashion. By the last edition, his designs began to exhibit signs of neo-classicism. This trend was influenced by the renewed interest in classical motifs such as columns, Acanthus leaves, fluting and Greek key. Particularly in the designs of architect Robert Adam with whom he worked on several projects, and the Palladian architecture of the early 18th Century.
The Director illustrated four main styles:
English with deep carving, the curved Cabriole leg often carved with shells, vines and leaves, and scrolls at the knee.
Elaborate French Rococo.
Chinese style, referred to as Chinoiserie, with latticework and lacquer, and on some case pieces, adorned with elaborate japanning.
Gothic with pointed arches, quatrefoils and fret-worked legs.
Chippendale intended his book as a catalogue where his wealthy clients could choose their preferred design elements from the various plates of illustrations. These pieces would then be custom-made for them in his workshop, or in the workshops of other artisan cabinetmakers.
Versatility was a hallmark of the firm of Thomas Chippendale. Not only was he a cabinetmaker, but he also functioned as an interior designer. Chippendale designed wallpaper, carpets, fire grates, decorative objects and complete room layouts. He rented furniture and did repairs. He even directed and furnished funerals for his clients.
Thomas Chippendale advised his clients on all manner of decor including the paint colors. His firm acted like a modern interior design firm coordinating with other specialists. Fully decorated rooms as well as entire houses were supplied. He furnished not only elegant state apartments, but servant’s quarters and offices were given his creative touch.
Chippendale used only the finest mahogany from the West Indies. He always used solid wood rather than employing veneers. The richest, most luxurious brocades, velvets and damasks were applied on upholstered pieces. A number of stately homes in England have been identified where Chippendale’s designs and furniture constructed in his workrooms are on view.
American cabinetmakers of the 18th Century were well-aware of Thomas Chippendale’s Director. The illustrated engravings inspired much of the best work done in the American Colonies. Newport, Boston, New York and Philadelphia were the predominant centers for craftsmen of Chippendale furniture.
There was usually a lag time of about 20 years between what was fashionable in Europe and when it appeared in America. Marvin D. Schwartz states in his book Chairs, Tables, Sofas and Beds: “The claw-and-ball foot was considered too old-fashioned to be included in Chippendale’s design illustrations, but it was a popular feature in American designs.”
Cabinetmakers adapted designs from popular Chinese imports with imaginative interpretations. The claw-and-ball foot was carved to represent a bird’s claw holding a ball. It was based on an image of a Chinese dragon’s claw holding a crystal jewel.
Queen Anne and Chippendale styles share many of the Rococo elements such as the Cabriole leg, so it can be difficult to distinguish between them. According to Marvin Schwartz: “American Chippendale furniture, whether simple or elaborate, was much lighter in its proportions than Queen Anne designs. Forms did not change much but became more ornamental.”
Thomas Chippendale adapted and blended earlier furniture styles, designs and decorative elements. The Chippendale style was dominant in American furniture until 1780-1785.
18th Century Chippendale furniture, particularly designs by renowned American cabinetmakers, commands very high prices. According to John Nye, Director of the American Furniture Department at Sotheby’s, New York: “…today’s collectors need to be cautious of any piece of Chippendale furniture that doesn’t have a four to seven figure price tag, especially for pieces made in Philadelphia. If it’s not appropriately priced, the dealer knows it’s not 18th Century.”
At auction, American Chippendale often brings higher prices than its English counterpart. As Schwartz states: “American Chippendale furniture was consistent and elegant—not merely a provincial adaptation of its English namesake.”
Original 18th Century antiques in fine condition are rare and usually not affordable for most people. For those who appreciate the Chippendale style, later reproductions of 1876, referred to as Centennial pieces, and the late Victorian era around 1900 are more readily available. These are still considered antiques, and though they may not be handcrafted with the fine details of original period furniture, they are a good and far less costly alternative for collectors who like this style.
300 years later, the Chippendale style is still an influence in modern formal furniture design. As Pamela Wiggins says in her article on Chippendale Style Furniture: “Some modern pieces completely copy older designs while others derive inspiration from this classic style melding them with modern influences.”
In honor of Thomas Chippendale’s 300th birthday, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has arranged an exhibition, Chippendale’s Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker. It runs from May 14, 2018 to January 27, 2019 and the exhibit showcases works from the Met collection. On view are original drawings from Chippendale’s workshop, a selection of British and American furniture reflecting his designs and aesthetic, and Revival pieces of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well. One of the highlights of the exhibit is the Chippendale-inspired chair designed in 1984 by architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Information about the exhibit and ticket purchasing can be found on the Met website.
In England, through December 28, 2018, institutions and historic houses have joined together to create programs of exhibitions, events and tours to celebrate Thomas Chippendale’s Tercentenary. This provides a wonderful opportunity to see Chippendale’s furniture and designs in their original settings in these stately and aristocratic homes. Information about this wide-ranging presentation can be found on the website www.chippendale300.uk.co.
If you plan to be in New York or England this fall, take advantage of these exceptional events. After all, how often do you get to celebrate a 300th birthday in such elegant surroundings.
English Furniture From Gothic to Sheraton, Herbert Cescinsky,
Bonanza Books, New York, 1968
Field Guide to American Antique Furniture, Joseph T. Butler
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1985
American Chairs. Queen Anne and Chippendale, John T. Kirk
Alfred Knopf. New York, 1972
Flashback: Chippendale Designs as Reflected in English and American Furniture, Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee, Reprint of Article Published in the June 1941 Issue of the American Collector (1933-1943), Collectors Weekly. April 22, 2009
Chippendale: The Royalty of Antique Furniture, Bob Bowers
The Antiques Almanac. 2018
Online Resource for Information about Antiques and Collectibles for Dealers and Collectors. www.theantiquealmanac.com
Chippendale Style Furniture, Learn How to Identify a Popular Period Style
How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, andOther Prized Possessions
by Don Williams, Senior Conservator Smithsonian Institution and Louisa Jagger
a book review
As Don Williams humorously writes in his introduction:
“Saving Stuff” is about preserving and maintaining “the museum of you”. This museum is made up of the objects that have special value for you. I can’t stop an earthquake, flood, or alien invasion, but I can share how to prevent most homegrown catastrophes as well as how to go about saving stuff: comic books, wedding dresses, baseball cards, furniture, stamps, papers, film, pictures, records, DVDs, CDs, doll houses, flags, and weird and wacky things like Cousin Cecil’s African water buffalo head or your private collection of sheep’s eyeballs kept by your grandfather in mayonnaise jars. In this book I will show you how to save almost anything you want.”
At the time of publication, the author was the Senior Conservator of the Smithsonian Institution. His years of experience in the conservation and preservation of objects, mark him as an expert in his field.
His writing collaborator, Louisa Jagger, is a “saver of stuff” and the stories she shares revolve around common mistakes she has made in caring for her own collectibles, mistakes she hopes she can help the reader avoid.
According to the author, this book is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It is important to read through Chapters 1 and 2. There the reader will find basic important information about how to care for objects in general.
The following 13 chapters consist of in-depth discussions covering a particular category of collectible as well as how to care for and preserve each object. Since each type of collectible has its own section within the category chapter, the reader can turn to the chapter to find the information he or she is most interested in without having to read through the entire book.
Williams includes a Risk Chart for Collectibles at the end of Chapter 1. Each category of collectible — paper, glass and ceramics, wood and baskets, textiles, metals, photos, paintings, watercolors, pastels, plastics — is listed and across the page are the risks for damage from which the object would be most in danger. The risks, depending on the object, include light, insects and mold, handling and misuse, contaminants, normal use, temperature and moisture.
He also includes puppies and kittens (and children) who “…inflict 90 percent of the damage on collectibles as compared to grown-up pets. As a note of encouragement, pet’s manners often improve with age. Kid’s manners do, too.”
Included in these two chapters are ideas on how to decide what you would like to save.
Williams says, “People save stuff for sentimental as well as for financial reasons. Deciding what is a collectible is all about what is important to you.”
Unless you have unlimited space and resources, you can’t save everything, and so most people are forced to make choices. Once choices are made, don’t feel guilty, because it is okay to sell, give or throw stuff away.
The author stresses the importance of prioritizing to compile a list of objects. Two worksheets for this purpose are included at the end of Chapter 2. On Worksheet 1: Why It Is Important to You and on Worksheet 2: Everything You Know.
Completing Worksheet 2 is vital because it asks the questions who, what, when, and where.
Who owned it? Who made it? How did you acquire it? Do you plan to leave it to someone?
What is its value? What did you pay for it and do you have the original bill of sale? What is it made of? What is its condition?
When was the object made and when did you or your family acquire it?
Where did it come from and are there marks to give you clues to its origin or maker?
A list like this would also provide valuable information to family heirs, to appraisers for purposes of valuation, and to insurance adjusters in the event of damage or loss due to earthquake, fire or flood.
Interwoven throughout the chapters are Don’s Tips, where the author shares his vast experience and knowledge of preservation and includes “everything from debunking old wives’ tales to novel uses of everyday materials around the house.” From never wrap your silver in Saran Wrap to never use furniture polish, as well as an interesting comment on the “mythology of cedar chests”, are among the many useful nuggets of information.
He advises when it is necessary to get a second opinion. Williams states: “If you are faced with the unenviable task of sorting through a garage, attic or basement filled with family stuff, you might be wise to have an appraiser take a quick walk-through with you to advise you on what to keep and what is really ready for the dumpster.”
The final section of the book is entitled Resources and contains a complete A to Z list of what the author describes as Your Saving Stuff Tool Kit. Everything anyone would need to maintain and safely keep every kind of collectible is briefly and clearly described. A list of suppliers where all of these tools can be found is also included.
Saving Stuff, as stated on the back cover of this comprehensive guide, “is for both the serious collector and the sometimes sentimentalist. With step-by-step instructions, detailed illustrations, tips for making the things you use every day last, and stories about how the Smithsonian takes care of our national treasures, Saving Stuff is the only book you need to take care of the stuff you love.”
Saving Stuff:How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions
Don Williams and Louisa Jagger, Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster. New York, 2005, 365 pages, ISBN 9780743264167
Downsizing the Family Home. What to Save, What to Let Go
Marni Jameson, Sterling Publishers. 2016
Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home
Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand, Downsizing the Home Press. 2004, Kindle Edition. 2013
Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life
Peter Walsh, Rodale Books. 2017
Downsizing the Family Home: What To Do With All the Stuff
Interview with Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand for Next Avenue by Jill Yanish, Forbes Magazine. March 27, 2014
Don Williams retired from the Smithsonian in December of 2012 after 30 years as Senior Furniture Conservator. He purchased a large barn in Illinois, dismantled it and re-assembled it in the rural Virginia mountains. He now resides at the Barn on White Run where he offers classes and workshops. He writes articles and books, researches historical craft and artifacts, and constructs and conserves furniture and decorative arts. He also makes and sells tools and supplies for restoration, conservation and construction.
The WPA Federal Art Project was a Depression-era New Deal program set up to fund the visual arts in the U.S. It was not created as a cultural activity. It was a relief measure to provide employment for artists and artisans to create murals, paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, theater scenic design and arts & crafts. (wikipedia.org).
The philosophy of the New Deal arts projects was unique. Artists were workers, and art was cultural labor worthy of support from the government. The project’s non-discrimination clause attracted and employed not only white males, but artists of color and women, two groups whose talents were often ignored in the mainstream art community of the era.
The Roosevelt administration commissioned a large body of public art without any restrictions on content or subject matter. 10,000 artists and craft workers were employed throughout the Depression and more than 200,000 separate works were created.
Murals and sculptures were designed and installed in municipal buildings, schools, libraries, post offices and public spaces. When the program was halted in 1943, many of these works were allowed to deteriorate or were destroyed when the buildings were renovated or torn down. Those that remain are among the most notable pieces of public art in the country.
The Coit Tower murals in San Francisco and the 1934 Astronomers Monument at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles are but two examples in California of WPA projects still in existence. Others can still be found in public buildings and spaces in many U.S. cities.
Tess Thackara, Writer-at-Large for artsy.com, states in her article: “WPA art favored Social Realism, in the form of public artworks and murals that celebrated industry and labor. These works put art within eyesight of ordinary people going about their daily lives and are consequentially also among the most famous created through the WPA initiative.”
The WPA Federal Arts Project established over 100 Community Art Centers throughout the country. It was a novel approach that brought “art within reach” and created new audiences by bringing art education and exhibitions to neighborhoods and communities with little or no access to museums or galleries. Artists contributed their talents to these centers and made art training and appreciation accessible to a wide and culturally diverse audience. Its intention was to affirm the democratic possibilities of a project that extended across class, ethnic and racial boundaries.
The creation of the poster as an art form was one element of the project that truly engendered the democratic principles the government was attempting to encourage during the darkest days of the Depression. Posters promoted health and safety, travel, sports and recreation, theater, dance and music, community events, defense and the war effort.
Ennis Carter states in her book Posters for the People: “As artifacts, posters serve as an important snapshot of a moment in our nation’s social, cultural and art history. Their creation played a key role, not only in promoting the hopes and aspirations of a government, but also in advancing American poster design and printing techniques.”
Posters are a powerful and influential public art form. They attract attention and send strong messages, able to reach a wide and varied audience. WPA posters appeared everywhere. Not only were they intended to promote social programming, but also were designed to encourage positive values and behaviors. Surprisingly, given the era of the 1930’s, diverse cultures and ethnicities were represented and depicted with respect.
The messages these posters conveyed are as relevant now as they were then. We continue to confront the issues highlighted in these works today.
WPA posters demonstrated ground-breaking technical developments in American graphic design and printmaking. Hand-painted images on easels shifted to woodblock and lithography. In 1936, silk-screening came into wide use. Poster artists influenced a new generation of fine art printmaking and opened the way for the avant-garde, and the innovative works of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol among many others.
Mark Rothko, Willem deKooning, and Jackson Pollock, trailblazers of the abstract expressionist movement, Lee Krasner, and Wanda Gag, are a few of the artists who began working for the WPA arts projects and went on to garner acclaim after the project ended.
Partisan political opposition and the war brought a rather abrupt end to the WPA art projects in 1943. Much of the poster art was discarded or buried in boxes hidden away in obscure storage areas. Interest in this art form was rekindled with the discovery of a cache of posters in a Library of Congress attic tower in the late 1960’s. WPA poster artists are now widely recognized for their contributions to the history of graphic arts. The posters have become a valued and well-regarded body of work.
Whether you are fortunate enough to find original posters of the period or the reproductions that are available, the bright colors and unique shapes make them eminently collectible. The travel and National Parks posters are especially remarkable.
As appraisers in the field, we must be aware of the existence of New Deal and WPA art when performing valuations. Pieces owned by the government have been lost and could turn up anywhere, including private collections. Many have marks or stickers stating that they are owned by the U.S. Government. In these cases, they should be returned to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) so they can be preserved for future generations. For more information see “Legal Title to Art Work Produced Under the 1930s and 1940s New Deal Administration”.
Posters for the People, Art of the WPA, Ennis Carter, Quirk Books. Philadelphia, 2008
Posters of the WPA, Christopher deNoon, University of Washington Press. 1987
What We Can Learn from the Brief Period When the Government Employed Artists, Tess Thackara, Writer-At-Large, January 31, 2017, artsy.net
Looking for America: The Index of American Design, Series of Essays by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project, historymatters.gmu.edu
WPA Projects, Public Art Throughout the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Times. November 13, 1994
WPA Posters, Library of Congress, Collection of 900 Posters 1936-1943 Images, loc.gov
What Was the WPA Art Project (1935-1943), List of Federal Art Project Artists, en.wikipedia.org
The word redux has its root in the Latin verb reducere meaning to lead back, something brought back, or a resurgence.
Southern California will soon be seeing a “resurgence” giving us a new chance to view some of the greatest artifacts of Ancient Egypt in a major exhibition entitled King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh. The exhibit, the first of a 10-city world tour, will open in Los Angeles on March 24, 2018 at the California Science Center in Exposition Park and will be on view until early January 2019.
This exhibit will be the largest world tour ever, comprising 150 artifacts. The previous tours had a limit of 50 objects. Many of these King Tut treasures have never been seen outside of Egypt. It will be the last time to view these artifacts before their return to Egypt to be housed permanently in the new Egyptian Museum. The purpose of the tour is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Featuring items owned and used by the “Boy King” (he is thought to have been 19 at the time of his death), the exhibit will include golden jewelry, carvings, sculptures and ritual artifacts. In addition, multimedia displays include how the scientific analysis of the 3000-year old mummy has revealed new information on his health and ancestry. It also addresses how the latest in archaeology tools are aiding in the discovery of new tombs and in the analyzing of existing ones in new ways.
There have been several waves of Egyptian Revival throughout the last two centuries. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone during Napoleon’s 1798-99 Egyptian campaign was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The publication of volumes in 1809 cataloging the sights and discoveries of the eventually ill-fated campaign ignited the creation of the field of Egyptology. A second edition in 1830 elicited further interest in Egyptian art and culture.
Egyptian inspired buildings were erected in Paris during the decade after Napoleon’s campaign. Ancient Egyptian art and architecture provided designers in France and England with a wide range of motifs. Winged sun-disks, hawks and crocodiles were all incorporated into decorative arts and architecture. An Egyptian dining room was created (1802-1806) at Goodwood House in Sussex for the Duke of Richmond. It was the first interior in England that had its origin from the illustrations of ancient Egyptian monuments by the artist who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt. A number of motifs were applied architecturally and to the design of the furniture in the room. The dining chairs had bronze crocodile figures inserted into their backs.
In America, Egyptian influence during these early years was primarily architectural. Egyptian revival architecture in America can be seen in Benjamin Latrobe’s original design (not built) for the Library of Congress Room in the new Capitol (1808), the 4th Precinct Police Station in New Orleans (1836), The Tombs in New York City (1838), and the Washington Monument (1850) as well as in many other public and private buildings in cities and towns across America. There is a 3500-year old Egyptian obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle, in New York City’s Central Park. Egyptian themes, however, didn’t begin to be evident in the decorative arts until the end of the 19th century.
After the Civil War, Americans became interested in other cultures. Designers and artists looked to Japan, the Middle East and Africa for new ideas. Egyptian motifs were combined with more traditional western styles and the result incorporated details such as gilt-bronze sphinxes, textiles woven with Egyptian themes, geometric depictions of palm fronds, lotus blossoms and reeds.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi’s 1871 opera Aida and continued archaeological discoveries, particularly the excavation at Tel El-Amarna in 1887, kept the public’s awareness and interest focused on Egypt.
Egyptian symbols and images translated well into the decorative arts and this aesthetic found its way into jewelry and silver designs. At the turn of the 20th century as the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles became popular, Egyptian motifs appeared in jewelry, textiles, wallpaper and other decorative arts, providing an exotic alternative to the conventional and traditional styles of the time.
Scholars refer to these periods as Egyptomania – an obsession with Egyptian antiquities and design. However, there would not be another major one until the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. Egyptian motifs began to be seen everywhere in modern culture and became an essential element in Art Deco design and architecture, carrying on into the 1930’s and early 1940’s.
The phenomenon continued to grip the world fueled by the rumors of a curse related to the death of Lord Caernarvon, who had financed Carter’s search for the tomb. According to Robert Nemeth, an English architectural historian and conservationist:
“The discovery was still in the early days for Art Deco which took its name from the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries held in Paris in 1925. Designers of the time were enamored by the brilliant colors, angular shapes, hieroglyphics and mysterious symbols prevalent in ancient Egypt. These design features were incorporated into Art Deco furniture, art, clothing, jewelry and architecture.”
It will be interesting to see if the upcoming King Tut Exhibition will be the catalyst for a new wave of Egyptomania in design and the decorative arts. As an appraiser, it is important for us to understand the forces in the marketplace that affect value. An event like this may cause an increase in demand for items with these motifs.
Egyptian Revival. Sara Jakow, Institute of Fine Arts. N.Y., 2012
This exploration of Latin American and Latino art, led by the Getty Museum, includes more than 70 exhibitions across Southern California. Art and cultural institutions from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, and from San Diego to Santa Barbara are taking part in “thematically linked exhibitions and program highlighting different aspects of Latin American and Latino art from the ancient world to the present day.”
On the introduction page of a small booklet, billed as a travel guide to the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA experience, is an overview of the exhibition’s purpose: “With topics as varied as luxury arts in the Pre-Colombian Americas, 20th-century Afro-Brazilian art, alternative spaces in Mexico City, the mural tradition, and the boundary-crossing practices of Latino artists, exhibitions range from mono graphic studies of individual artists to broad surveys involving countries throughout Latin America.”
This wide-ranging exhibition opened at the end of September 2017 and dates for closing vary by institution. Some events close at the end of January and others continue on into the spring of 2018.
Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas
Showcasing spectacular luxury arts from the Royal courts of the Maya, Incas and Aztecs. The Getty Center – through January 28, 2018.
Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985
This is the first exhibition to examine design trends between California and Mexico that shaped the architecture and material culture of each place. LACMA – until April 1, 2018
California Mexicana: Missions to Murals 1820-1930
Exploration of how part of Mexico became California and the role of the visual arts in creating distinct pictorial motifs and symbols that helped define the new California. Laguna Art Museum – until January 14, 2018.
Kukuli Velardi – Artist
Personal and confrontational ceramic sculptures based on traditional forms and surface decorations of Pre-Colombian ceramics. American Museum of Ceramic Art Pomona – until January 28, 2018.
Kinesthesia Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969
Palm Springs Art Museum – until January 18, 2018.
A Search for Living Architecture: Albert Frey and Lina LoBardi
Explores the visionary building and design of two mid-century architects who shared a belief that architecture is a way to connect people, nature, building and living. Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center – until January 7, 2018.
Everyone is encouraged to visit familiar as well as new institutions. As the introduction states “Wherever your journey takes you, there will be art.”
As a result of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, more than 60 new illustrated exhibition catalogues have been published and are available from Southern California bookstores and individual museums. The publications are “…a permanent legacy of the ground-breaking scholarship on Latin American and Latin art generated through more than five years of planning, research and collaborative work among hundreds of curators, artists and scholars.” A complete list can be viewed at assets.contentful.com. Additional details and descriptions of selected catalogs can be found on the website artfixdaily.com.
As a personal property appraiser, it is important to be aware of major exhibitions. They may have an impact on the collecting community, influence trends and affect values.
There Will Be 70+ Exhibitions Across Southern California. There Will Be Art.
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Latin American and Latino Art in LA.
Presenting Sponsors: The Getty Museum and Bank of America
Contains complete list of sites, events and themes including a location map. Available from the Getty Museum.
The popularity of the television show, Madmen, had an important effect on the re-kindled popularity of mid-century modern furniture design. In the show, the character, Peggy Olsen, can be seen sitting in her desk chair designed by Ray and Charles Eames. The award-winning set designers were very knowledgeable and faithful in creating an aura of period authenticity for this very popular show.
This style of furniture has been around for over 75 years. We’ve seen it in offices, classrooms, waiting rooms, and restaurants. It is a style that never really went out. It was always there, ready and willing to be observed and appreciated. Now, according to HGTV, it is a growing design trend. Natalie Stungo says in her book, Charles and Ray Eames, it is “…because there is a freshness, a simplicity, a sense of naturalness that gives it instant appeal.”
According to the website, Curbed, in an article entitled “Why the World is Obsessed with Mid-Century Modern Design”, Laura Fenton states: “Today more than ever, the mid-century modern look is everywhere. …turn on the Daily Show and you’ll see guests sitting in classic Knoll office chairs. If you dine in a contemporary restaurant, there is a good chance you’ll be seated in a chair designed in the 1950’s whether it is an Eames, Bertoia, Cherner, or Saarinen.”
The term “mid-century modern” covers a wide range of design. It includes architecture, furniture, and graphic design and roughly covers the period between the years of 1933-1965. The term was first used by writer and art historian, Carla Greenberg. She titled her 1984 book Mid-Century Modern, to describe “what has since become a global and iconic design movement”.
Madeline Morley, in an article for anothermag.com stated: “…with its bubble shapes, neat proportions, and alluring sugar-coated colors – the mid-century has been aptly described as “furniture candy”. The furniture is identified by it’s straight, clean lines and smooth curved angles with little or no ornamentation or upholstery.
Among the many famous furniture designers of the era, both American and European, Ray and Charles Eames stand out. They were known as “the Fred and Ginger of the design world”. Charles had the experience of engineering and building, and Ray contributed color, structure, and form to their designs.
The duo designed a few buildings and houses including a showroom for Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer, but after 1945, furniture design became the main focus of their studio.
In 1946, the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured Charles in a one-man show showcasing his latest experimental designs in seating – dining and lounge chairs, and the office desk chair, which is now considered a 20th century classic. This design, the original and variations of it, was an instant success. By 1951, Herman Miller was selling 2000 chairs a month.
Charles stated that their philosophy was that good design should be available to everyone. In his words: “…the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.” Their furniture was priced to appeal to a mass audience.
The Eames’ experimented with a wide range of materials. The simply designed molded fiberglass /plastic chairs, lightweight, stackable, and inexpensive can be seen in almost every classroom today and came in all sizes. They designed chairs made from wire mesh, which architects likened to the Eiffel Tower. Cast aluminum chairs were another successful innovation.
Charles and Ray Eames didn’t stop at furniture design. They curated exhibitions, made films and coordinated multi-media events. They enjoyed pointing out and highlighting the beauty of everyday things and ordinary objects because they believed that “…design should not be an elitist exercise.”
Charles Eames was described as “…without doubt the most creative and original designer of the 20th century…”
A number of Eames designs are no longer in production, but several of the most popular styles are still being manufactured. An original Eames lounge chair is valued at around $6000. They are still being reproduced today for between $1600-1800.
The Palm Springs area abounds in mid-century modern design. Modernism Week, February 15-25, 2018, is the signature festival which highlights mid-century modern architecture, art, interior and landscape design and vintage culture in Greater Palm Springs. An extensive article detailing lectures, tours and the events taking place can be found on the website palmspringslife.com.
Tickets for this informative, educational and entertaining week can be purchased on the website modernismweek.com.
The Palm Springs Art Museum has an impressive collection of mid-century furniture, art, and design in its permanent collection.
Charles and Ray Eames. Naomi Stungo. Carlton Books, 2000.
Modern Furniture Classics, A sourcebook of Styles, Designers and Manufacturers. Miriam Stimson. Whitney Library of Design, 1987.
As early as the 1920s, the Coachella Valley, and particularly Palm Springs, became known for the dry clear climate and mild warm winters which were so helpful to those recuperating from serious respiratory conditions. Wealthy people from all over the country, wishing to escape the winter snows and cold, soon began to value the area for relaxation and fun and as a place to enjoy the stark beauty and contrast of the scenic wonders the desert offered.
Soon the area became a get-away playground for the Hollywood elite and the stars created their own burgeoning movie colony here in the desert. Palm Springs became a safe retreat from the prying eyes of the “paparazzi” of those days. The stars could stroll down the main streets and enjoy themselves in the restaurants and watering holes in relative comfort confident in being fairly anonymous.
Even though numerous spas and resorts sprung up to accommodate the visitors, many of the “snowbirds” and movie stars began to build second homes. Because these homes were not the primary residences of the occupants, the owners felt that they had more freedom to take architectural risks in the designs. The uniqueness of the desert landscape and environment and the luminous, rich, clear and strong light required an architecture that was sophisticated and understated – one that would blend with the spectacular austereness and palette of the desert.
The desert was a blank canvas to the architect, open to creative and innovative approaches in new lines, angles, and textures that worked with the environment. It inspired artists to work with, blending and contrasting, the natural materials in abundance around them.
Dolly Faibyshev states in her book Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern, that Palm Springs has one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country. Many of the most famous architects of the period were inspired by the desert environment. With commissions from film stars, private wealthy patrons, and corporations, architects of the caliber of Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, John Lautner, Paul Williams, William Krisel, and A. Quincy Jones, among many other notables, were able to envision, design and play with new and innovative architectural features.
The style emphasized creating structures with broad generous windows and open floor plans, all to the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outside in. The novel post and beam design eliminated the need for heavy and bulky support walls in favor of walls that seemed to be made of glass. The idea was one of “clean simplicity and integration with nature”. In mid-century designs, function did not follow form, it was as important as form.
The mid-century modern movement in the United States was an American reflection of the International Style and the Bauhas movements which had held sway in early 20th century modern architecture. In the 1940’s, the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with the prevalent styles in modern architecture and a reaction to the lack of variety of Mies van der Rohe and LeCorbusier. Surface ornament and historical references began to re-emerge and influence decorative forms. The International Style’s architectural orthodoxy was challenged by these new approaches. Mid-century design was used in residential structures with the “goal of bringing modernism to post-war American communities.”
The deserts of Palm Springs offered architects and designers fertile and virtually untouched ground for their experimentation with and development of fresh and innovative forms of design. An outstanding example is the work of A. Quincy Jones, the architect and designer of the Walter Annenberg estate, Sunnylands.
Palm Springs celebrates its heritage with Modernism Week, February 15-25, 2018, a very popular and always sold-out event. Fortunately, there is a Fall Preview from October 19-22, 2017. Although also a popular event, it gives a brief overview of the full two-weeks taking place in February. The Mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of mid-century architecture, design, art, fashion, and culture. A list of events and tours can be found on the site modernismweekly.com. Tickets can be purchased online and are for sale now. The online store also offers many books, prints, photographs and objects relating to the event and to all aspects of mid-century modernism.
As a personal property appraiser, it’s important to recognize mid-century modern furniture and decorative art. Many of the important designers are highly collectible, and the values for those items have increased over the last several years.
In other events this month, a four-month long showcase of Latin-American and Latino Art entitled Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is being launched on September 17, 2017. Fifty museums in Southern California will offer free admission on that day. According to the website pacificstandardtime.org, the exhibit is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, it is a collaborative effort from Arts institutions across Southern California. Further information can be found on the website as well as on laist.com.
Julius Shulman: Palm Springs; Michael Stern and Alan Hess, Rizzoli 2008
Desert Modernists: The Architects Who Envisioned Mid-Century Modern Palm Springs, published in collaboration with Modernism Week and Palm Springs Life 2017
Tourism really hasn’t changed very much over the last 300 years. Traveling for pleasure, knowledge, and acquisition had its beginnings in the 17th century. Those travelers on the classic “Grand Tour” and modern-day tourists have much in common – a willingness to be inspired and enlightened by the art, beauty, and culture embodied in the famous cities of Europe, and eventually as travel methods improved, around the world.
The emphasis in education, particularly for young people of wealth and privilege, was steeped in Classical literature, art and architecture. At first Italy and France were the goal. The desire to see firsthand all they had studied gave rise to what we today call the “gap year – two or even three years then – and the tradition known as the Grand Tour came to be.
It soon became the fashionable thing to do before settling down to fulfill the familial duties waiting for them at home. Enduring the extreme rigors, the weeks and sometimes months it took to get somewhere, and the perilous dangers of travel in those days was part of the adventure. In the days before photography, it formed the basis for the sketches, letters, diaries and eventually books they wrote about their experiences as well as the lessons they learned on their journeys. They collected art, sculpture, literature, and decorative objets d’art and shipped it all home to fill their country estates and London townhouses.
What to do and where to stay, what and where to eat; the best routes for traveling, the best merchants from whom to buy, the best artist studios; the best entertainment, and the visual wonders, natural and man-made were all experiences communicated to family, friends, and future travelers. Sound familiar? Now we have up-to-date guidebooks, Instagram and the Internet to communicate our favorite images, ideas, and experiences.
In the words of Matt Gross, of the Frugal Traveler, a New York Times Blog: “Even though the basic contours of the Grand Tour were established in the 17th century – as a kind of finishing school for affluent young gents – it has mutated to meet the shifting demands of generations of travelers.”
Now bargain fares and “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” type tours are available to everyone, not just the privileged few. Colleges have instituted semesters abroad where students study and immerse themselves in the arts and culture of the country under the auspices of the university.
All travelers, and especially those who have traveled the world, enjoy collecting objects that reflect the countries they have visited. Many of them find themselves in a similar situation as this woman. She has traveled all seven continents and has filled her home with dozens of artworks and objects displaying her interests. When asked if she had cataloged her possessions, she replied: “Oh. No, I haven’t ever thought about it as they are really only of value to me.” She was advised when the time came, her family and heirs were going to be left with the very stressful task of figuring it all out.
An excellent source for organization to aid future heirs as well as estate and insurance appraisers is On the Record – Creating a Road Map for Your Family. Amy Praskac, owner of On the Record has compiled a comprehensive website on all aspects of record keeping. She also has a blog filled with valuable information and ideas on how to gather and store records for safekeeping.
This summer, an event of note allows “travelers” to embark on a “grand tour” of Europe without getting on an airplane. A major festival of the arts going on in Southern California (July 7- August 31) is the 2017 Pageant of the Mastersin Laguna Beach. The theme this year is aptly titled “The Grand Tour”.
According to the website: “A pageant ticket becomes your passport on the Grand Tour to experience spectacle, music, stories and grand illusions as masterpieces come to life. …a breathtaking theatrical journey through the centuries in search of unforgettable art.”
For some first-hand observations about the Grand Tour, there are several very enjoyable books by such famous authors as Mark Twain, Henry James, Edward Gibbon, and Francis Bacon, whose advice to travelers in 1625 is still relevant today. And of course, lots of fun movies to watch.
As an appraiser, I have had the opportunity to examine several 19th century souvenirs of The Grand Tour including sets of plaster medallions with Classical scenes, prints depicting ancient ruins, carved cameo shells and micro mosaics. I’ve even seen tables inlaid with stone, mosaics and porcelain plaques.
Grand Tours and Cook’s Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915. Lynne Withey. William Morrow, 1997.
Italy and the Grand Tour. Jeremy Black. Yale University Press, 2003.
Ladies of the Grand Tour. Brian Dolan. Flamingo, New Ed Edition, 2002.
The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. Jeremy Black. Sutton Publishing, 2003.
The predominant motif in Art Deco design was the appearance of “Speed”. Streamlined sweeping curves based on aerodynamic principles – a symbol of forward movement.
The pessimism – some critics considered it decadence – that pervaded society at the end of the 19th century was replaced with a sense of optimism and excitement. People looked ahead to the new century witnessing the industrial progress that was giving them hope for an economic and social revival.
The term “Art Deco” derived from the 1925 Paris L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The purpose of the exhibition was to “unite art with industry”. The concept was to embody the ideas of this modern age with a complete break from the past. The work of designers was not to imitate earlier historical periods. They could, however, draw on ancient designs for inspiration, as long as the artisans adapted the designs in the modern style.
Gathering from diverse sources, we see motifs from Mayan and Aztec cultures; Egyptian themes that coincided with the discovery and worldwide interest in King Tut’s tomb, and interest in the striking patterns and colors inherent in African and Japanese art.
The cost of fine handcrafted objects was out of the reach of many. Exotic woods, and other expensive materials made this new design form available only to the very wealthy. A need was created for production of machine-made objects in quantity, cost-efficient, modern looking and affordable to all; items that were not only functional, but beautiful in their simplicity.
Streamlined designs were applied to cars, trains, ships, and objects whose purpose was certainly not forward movement. Buildings, gas pumps, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, radios and gramophones, kitchen utensils, toasters, ceramics, pottery and glassware, clocks and wall sconces, and other everyday items all displayed this new form of design. Striking geometric patterns, bold and contrasting use of color, symmetry, lack of frills and of anything faintly romantic defined the style.
Art Deco concepts permeated all things in the 1920s and 1930s – architecture, fine art, cinema, graphics and advertising posters, and in fashion design for both men and women.
Bakelite and other new synthetic materials were particularly well-suited to the mass production of Art Deco jewelry. Now anyone regardless of their social position could afford the trendy and decorative pieces that were now available to all.
Sleek-looking metals, stainless steel, aluminum and chrome appeared in even the most common household items. The cocktail shaker became the symbol of fashionable sophistication in many middle-class homes. If you enjoy the “Thin Man” movies or any movie from the 1930’s, spot the cocktail service that was always present as part of the set decoration.
Walk into a home department at Macy’s, and you will most likely see a display of Fiesta Ware. Still popular with its simple, streamlined forms in brilliant colors, it was introduced by the Homer Laughlin China Co. of West Virginia in 1936.The line was noted for its Art Deco styling which featured concentric circles and a variety of bright colors and shapes. It was discontinued in 1972 due to changing tastes in dinnerware styles, but was reintroduced in 1984 with new glazes and colors. Popular again, Fiesta Ware is considered to be the most collected brand of china in the United States.
An organization devoted to the preservation of Art Deco in all its forms is the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. They are sponsoring a festival aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California from August 18-20. It will be a weekend of total immersion in the Art Deco era. They are also planning their annual Avalon Ball in January in the Casino on Catalina Island. The Catalina Casino on Avalon Bay, built in 1929, is a remarkable example of Art Deco design. Information and many interesting articles on preservation as well as other topics and events can be found on their website.
The theme of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – “A Century of Progress” sums up the underlying ideas of the period known as Art Deco: Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.
Art Deco survived into the early 1940’s when it evolved to mid-century modernism.
One of the most interesting assignments I’ve had was to appraise a large collection of Art Deco period furniture and posters for insurance purposes. Identifying the exotic veneers was a challenge.
Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s. Alastair Duncan.
Harry N. Abrams New York, 2009.
Art Deco 1910-1939. Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, Ghislaine Wood, Editors
V & A Publications. London, 2003. (Victoria and Albert Museum)