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Art October, 16 2008

At Home With Gustave Stickley at the Wadsworth Atheneum

At Home with Gustav Stickley: Arts and Crafts from the Stephen Gray Collection, presents approximately 140 objects from Grey’s collection, as well as related works from the holdings of the Wadsworth Atheneum. It marks the first time Gray’s exceptional collection has been on view to the public. Located in Hartford, the Wadsworth is America’s oldest public art museum. With a fine tradition in decorative arts exhibition, the museum is uniquely suited to the display of Gray’s Stickley material.

“The Arts and Crafts movement, rooted in late nineteenth-century Britain, espoused the principle of unity in the arts, believing that all creative endeavors were of equal value. There was a desire both to reform design but also to return quality to the process of making objects. The Arts and Crafts reformers wanted to re-establish a harmony between architect, designer, and craftsman, in order to produce well crafted, well designed, affordable, everyday objects.

Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman furnishings epitomized Arts and Crafts design in America. Most Stickley furniture was made of quarter-sawn white oak, a very heavy, dense wood that imparted a quality of spiritual beauty that strongly beckoned to future generations. Traditional cabinet-making techniques were used both structurally and as ornament, including mortise and tenon, bevel, key, peg, butterfly joint, and dovetail. The pieces were then finished to look aged and mellow. Stickley’s stylistic vocabulary exhibited a visual harmony and consistency that reflected across the spectrum of his production, including lamps, metalwork and textiles. This “honest” construction and unity of design became hallmarks of the American Arts and Crafts aesthetic. The Gray collection includes rare early examples of Stickley’s finest furniture designs with pieces dating from the seminal years of 1901-1905.”

On view until January 4, 2009, At Home with Gustav Stickley is accompanied by a full-color catalogue with essays by Stephen Gray, David Cathers, and Tommy McPherson.

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