A Treasury of AMERICAN ART
A Book Review
By: Fred Taylor
Florida’s hidden jewels is nestled on a quite side street in
south western Daytona Beach, close to, but very far removed
from, the bustle of the airport and the noise of the race track.
For the last twenty-five years The Museum of Arts and Sciences
has been building a collection of American decorative arts that
is unsurpassed in the South. But this is not a "southern"
museum. It is an American museum, displaying the works of some
of the most significant artists and artisans who worked in this
country from 1640 to 1900, entirely the result of private
philanthropy and the extraordinary efforts of Museum Executive
Director Emeritus Gary R. Libby. When Libby became Director in
the late 1970s the Museum owned three examples of American art,
a Tiffany punch bowl, circa 1890, a tall case clock, circa 1790
and a small landscape by Ralph Albert Blakelock, circa 1875.
Today the Museum houses nearly 3,000 American items that have
provided the nucleus for the growth of a major museum in the
State of Florida.
direction of Libby and in conjunction with such notable experts
as Wendell Garrett, Nicolai Cikovsky, Cynthia Duval, Leigh Keno
and David C. Swoyer, among others, the Museum has given us a
tantalizing peek at over one hundred of the objects that form
the heart of the American Collection in "A Treasury of
American Art", a hardcover volume published by the Museum in
glance "A Treasury.." could be mistaken for just another
"coffee table" book full of pretty pictures – which it certainly
is. But that would totally miss the point. Even without the
lavish illustrations, the interpretive essays by Libby and his
cohorts provide an insight into the composition and evolution of
the American spirit and its art that would seem complete in
assembly of early 19th century artifacts represents some of the best of American
craftsmanship. The chair on the left, circa 1815, and the gilded stand in the
center, circa 1810, are by Charles-Honore' Lannuier. The chair on the right,
circa 1820, is by Duncan Phyfe.
essay by Wendell Garrett, entitled "Nature’s Nation",
explores how a diverse group of Pilgrims, refugees, immigrants
and adventurers somehow became successful colonists in a land so
entirely alien from anything then known in the Old World. And in
becoming successful colonists, they became, eventually,
Americans, with their own interpretation of the world and its
art. Then Nicolai Cikovsky jumps in with "The Art Spirit"
to further explain the evolution of the American art psyche and
how it has expressed it self in a variety of forms from the
painfully untutored to the surprisingly sophisticated.
But then the
good stuff starts. What follows is the display, in high
resolution color photography, of some truly remarkable objects,
each one carefully analyzed, interpreted, placed into context
and explained in depth by Libby, Duval, et. al.
first color plate illustrates an oak chest, circa 1640, called a
"Tulip and Aster" chest
for its stylized floral motif. A gift of Kenneth Worcester Dow
and his wife Mary Mohan Dow, the chest illustrates the elegantly
simple utilitarian virtues prized by the Pilgrims. In his
informative exposition of the chest Libby gives us some
back-ground on the Pilgrims that many may not be familiar with.
Another artifact, also a Dow gift, a small Queen Anne desk on
frame, circa 1720-1740, demonstrates the plainer side of Queen
Anne styling favored by Sarah the Duchess of Marlborough who was
a close friend of Anne, according to essayist Cynthia Duval.
the Curator of Collections and Registrar at the Museum provides
us with an insight into the art of Samuel F. B. Morse. His
disappointment in his painting led to the abandonment of the art
and opened the way for Morse’s development of the telegraph. His
"Portrait of a Matron in a Tignon" reflects his early desire to
bring the style of the European grand masters to portraiture in
America. And David C. Swoyer’s explanation of John James
Audubon’s work "Townsend’s Bridled Weasels" gives us a great
personal history of the artist and points out the changes in the
work itself, revealed by a pentimento, as Audubon changed his
mind about the composition.
provides the back-ground material for two paintings of St.
Augustine in the late 19th century, one by C. Grafton
Dana (1843-1924) and one by Frank Henry Shapleigh (1842-1906).
Both artists eventually lived in the city and painted its scenes
pictured are works in the Museum by Tiffany, Frederic Remington,
Duncan Phyfe, Anthony Quervelle, John Jelliff, Charles-Honore’
Lannuier and an entire host of American artists, some famous,
some less so, some anonymous but all important in the overall
theme of American art.
wonderfully done as is "A Treasury of American Art" it
can give us but a small taste of what the Museum actually has to
offer - but it is an excellent taste that certainly will whet
Treasury of American Art" can be purchased directly from The
Museum Store, The Museum of Arts & Sciences, 1040 Museum Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114. 386-255-0285, ext.23. For more
information visit the Museum website at
OF AMERICAN ART
By Gary R.
of Arts and Sciences
Hardcover, 230 pages, color
About the author:
Fred Taylor's new
book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is now available for
$18.95 plus $2.00 S & H. Send check or money order for $20.95 to
Fred Taylor, PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423.
Fred and Gail Taylor's video, "IDENTIFICATION OF OLDER & ANTIQUE
FURNITURE", ($29.95 includes S & H) is also available at the
same address. For more information call (800) 387-6377, fax
(352) 563-2916, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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