This past summer, we traveled to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the mansions on the coast. We did not have time to visit Hunter House on the other side of town and promised we would return someday, since this building houses examples of Townsend and Goddard furniture. With this in mind, I was excited to discover on the front page of an August edition of Antiques & the Arts Weekly, a feature article on “ Art & Industry, Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830” I quickly looked through the article and realized this was an important exhibit. We booked an air bnb and traveled to New Haven, Connecticut on one of the finest autumn weekends you could imagine. This was our first trip to Yale University Art Gallery. Street parking was a snap and admission is free. We quickly made our way to the fourth floor and were awed by the examples of Townsend and Goddard furniture along with 130 other interesting items made by known and unknown Rhode Island cabinet makers, artists, and silversmiths. Comparing and contrasting was easy to do. Well written placards gave useful information. We spent 2 hours soaking it all in and hardly realized the time had passed. We came up for air, refilled the parking meter and returned to the fourth floor. This time, a dignified woman was leading a tour of the exhibit and intuition told me this must be Patricia E. Kane, curator of Friends of American Art at Yale as well as the American Decorative Arts. Pat was the spark behind this fabulous exhibition. She conceived of the idea over ten years ago and meanwhile established the rifa.art.yale.edu (Rhode Island Furniture Archive) which contains 4000 pieces of furniture and 2000 known woodworkers. All of this effort has made Pat Kane a worthy nominee for the ADA 2017 Award of Merit.
Pat’s goal was to ”Broaden the understanding of who the makers of furniture in Rhode Island were and what they were making.” Her painstaking research led to some surprising conclusions and reattributions.
The companion catalog is a hefty book with contributions by Kane herself, Dennis Carr, Nancy Goyne Evans, Jennifer N. Johnson, and Gary R. Sullivan. This tome discusses furniture created in Rhode Island from its earliest beginning to the end of the Federal Period. The exhibition runs until January 8, 2017 and is located at 1111 Chapel Street in New Haven, Connecticut.
Early veneered Rhode Island furniture
Compare & contrast
Stunning work by Daniel Goddard
Sample of Rhode Island Windsor chairs
The table attributed to John Goddard is featured in the painting by Gilbert Stuart!
Patricia E. Kane, curator, leads a tour through the exhibit.