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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


American Arts & Crafts

Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony by Nancy Green, Tom Wolf, Cheryl Robertson (Cornell University Press) Byrdcliffe is a colony founded as a center for artists and craftsmen in Woodstock, New York, in 1902–1903. It was started by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, a wealthy British disciple of John Ruskin and William Morris, who determined to make his mentors’ visions of a communal arts and crafts colony a reality. In 1902 he bought twelve hundred acres on a mountainside overlooking the town. With the aid of artist-colleagues, including his wife, Jane Byrd McCall; Hervey White, a writer; and Bolton Brown, an artist; he erected thirty buildings to start the arts and crafts center he named Byrdcliffe. He then brought art workers to the colony and financed their production of furniture, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, paintings, and photographs, many of which may be seen in this book’s two hundred color illustrations. These activities transformed Woodstock from a farming village to a center for creative people, an identity it still maintains today.
Most of Byrdcliffe’s architecture remains in its original setting. Byrdcliffe documents this rare example of architectural survival with vintage and contemporary photographs of the site. The authors also consider the unique role of music at the colony—Arnold Dolmetsch, pioneer of the use of authentic instruments, performed there, and the Whiteheads published two anthologies of folk music. Byrdcliffe was a center for literature and philosophy, as well: visitors included John Burroughs, John Dewey, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The Arts and Crafts movement was a genuine reformist impulse that swept Europe and the United States, creating many centers of activity that communicated with and cross-fertilized each other. New York State is an important part of the Arts and Crafts story, and this book and the accompanying exhibition define Byrdcliffe’s role in relation to other similar ventures such as Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft; Onteora Park, founded by Candace Wheeler in Tannersville; and the Craftsman movement led by Gustav Stickley.

Nancy Green is Senior Curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, where she has curated many exhibitions and written extensively on nineteenth- and twentieth-century fine and decorative art. She is the author of Arthur Wesley Dow and American Arts and Crafts. Tom Wolf is Professor of Art History at Bard College. He has curated many exhibitions of early-twentieth-century art and published many articles and exhibition catalogues on artists from the Woodstock area. Cheryl Robertson is an independent scholar who has lectured and written widely on twentieth-century decorative arts. She has published essays in The Art That is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875–1920 and The Arts and Crafts Movement in California: In Pursuit of the Good Life. Robert Edwards is a decorative arts dealer who, in 1984, organized and curated Life by Design: The Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony at the Delaware Art Museum. He has also contributed to A Poor Sort of Heaven, A Good Sort of Earth: The Rose Valley Arts and Crafts Experiment and The Art That is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875–1920. Heidi Nasstrom Evans is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland at College Park where she is writing her dissertation on Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead. She is currently working on an exhibition of Whitehead’s work for the Georgia Museum of Art. Ellen Denker is a museum consultant, lecturer, and curator who has written extensively on American ceramics and glass, including contributions to The Art That is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875–1920.

American Silver by John Marshall Phillips, 52 halftones; 14 black-and-white line illustrations. 4 color illustrations on covers (Dover Publications) This volume by a noted authority is not only a practical guide to recognizing, identifying, and appreciating the finest American silverwork; it is also a fascinating history of the rise and development of the American silversmith and his craft over a 300-year period. Drawing on existing artifacts and contemporary documents, Professor Phillipsformer Director of the Yale University Art Gallery-explores the stylistic growth of American silverwork from the days of early settlement through the end of the 19th century Along the way, he provides intriguing commentary on the domestic manners of the Americans, and the economic and social conditions of the times. He also sheds light on the increasing demand for silver plate, the role of the apprentice, and the artistic styles that emerged: Baroque, Queen Anne, Rococo, Federal, and others.

Collectors and antiquarians will particularly appreciate the wealth of photographs and drawings of masterworks from leading public and private collections, including a beautifully worked covered cup and teapot designed by Jacob Hurd; a candlestick, punch bowl, standing cup, and standing salt by Jeremiah Dummer; a teapot, necklace, sugar caster, mustard pot, and more by Peter van Dyck; a sugar box and chocolate pot by Edward Winslow; cups, an inkstand, a chafing dish, and other fine pieces by John Coney; a coffee pot, pitcher, urn, and two punch bowls by Paul Revere; and many other incomparable examples of the silversmith's art.

Dover (2001) unabridged republication of the edition published by Chanticleer Press Inc., New York, 1949. Bibliography.


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