Monday, October 9, 2017

Please Sit Down

If my dad hadn't been watching a three o'clock news program and if I hadn't been at his house making out his grocery list, I probably wouldn't have know about a wonderful exhibit at the Arkansas Arts Center until it was over. It wasn't the type of exhibit I expect to be at the Arts Center. When I think of art exhibits I think of photography, paintings, or sculptures. This exhibit was "The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design" sounded intriguing! And, it was!

Over forty chairs were exhibited showing the unique history of each chair. The earliest chairs in the exhibition were made in the first half of the 19th century. One of the oldest is this Ladderback Doll's Chair. Wood samplings identified the chair as probably being made in what is now the state of Maine. So very sweet and so very small.

Beside it sat a Rocking Arm Chair designed and made by the Mount Lebanon Shaker Community, New York, about 1840. I loved the chair, I really did, but the shadows  below it captivated me.

In 1857 two-hundred and sixty-two House of Representative Chairs were designed by Thomas Ustick Walter. Many patriotic symbols were carved into the wood of these chairs: the federal shield bearing the stars and stripes is centered on the crest rail; olive boughs, a symbol of peace, run down the left stile; oak boughs, symbols of strength, run down the right stile; and stars decorate each corner. I was amazed at the wood carving, so precise and so beautiful!

I know I went to see the chairs, but the lighting created such great shadows, especially behind this Gothic Revival Side Chair which was made between 1845 and 1855 in New York, NY. 

The intricate carvings on some of the chairs were breathtaking. These two different Slipper Chairs (on the right in the photo above) were carved out of rosewood about 1855 and 1860 by John Henry Belter. The low seat height made it easier for 19th-century women to put on their stockings, slippers, and other attire. I could use one of these for putting on my shoes!

And then we came to this lovely ruby red chair. In the 19th century furniture makers became enchanted by what was know as "patent furniture." Patent furniture was created by using either new materials or a unique process of manufacturing for which a patent was sought from the government. One such chair is the Centripetal Spring Arm Chair, designed by Thomas E. Warren and manufactured by the American Chair Company of New York in 1850. The stationary back and seat sit on light cast iron springs. The chair could rock vertically and laterally rotating in any direction by just shifting your weight as you sit. My grandsons would love to sit and wiggle in this chair. We might have to change the fabric color. I don't think they'd like the red or the fringe! It looks a little feminine. 

As the chair became more modern they didn't appeal to me as much. They were unique and interesting, but they didn't have the nostalgic feel of the older ones. I have an old soul that loves really old things!

The exhibit, though so very different from any I've seen at the Arts Center, was both fascinating and enlightening. Who knew chairs could be art! Let me leave you with a quote that was written on the wall as we entered the exhibit area.

"The discontented man finds no easy chair."
~ Benjamin Franklin


  1. What a wonderful exhibit! Chairs really can be art - and so can their shadows.

  2. What a interesting exhibition, Cathy. I loved all the shadows which were art in themselves! My favourites were the ladder back doll's chair (I have one) and the rocking chair capture! The more intricately designed ones looked rather uncomfortable to actually sit in!

  3. A fabulous bit of sharing - thanks so much Cathy. They certainly look more interesting than many chairs now-a-days but I don't think they were as comfortable - lol.

  4. So glad you saw that news cast and then shared these images! This is something my hubby and I love to "find". I am intrigued by the history and changes that you captured here.

  5. Love that red chair. I get furniture exhibits because we live in what use to be the furniture capital. Some of those chairs look more comfy than others for sure.

  6. What a great exhibit! I enjoyed your detailed pictures of these beautiful pieces. I especially enjoyed the peak at the modern chairs in the photo of the fancy red chair! A great variety of styles! Thanks for sharing!

  7. What a neat exhibit--and that are all displayed so beautifully! Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos, Cathy!

  8. I had a good time admiring all the chairs. Your blog was so interesting. I was so busy I did not get all the information on them. Photos were great.

  9. What a wonderful and fascinating exhibit. Those chairs are amazing.


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