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Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery - SC Edition: Smithsonian American Art Museum Paperback – September 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery provides historical look at modern American furniture making Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery published by Fox Chapel is a beautifully designed catalogue of the Renwick Gallery's collection of American studio furniture. Inside, author Oscar P. Fitzgerald documents each of the 84 pieces, and provides intimate interviews with many of the surviving artists, who share their inspirations, workshop practices, and more. Appreciated for its careful craftsmanship, beautiful wood, sculptural form, and narrative nature, the studio furniture collection on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum constitutes one of the largest assemblages of American studio furniture in the nation. From the one-of-a-kind Ghost Clock sculpture by Wendell Castle to the rocking chairs from Sam Maloof, the collection highlights the astonishing variety of the studio furniture movement. Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery provides a vital resource for the history of modern American furniture makers and chronicles how the collection was amassed by the former administrators of the Renwick Gallery. A foreword by noted scholar and curator Paul Greenhalgh gives readers a brilliant overview of the studio furniture field. No student, collector, or furniture enthusiast should be without this coffee-table style book, available in hard or soft-cover that so beautifully illustrates such an important movement in modern craft.

Fitzgerald offers a long-overdue portfolio showcasing the Renwick Gallery's entire 84-piece collection of crafted American furniture. This critical resource will serve as a foundation for the study and historic preservation of 20th-century American furniture makers' work. Fitzgerald's perspective lends a deeper understanding of the craftsmen's unique personal expression, experience, and cultivated vision in this genre. His artist biographies and bibliographies highlight these individuals' ambitions and idiosyncratic development, which extends to areas including pop culture. Many adhere to traditional wood furniture craft yet incorporate new approaches in their one-of-a-kind works of art. Readers will gain further insight into functional and physical communication from the conceptual, historiographical, and narrative commentary. This comprehensive review of 50 years of modern American furniture practice recognizes furniture design's close alignment with architecture, the decorative arts, and culture. Contributing to the historical perspective are 115 color photographs highlighting the significant contributions furniture designers have made to the culture of the last century. Summing Up: Highly recommended. 3 STARS. Upper-division undergraduates through professional/practitioners; general readers.

This catalog aimed at students, collectors, and furniture enthusiasts features the collection of American studio furniture at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., which consists of 84 pieces - clocks, chairs, stools, tables, benches, chests, music stands, and other pieces by artists such as Tage Frid, Rob Womack, Wendell Castle, and David Ebner. Fitzgerald, a furniture historian, decorative arts consultant, and teacher with the Smithsonian Institution, describes each piece, which is shown in a color photo, and provides a history and statistical analysis of the collection. The latter is based on interviews with the surviving artists and details workshop practices, marketing concerns, aesthetic influences, design approaches, and other aspects of the contemporary studio furniture movement. (Annotation 2009 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)

About the Author: Oscar P. Fitzgerald earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University and served as director of the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., until he decided to pursue full time his passion as a furniture historian and decorative arts consultant. He is currently on the faculty of the Smithsonian Institution/Corcoran School Master's Program in the Decorative Arts, where he developed and teaches a core course on the studio furniture movement.His book Four Centuries of American Furniture, which includes coverage of the studio furniture movement, is the standard reference work in the field. In 2004 he was awarded a prestigious James Renwick Research Fellowship, which funded research for an essay published in the 2005 issue of Furniture Studio. About the Book: The 84 pieces of studio furniture owned by the RenwickGallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum constitute one of the largest assemblages of American studio furniture in the nation. Three former administrators-Lloyd Herman, Michael Monroe and Kenneth Trapp-amassed a seminal collection that samples studio furniture's diversity. From the carefully crafted stools ofTage Frid to the art deco chest painted by Rob Womack, from the one-of-akind Ghost Clock sculpture by Wendell Castle to the limited production stool by David Ebner, the collection highlights the astonishing variety of the American studio furniture movement. In this catalogue, author Oscar P. Fitzgerald documents each piece of furniture in a descriptive, illustrated entry. He also recounts the history of the collection's formation in an introductory essay, which illuminates the rationale and aesthetic choices of each curator and notes various donors and support organizations. Finally, Fitzgerald's statistical analysis of the collection, formulated from detailed interviews with the surviving artists, casts new light on workshop practices,marketing concerns and other aspects of the contemporary studio furniture movement. A foreword by noted scholar and curator Paul Greenhalgh gives readers a brilliant overview of the studio furniture field and the intimate role furniture plays in daily life.

The best thing about museum collections is that the pieces are all actually there, to be experienced in person. That's also the problem with collections: that the pieces must actually be there. So any collection that purports to be representative of a major movement ends up hamstrung by logistical realities. I'm guessing here, but the seminal piece or piece must not be available in many cases. In this beautiful, wide-format soft cover, Oscar Fitzgerald does an admirable job of describing each maker's importance to the movement, but the book is only as good as the collection itself, and time and again, I found a maker's signature pieces missing. Garry Knox Bennett, John Dunnigan, Wharton Esherick, Michael Hurwitz, Kristina Madsen, Jere Osgood, the names are right but the pieces weren't. The curators had better luck with some than others. Wendell Castle and Sam Maloof got full justice. And I was exposed to wonderful pieces and makers I had never seen before. On the other hand, recent artists were included whose work is, frankly, mediocre. I saw a blasé version of a Windsor chair, a bad knockoff of a Maloof rocker, and a mediocre children's chair by someone who was briefly a student and apprentice and then left the field. And some true heavyweights were left out: David Lamb and Terry Moore, with their unmistakably contemporary but always sure handed takes on period furniture; Brian Newell and Michael Puryear, who do the same thing with Asian and African motifs, respectively. Check past back covers of Fine Woodworking for others. I came away thinking that the way to do a definitive book on the studio furniture movement is not to base it on one exhibit, even one at the nation's greatest museum. Why be at the mercy of a curator's whimsy and the realities of collection when all you need are photos of the pieces, not the pieces themselves? I'll forward that thought to our books department here at the Taunton Press. Maybe they'll take up the mantle.

Oscar P. Fitzgerald's Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery (Fox Chapel Publishing, $35) serves as vital analysis of contemporary American studio furniture through the 84 examples from the museum's permanent collection. The catalog chronicles the history of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, documenting each piece with a large full-color image and a brief accompanying artist biography. In all, this is a can't miss text for any collector of American studio furniture. See the original review here.

Art, architecture, and design meet function in this stunning book. Studio Furniture documents and celebrates the masters of the craft while offering a historical retrospective of American furniture practice. A terrific resource for the collector, student or layperson.

The wide variety of landmark furniture pieces, no matter the style, is what makes this book so visually stunning. That, and the fact that all of the 84 pieces that comprise the collection are beautifully photographed and a short description about each maker and piece is included. Many of the great makers from the last 100 years are covered - Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle, Tage frid, George Nakashima - as well as many lesser known makers. If you read this book one hundred years from now, i'm sure it would be as thought provoking as it is today. These are 84 great pieces, and this is one great book.

From the Back Cover

About the Authors Dr. Oscar Fitzgerald earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University and served as director of the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C., until he decided to pursue full time his passion as a furniture historian and decorative arts consultant. He is currently on the faculty of the Smithsonian Institution/Corcoran School Master's Program in the Decorative Arts where he developed and teaches a core course on the studio furniture movement. His book, Four Centuries of American Furniture, which includes coverage of the studio furniture movement, is the standard reference work in the field. In 2004 he was awarded a prestigious James Renwick Research Fellowship, which funded research for an essay published in the 2005 issue of Furniture Studio. Paul Greenhalgh is a world-renowned scholar of the decorative arts and a leading figure in the international museum and academic world. He is currently director and president of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art and design, in Washington, D.C. His previous posts have included the presidency of NSCAL University, one of the leading Canadian institutions of art and design (2001-2006); head of research at the Victoria & Albert Museum (1992-94); deputy keeper of ceramics and glass at the V&A (1990-1992). Over the past two decades he has also written and edited a number of defining texts in the field of the crafts, decorative arts, and cultural history, including Ephemeral Vistas (1988), Modernism in Design (1990), Art Nouveau, 1890-1914 (2000) The Persistence of Craft (200), and The Modern Ideal (2005). He also curated the seminal exhibition Art Nouveau, 1890-1914 at the V&A in 2000. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565233670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565233676
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.8 x 11.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,575,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shelly on April 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great photos. The Renwick is generally recognized as the country's best craft museum. (No. 2: The Museum of Arts & Design in NYC; No. 3: The Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin.) Take a look at the photos, discard your preconceptions of "craft" and reconsider whether there's a real distinction between fine craft and fine art. The Renwick's collection is amazing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By government attorney on January 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been to the Renwick several times and consider the best of the Smithsonian museums. I bought the book mostly for the furniture photographs, but all arts are excellently represented. The photography and the printing are exceptional. It is well worth the money and I would,t hesitate to buy it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on October 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
All 84 furniture pieces of the Gallery a part of the Smithsonian are pictured in full-page color photographs on righthand pages with comments on them and their makers on facing lefthand pages. One sees immediately on looking through the many pieces what Greenhalgh means when he writes in the Foreword, "Furniture is perhaps more allied to architecture than any of the other individual craft-based arts." This is especially true of this studio furniture made between the early years of the 1900s to the early years of the twenty-first century. While the furniture is self-evidently modern, made basically of wood, never loosing sight of its utilitarian purpose, and its inner details (rather than flourishes, for example), it for the most part it is for the most part within the mainstream of furniture, particularly Victorian furniture and more recently art nouveau and the arts-and-crafts furniture toward the end of the Victorian era. Where the Renwick Gallery pieces depart somewhat from the mainstream it is not in shape simply for the sake of shape nor in riotous colors or assemblage calling into question the meaning of "furniture". Where this furniture departs, it is mostly in whimsical touches.

Looking over the collection, one also sees what Greenhalgh means when he comments this furniture comes from a "furniture world [that] was, on the whole, less cohesive and dramatic than these other genres [e. g., jewelry] and unfolded in a more subtle and complex way." No movement, school, or "intellectual thrust" in American furniture making during this period of roughly a century meant that there was "rather, a number of seams of activity." While basically falling within the mainstream, each piece is nonetheless distinctive in appearance.
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Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery - SC Edition: Smithsonian American Art Museum
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