Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America

Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America

by Thomas Andrew Denenberg
     
 
For devotees of American decorative arts, Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) needs little introduction. A Congregational minister turned author, photographer, and wildly successful entrepreneur, Nutting was the principal authority on early American furniture for much of the twentieth century and played an important role in the development of a colonial revival aesthetic and

Overview

For devotees of American decorative arts, Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) needs little introduction. A Congregational minister turned author, photographer, and wildly successful entrepreneur, Nutting was the principal authority on early American furniture for much of the twentieth century and played an important role in the development of a colonial revival aesthetic and ideology. He collected, reproduced, and marketed colonial artifacts, and the goods and experiences he offered his middle-class customers promoted his idealized notion of a time and place that he called "Old America." This handsomely illustrated book is the first full-length study of Nutting's life and work. Thomas Andrew Denenberg describes Nutting's interrelated endeavors, from his varied writings (including Furniture of the Pilgrim Century and the monumental three-volume Furniture Treasury) to his photography (both amateur and professional), chain of restored museum houses, renowned collection of seventeenth-century furniture, reproduction colonial furniture business, and advertising program. By charting Nutting's activities, Denenberg creates a picture of an influential cultural critic who deftly combined myth and materialism, contributing significantly to both the growth of consumerism and the development of an antimodern world-view in the twentieth-century United States. Thomas Andrew Denenberg is the Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) climbed the ladder of success from Rockbottom (a small town in Massachusetts) to being the Martha Stewart of his time. Ordained as a Congregational minister, he abandoned his religious calling at 43 and turned his attention to many other things, including traveling, photography, writing, and manufacturing reproductions of antique American furniture. (Today his furniture and his more than one million photographs-mostly idyllic scenes of country life, colonial interiors, and sentimental allegorical scenes-are highly collectible.) Ever the entrepreneur and long before there was a Colonial Williamsburg, he established five Colonial Houses, furnished with period antiques, as profit-making museums (which are no longer available for viewing). In addition, he published books on antiques, as well as guidebooks to states that he visited. In 1923, he sold his collection of early American antiques to J.P. Morgan, who later donated these works to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT), where they can be seen through October 19. This exhibition catalog, written by the curator of decorative arts at the museum, is the first comprehensive study of Nutting's life and work. The subject is fascinating and the photography beautiful; highly recommended for photography and decorative arts collections.-Margarete Gross, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300096835
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
03/20/2003
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)

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