Five For Friday: Dalton’s American Decorative Arts
Can you share with the Auction Daily readers why Arts and Crafts furnishings and decorative accessories have such timeless and universal appeal?
The Arts and Crafts period began a few decades after the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. The movement sought to uncomplicate life through simply-designed, low-maintenance furnishings, household, and decorative items. This aesthetic also dovetailed into the architectural trends of the era. The Arts and Crafts revival started in 1972, via an exhibition held at the Princeton University Art Museum. This was also the beginning of the Technical Revolution – when the first cell phones and personal computers were introduced. I don’t believe that is a coincidence; the basic need to balance complexity and simplicity transcends time and geography. And given our frenetic world, I think that’s even more true today, and may help to explain why Arts and Crafts items continue to catch the eye, and pocketbooks, of enthusiasts worldwide.
Do people who buy original Arts and Crafts items actually use them as furniture and/or functional items… or are they more likely to display and admire them, as fine collectibles?
Both. If collectors do use Arts and Crafts antiques, they usually do so with enormous respect for the items. Some museum-quality items absolutely belong behind glass; I can’t imagine anyone putting a bunch of tulips into a five or six-figure stoneware vase. I suppose the best of all worlds would be something like using a Gustav Stickley cabinet to display a collection of Fulper pottery.
Given the value in original examples from Gustav Stickley, L&JG Stickley, Roycroft, Limbert, Rohlfs, and other fine manufacturers, how often do you come across fakes and frauds? How can you tell if an Arts and Crafts-looking furniture or decorative item is authentic?
This happens occasionally. For the most part, fakes stick out like a sore thumb, given how many items I have handled. For example, I have seen old hammered copper metalwork that was most likely made by a student that appears with a fake maker’s mark, as well as reproduction furniture with various Stickley IDs. With furniture, it is almost impossible to fake the color, heft, patina, and natural aging of old wood. All of these things align elegantly in genuine antique Arts and Crafts furniture. In terms of authenticity, collectors need to know the forms associated with the key manufacturers and build their own reference libraries. Great information sources include old company catalogs, auction catalogs, and reference books.
Please share a story about finding something unexpected, on a house call, appraisal event, or other customer interaction. What was the item, where did you come across it, and what made it exceptional?
Out of the blue, I learned about a corner cabinet located in the southern Midwest. I saw photos of it, then went to view it firsthand. Turns out, it was one of two of its kind made by cabinet maker John Seidemann in 1902. It has his name stamped in a typewriter-looking font in several places. It was shown at a 1903 Stickley exhibition, and the other example remains within the Stickley family. I could not believe my eyes when I realized its history and rarity. Its owner purchased it in the 1970s for $175 at a yard sale; professionally, I would value it in the mid-six figures today.
And finally, in the Arts and Crafts furnishings and decorative arts categories, what is/are those “holy grail” bucket list item(s) that you hope to see and handle at some point?
This varies from person to person. For me personally, these items would include incredibly rare Gustuv Stickley items from the 1900-1901 time frame. Since the majority of Stickley items were produced in multiples, it is extraordinarily exciting to find items that were produced in very low edition sizes, or even undocumented one-offs.
Dalton’s American Decorative Arts, one of America’s oldest Arts and Crafts period dealers, is located at 1931 James Street in Syracuse, New York. In business since 1980, the company also offers interior planning and design, repair, restoration, upholstery, and item or estate appraisals. Co-owner David Rudd is the President of the board at the Gustav Stickley House Foundation, a 501c3 organization which oversees the famous furniture maker’s home in Syracuse. Dalton’s American Decorative Arts enjoys the much deserved reputation as the most trusted and experienced source for Arts and Crafts objects in America. Explore their current inventory to find Gustav Stickley, L & JG Stickley, and Roycroft pieces, among many others.
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