Fenimore Art Museum Presents Exhibition on Gustav Stickley’s Celebrated American Arts and Crafts Furniture

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y., March 18, 2008—The Fenimore Art Museum presents an exhibition on the furniture of celebrated turn-of-the-century designer and manufacturer and leading spokesman for the American Arts and Crafts Movement, Gustav Stickley. Opening April 1, Gustav Stickley: The Enlightened Home features 40 pieces of original Stickley furniture and decorative objects drawn from The Stickley Museum, Fayetteville, N.Y.; Dalton’s American Decorative Arts, Syracuse, N.Y.; The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Morris Plains, N.J.; and private collections. The exhibition will be on view through August 10, 2008.

“The Stickley Museum and the craftspeople of L.& J.G. Stickley, Inc. are enthusiastic partners for the Fenimore Art Museum’s Gustav Stickley: The enlightened Home, an exhibition of revolutionary work from a man who changed American home life,” said Greg Vadney, Director of the Stickley Museum in Fayetteville, New York.

The exhibition explores Stickley’s well-designed and carefully crafted furniture within the context of his philosophical contribution to the American Arts and Crafts movement. Inspired by the ideas of British Arts and Crafts philosopher William Morris, who advocated a return to fine craftsmanship, honest design, and dignity of labor, Stickley generated his own “Craftsman” philosophy, which catapulted him to the forefront of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Rejecting the superfluous ornamentation characteristic of Victorian homes, Stickley championed functional homes whose beauty derived from simplicity and harmony.

Gustav Stickley: The Enlightened Home, which includes two period rooms, a 1904 living room and a 1907 dining room, highlights several pieces from Stickley’s rich body of work and illustrates how Stickley redefined the American home with his Arts and Crafts-inspired items. Stickley’s philosophy of building in harmony with the environment by using natural materials was fully realized in his home, Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, New Jersey. His functional approach to design was a departure from the Victorian era’s dark and overly ornamental interiors. Stickley’s unornamented, clean-lined furniture was exemplified throughout the interior and exterior design of his home. While individual pieces of furniture used construction as decoration, embodied simplicity, and prioritized utility, these tenets were also implemented on a much grander scale within the home.

Gustav Stickley was born March 9, 1858 in Osceola, Wisconsin. First trained as a stonemason, Stickley preferred to work in wood and learned furniture making at his uncle’s chair factory in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. Stickley formed the philosophy for his Craftsman-style furniture after encountering the British Arts & Crafts movement and meeting notable Arts and Crafts designers during trips to Europe in the late 1890s. Upon his return, Stickley founded United Crafts of Eastwood, New York and the Craftsman Workshops as well as began publishing The Craftsman, a periodical that expounded on the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement and its impact on the overall design aesthetic the home, from furniture and textiles, to decorative objects and gardening. Stickley and his family lived at Craftsman Farms until 1915, when he filed for bankruptcy after several years of financial hardship. Stickley also lived in Syracuse, New York, until his death on April 21, 1942.

Special thanks to Greg Vadney, director of the Stickley Museum, Fayetteville, N.Y.; David Rudd, proprietor of Dalton’s American Decorative Arts, Syracuse, N.Y.; and Heather Stivison, executive director of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Morris Plains, N.J. for their generous contributions to the exhibition.

About the Fenimore Art Museum
One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of American folk and fine art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, and Benjamin West. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; Treasures from Olana: The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens. The Museum Shop offers fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9.50 for visitors age 65 and over, and $5 for children age 7 to 12; children 6 and under and NYSHA members are admitted free. Reduced price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are also available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 31; closed January through March, except for special events and school groups. For museum hours or general information, please call 1-888-547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.


For more information and photographs, please contact:
Christine Liggio, Public Relations Office
Fenimore Art Museum & The Farmers’ Museum
P.O. Box 800, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Tel: (607) 547-1472/E-mail: c.liggio@nysha.org

Press Release Category: 
Exhibition Press Releases
Publication Date: 
March 2008