With a diverse offering of whimsical objects and grand masterpieces, Americana Week presents a perfect opportunity for established and new collectors alike
This portrait of George Washington presents the first president of the United States in all his magnificence. A replica of his famous “Athenaeum” type portrait, this portrayal was rendered in about 1820 during the artist’s later years in Boston. The sophisticated brushwork and delicate modelling reveal the artist’s talents and his pre-eminence among early American portraitists. Later the basis for the image on the dollar bill, the image seen on the present work captures a likeness of the country’s arguably most important historical figure that endures to this day.
Martin Johnson Heade travelled to South America numerous times before painting Fighting Hummingbirds with Pink Orchids. It depicts a duel between two male hummingbirds: a horned sungem below and a rufous-crested coquette above. Departing from the tradition of other 19th-century naturalists like John James Audubon and John Gould, Heade focusses less on the science of the scene and more on capturing the transcendence of the natural world.
An excellent example of the early Rococo aesthetic in New York, this card table is part of a group of tables that showcase the accomplished hand of a single carver. Details of this work strongly resemble a table that descended from the Verplanck family, currently held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a china table at Winterthur Museum. This group is notable for its bold gadrooning that extends over the tops of the legs and sinuous cabriole legs. Here, the front rail conceals a drawer, one whose sides are artfully concealed within the folds in the lobes surrounding the turrets. Exhibiting sumptuous design and exuberant carving, this table is a masterpiece of American Chippendale furniture.
Winfred Rembert started tooling leather to make art at the age of 51, using skills he had picked up in prison. First arrested during a civil rights march in the 1960s, he survived a near-lynching before being sent to work on a chain gang in Georgia.
His work ranges from depictions of joyful memories of his childhood to the realities of the Jim Crow South. ‘Everybody was locked down tight,’ he said to the New Yorker of his experience with incarceration as a Black man. ‘They didn’t have no movement. There was no playing around, no freedom.’
Made in his characteristic medium of carved leather coloured with shoe dye, The Black Cat depicts a densely packed club that is full of life, with music, dance and romance. In its palpable energy, sense of movement, and sound, Rembert has created a space of freedom.
William Michael Harnett made Lobster, Fruit, Champagne and Newspaper as part of a series he began in 1882 that centres on the brilliant crimson of lobsters. While the work was painted in Munich, the newspaper on the table is likely the Times of his native Philadelphia. There are six known works in the series and the present work is possibly the only example featuring a red background.
Filled with delicacies of the period — an oriental ginger jar, a box of figs, and a champagne bottle topped with gold foil — the present work displays Harnett’s command of texture and balanced composition, as well as his interest in the Dutch Old Masters, whom he studied while in Munich. In total, the painting gives little doubt as to why he was considered one of the foremost 19th century painters in the nation.
Sturtevant J. Hamblin — sometimes written as Hamblen — was a professional portrait painter active in Maine and Massachusetts during the 19th century. Born into a family of artisans — his grandfather was a painter and glazer, as were his father and brothers — Hamblin lived in New York before eventually moving with his family to Boston. The present work, commissioned by Elihu and Angeline Hathaway of Fall River, Massachusetts, features their daughters Mary Lucetta and Elizabeth Alice. Reflecting the closeness portrayed by their intertwined hands, the pair lived in adjoining bedrooms on their father's estate in the early 20th century.
Located in what is now Woodhaven, Queens, the old Union Course hosted some of the most famous horse races in American history. Henry H. Cross’s present work shows spectators at the track watching what likely was the final matchup between the ‘fine gray horse’ Eddy and True John on May 10, 1854. Completing the course in 2:40, the former won the purse of $2,000, with ‘the fastest time ever made by any horse to a 250 pound wagon.’ With over 3,000 people in attendance, it was an event not to be missed, and Cross’s painting captures the verve of the exciting day.
John F. Francis was born in Philadelphia, a city which eventually became a linchpin of 19th century American still-life painting. After working as a portraitist and later exhibiting at both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Art Union, Francis translated this experience into highly effective still life and trompe l’oeil painting. Francis painted Strawberries and Cream in 1854, around the time he was beginning to focus intently on his signature imagery of fruit, luncheon and dessert still lifes.
Attributed to the cabinet maker John Chipman, this Chippendale desk was likely produced in Salem, Massachusetts, where Chipman worked for most of his life after the American Revolution. Just under two feet tall, the charming size of the desk indicates that it was made for a child. Its quality and delicate detail is a testament to his artfully worked style, and demonstrates why he was considered the finest producer of furniture in Salem during his time.
When it was first purchased in 1867, the territory of Alaska was dubbed President Andrew Johnson’s ‘polar bear garden.’ Decorated with an Inuit hunter in confrontation with a polar bear in an iceberg-grounded boat, this playful ice bowl is perhaps a rendering of the early nickname. Frederic Tudor (1783-1864) had recently developed the technology to harvest and sell ice to affluent clients around the world, making silver ice bowls such as this one luxury status symbols befitting their contents’ value and prestige.
I’ll Hit You Man, like many of Sam Doyle’s works, is painted on a piece of repurposed metal, a practice he first began in 1944. He frequently made portraits of people from his community on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina, but when he retired from his Civil Service laundry job to pursue art full time in 1960, his work began to more directly address the history of the island’s Gullah culture. This work is a visualisation of the Boo Hag, or the Devil in Gullah lore. Created with discarded materials like metal, roofing, leftover housepaint and plywood, his works are now held in museums throughout the country and were admired by artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ed Ruscha.
By 1833, the temperance movement had over 6,000 local societies across the United States. With the goal of promoting moderation, or complete abstinence from alcohol, they spread their message with engraved works such as this silver mug. Intricately carved to depict debauchery and drunkenness, it is a masterpiece in its own right, demonstrating some of the 19th century’s finest engraving, but it is also a time capsule that recounts the spirited social demonstrations that preceded the Prohibition Era.
A history of the town of Marissa, Illinois, recounts that Henry Engelhardt was a skilled blacksmith and iron craftsman, as well as an artist and expert woodworker. In 1933, he made this airplane windmill with a complete blacksmith shop inside the fuselage, which he then displayed on a truck in one of the village Bar-B-Q picnic parades. Powered by a propeller mechanism, the blacksmith workshop automaton shows two men at work on an anvil, while another sharpens scissors on an angle grinder, and still another rides a miniature bicycle whose bell is timed with the beat of the hammers striking the anvil. It is a masterfully whimsical work of engineering depicting true artistic ingenuity.