Winterthur Furniture Forum Highlights Southern Furniture

Easy chair, made in Charleston, South Carolina, 1760-70; Mahogany, Cyprus, and Tulip poplar. 1960.1058. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont.
Easy chair, made in Charleston, South Carolina, 1760-70; Mahogany, Cyprus, and Tulip poplar. 1960.1058. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont.

Coinciding with Winterthur’s reopening this spring, the museum will host the 11th annual Sewell C. Biggs Winterthur Furniture Forum, Furniture in the South: Makers & Consumers, on March 1 and 2. An array of scholars and specialists, including distinguished curators from Winterthur, will lead two days of fascinating lectures and workshops focusing on southern regional furniture from the early 17th to mid-19th centuries and the history of those who made and bought it. Optional tours of a special southern furniture exhibit and day trips to Homewood Museum and Hampton National Historic Site in Maryland also will be offered.

“While previous Furniture Forums have focused on northern or Mid-Atlantic material, this year we are taking the opportunity to venture southward and explore some more recent research by southern scholars,” says Wendy A. Cooper, the Lois F. and Henry S. McNeil Senior Curator of Furniture at Winterthur. Furniture Forum is one of Winterthur’s hallmark annual conferences, highlighting current research on historic furniture by the field’s top scholars.

The forum will explore not only the furniture and furnishings of specific southern regions, makers, and consumers but also northern-made furniture that was sold to southern customers. Scholars of southern furniture have made great strides and discoveries in the past two decades. Recent acquisitions to the Winterthur southern furniture collection include pieces that, after great investigation, have provided answers to questions regarding their history of ownership and maker that were previously misattributed. These are landmark discoveries in the field of furniture scholarship. Winterthur is thrilled to unveil these discoveries at this year’s forum. Speakers also will include scholars from Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, as well as museum professionals from other leading institutions in the field of southern furniture.

“While Winterthur’s southern holdings are not as plentiful as those from other regions, the pieces in the collection that were made in the South are truly important. Hence, we take the opportunity during this year’s forum to highlight many of those objects,” says Cooper. A special exhibit of Winterthur’s southern furniture, including an important Charleston easy chair and three recently acquired Virginia painted chests, will be on display for museum guests in the first-floor Galleries during the Forum and after it concludes.

In addition to the lectures and an evening reception, the conference features optional activities for an additional fee, including a day trip to the Homewood Museum at Johns Hopkins University and the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, Maryland, as well as special Wednesday and Saturday tours of the furniture display with staff and guest speakers. This exceptional display of captivating southern furniture, which opens in conjunction with the Sewell C. Biggs Furniture Forum, will be available to museum visitors throughout 2012.

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