James Kochan of Frederick, Maryland, is shown next to a 34" x 52" oil on canvas by John Jenkinson, A Private Armed Vessel Arriving at Liverpool, that was tagged $65,000. “It looks like a Robert Salmon,” said Kochan, noting that Jenkinson and Salmon were contemporaries in Liverpool, England. Jenkinson, however, lived a much shorter life (1790-1821), and his output is smaller; probably fewer than 20 paintings are known. The painting, a ship portrait and a landscape view, can be dated by the new spire of St. Nicholas, which had collapsed in 1810 but was rebuilt by 1815. The ship is not a Royal Navy sloop of war—there’s no commissioning pennant, and cargo is visible on the deck. Rather, it’s a heavily armed merchant ship, called a “private armed vessel.” Behind and above Kochan is Anton Otto Fischer’s Fishing on the Grand Banks, a 26" x 32" oil on canvas.
James Guy Evans’s Steam Ship McKim, off Rio Grande with 500 Mississippi Volunteers August 1846, Built by Thomas Clyde 1844 was $65,000 from Kochan. The self-taught Evans was active in New Orleans between 1844 and 1853 and would have been familiar with the John S. McKim, the first screw-driven steamship built for commercial use in the United States. The painting shows three views of the McKim, loaded with volunteers in the 1st Mississippi Regiment, headed to the Mexican War.
Aarne Anton’s American Primitive Gallery shared space with John Molloy, who deals in Native American items. The figure from a minstrel show, once dressed, was $9500 from Anton. The pair of Lakota possible bags from the 1880’s, with deep blue beadwork, was $14,000 from John Molloy Gallery.
Patricia Kane, recipient of the Wunsch Americana Foundation’s first award for excellence in American arts.
Peter Wunsch, president of the Wunsch Foundation, Inc.
The 1820-30 yarn-sewn rug with a double-handled urn (top right), coarsely stitched with original fringe, was $85,000. It has been known since the 1970’s. The 1800-30 yarn-sewn rug (below) with bias shirring with a blue basket of flowers and its original applied wool fringe was $35,000. The rug to the left was made and designed by Jan Whitlock; it is not for sale. The “CORA” rug (far left) is a hooked rug owned by Cora Ginsburg, shown to compare a hooked rug with a sewn rug.
Iron Men in Wooden Ships
James L. Kochan of James Kochan Fine Art & Antiques, Frederick, Maryland, mounted a special exhibition during Americana Week at W. Graham Arader’s five-story townhouse/gallery at 1016 Madison Avenue, not far from the Winter Antiques Show. Kochan rented a room on the second floor, offered marine paintings, and titled the exhibition Iron Men in Wooden Ships: 200 Years of Marine Art. It was up for four days, January 24-28. To accompany the show, he printed a full-color 64-page catalog with in-depth research and descriptions of the paintings.
Several weeks later Kochan wrote, “New York City was a bit disappointing. I mounted an extremely high quality show, with accompanying catalog…yet attendance to the show was less than last year.” Kochan was unsure whether the shorter exhibition window, the weather, or competing events were to blame for the lower attendance.
After New York City, he set up the exhibition in his gallery at 218 North Market Street in Frederick for considerably longer, February 8-March 31. See his Web site (www.jameskochan.com) for more information.
“I am the only folk art gallery in New York,” said Aarne Anton, whose American Primitive Gallery shares space with John Molloy, a dealer in Native American arts, on the second floor at 49 East 78th Street.
“Except for Alaska on Madison, there are no other galleries specializing in Native American,” said John Molloy. Together they advertised a joint exhibition, Anonymous American, during Americana Week.
“Some important collectors came. I made four sales,” said Anton before going off to set up at the Outsider Art Fair. “We want to make this a must stop. We will do it again next year.”
Anton spends most of his week in upstate New York, where his business of making iron stands for objects that will not stand on their own is flourishing. He always has for sale at the New York City gallery a selection of folk art that dovetails with John Molloy’s American Indian material.
Aarne Anton’s exhibition called to mind the days, long ago, when Joel and Kate Kopp’s gallery on Madison Avenue (America Hurrah) was the meeting place for collectors of American folk art. The contributions of the Kopps to collecting and researching folk art are missed, but their influence was evident at the small exhibition at Cora Ginsburg LLC (19 East 74th Street) in connection with the launching of a new book, American Sewn Rugs: Their History with Exceptional Examples, by Pennsylvania dealer Jan Whitlock, with conservator and fiber artist Tracy Jamar.
Whitlock and Jamar have continued research begun by the Kopps, published in American Hooked and Sewn Rugs: Folk Art Underfoot (1975). In their new book, Whitlock and Jamar discuss the differences between rugs sewn with a needle, using crewel yarn on linen, cotton, or wool between 1790 and 1830, and rugs made with a hook, after jute backing was introduced in 1850. The burlap-like open-weave backing allowed women to pull fabric through to make hooked rugs in a fraction of the time it took to make a sewn, shirred, or cross-stitched rug.
“Sewn rugs were never used before a burning fire in a fireplace, although they may have been placed before the hearth during the summer months as showpieces. These rugs, the work of schoolgirls, were cherished,” said Whitlock.
In the book Whitlock lists 19th-century schools where rug work was taught. Her brief history of Lyman Beecher’s school in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, is an example. The Reverend Beecher’s marriage to well-educated Roxana Foote of Guilford, Connecticut, his calling to a ministry in East Hampton, and his need for funds to support his four children led him to found a boarding school for young ladies in their home. Roxana was the teacher, with her sister and some others to assist. Lyman Beecher’s advertisement in the Sag Harbor Suffolk Gazette on May 3, 1806, announces that his school taught “Reading, Writing, Grammar, Geography and History, Needle-work in its various branches, Drawing, and the French language.” Whitlock illustrates Mercy Huntting’s yarn-sewn rug (a rug Whitlock owns), made in East Hampton when she was 25, to point out the influences of Connecticut crewelwork. Images of birds were taken from print sources. Well-educated girls from privileged families were aware of exotic flora and fauna.
Whitlock illustrates other rugs that show the influence of the Beecher school, and she suggests a connection to earlier bed rugs made by members of the Foote family in the last quarter of the 18th century. Roxana Foote Beecher was a direct descendant of the makers of the well-known Foote bed rugs in collections at Winterthur, Historic Deerfield, and the Connecticut Historical Society; their patterns of flowers and leaves coming out of vases and baskets are reinterpreted as dominant motifs on yarn-sewn rugs.
The catalog divides the rugs into yarn-sewn, bias-shirred, chenille-shirred, yarn fringe-shirred, fabric- and yarn-bundled, pleated-shirred, combined techniques, and patchwork rugs—providing a field guide to known rugs, useful should an unknown one of these rare rugs be sighted. The section on methods is a tutorial on needlework techniques. The book is $35 plus $5 for mailing from Jan Whitlock, P.O. Box 583, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, phone (610) 344-7741.
The Wunsch Americana Foundation’s first award for excellence in American arts was presented to Yale University scholar and curator Patricia E. Kane late on Monday afternoon, January 21. The champagne reception, held at Sotheby’s, was a kickoff for Americana Week. The award will be given annually, and the ceremony will alternate between Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
The speakers were Christie’s Dean Failey; Peter Kenny of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Alexandra Kirtley of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Matthew Newman, a collector from St. Louis; and Peter Wunsch, Martin Wunsch’s son and president of the Wunsch Foundation, Inc. They recognized the generosity, scholarly integrity, and leadership in mentoring and sharing information of Martin Wunsch.
Martin Wunsch, who is in his 90’s and was not able to attend, loved networking. He was the guru for a circle of collectors and scholars. The salons at his house on Gramercy Park must have resembled the soirées at the home of Gertrude and Leo Stein in Paris during the years Dr. Barnes was collecting. Wunsch liked nothing better than to talk about quality and connoisseurship. He encouraged collectors to come to the annual gathering of Friends of American Arts at Yale for such an experience.
Patricia Kane and her husband, W. Scott Braznell, a silver scholar, were part of Wunsch’s inner circle (along with Failey, Linda and George Kaufman, Irving Wolf and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Matthew Newman, E.J. Nusrala, George and Lesley Schoedinger, Bernard Levy, Morrison Heckscher, Robert McNeil, and Harold Sack, among others) during what Peter Wunsch called “the golden age of collecting Americana when there was a contagious interaction.” The award to Pat Kane was “a fitting tribute to my father,” he said.
Patricia E. Kane, Friends of American Arts curator of American Decorative Arts at Yale, has been engaged in continuing research projects since the 1960’s and not long ago completed the reinstallation of the American decorative arts collections at Yale University Art Gallery, which reopened in December in three connected buildings linking art, archaeology, and decorative arts.
Kane spoke briefly about her career at Yale. She arrived in 1968 as associate curator, having completed a Winterthur Fellowship. She replaced John Kirk, who moved on to the Rhode Island Historical Society. She worked with Jules Prown, professor of American art and curator of the decorative arts collection. Two years later Charles Montgomery arrived from Winterthur as curator, and when he died in 1978, Kane became curator. She completed her PhD at Yale in 1987. Her thesis became a book, John Hull and Robert Sanderson: First Masters of New England Silver. Her list of publications on furniture and silver is long and covers the period when they found their place in art history and when American decorative arts became the study of material culture.
The award, which includes a $25,000 check, was presented by Peter Wunsch. He said that he was once an aspiring sportswriter but returned to New York from California with his wife, Susi, to join his father in the business of manufacturing industrial machinery, trucks, and cranes, and then branched into industrial real estate. He explained that the goal of the Wunsch Americana Foundation is to support education in the field of American decorative arts. “My father liked nothing better than to share ideas and chase American decorative arts of exceptional quality,” he began. “He started in 1970 when the field was in its infancy, before it had a national audience. That was the year the Met organized Nineteenth-Century America; Princeton mounted the first Arts and Crafts exhibition; and there was a landmark French Art Deco exhibition. For the first time, late nineteenth- and twentieth-century arts were studied seriously.”
Kane acknowledged that she is curator of the full range of American decorative arts from the 17th century until today. “I play with a full deck,” she said, while acknowledging that the Rhode Island furniture project will again get her attention, now that the Yale University Art Gallery is open again.
This annual award could reenergize the art and mystery of collecting Americana as it continues to single out scholars in the field that was Martin Wunsch’s passion—a passion he apparently passed on to his son. The Wunsch award provides hope for continuing careful scholarship in American arts. Pat Kane’s hard work is a model for future scholars.
A week later many of the same people gathered in the Tiffany Room of the Park Avenue Armory on January 28 for a memorial service for Wendell Garrett. He was remembered for his 475 editorials in The Magazine Antiques, which serve as mini history lessons, his 16 books, and countless lectures and appearances on the Antiques Roadshow that popularized the Colonial and Federal periods. Many said this memorial gathering celebrated the end of an era.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest