Purchase Story

Books Received, May 2018

Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse by Arthur D. Hittner (Apple Ridge Press, 2017, 348 pp., softbound, $19.95).

Arthur Hittner worked for eight years on a catalogue raisonné and biography of Harold J. Rabinowitz, a talented young Social Realist who died in 1944 at age 29 after being held by the Japanese for two years as a prisoner of war. (See “Books Received” in M.A.D., October 2017, for a brief review.) Hittner writes that although he had “gathered the facts and located the artworks” of Rabinowitz, “the soul of the man behind the powerful, evocative paintings” had eluded him. Hittner’s fascination with Rabinowitz led to this novel. “Constrained by biography, I fled to fiction,” Hittner states in the afterword to Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse.

Hittner’s novel tells the story of Henry J. Kapler, a character based on Rabinowitz. The lives of Kapler and Rabinowitz “share a number of salient facts, a common timeline, and even some of the same artworks.” In this well-written, engaging book, Hittner brings to life not only the young artist named Kapler but also the world in which he lived, from his youth in Springfield, Massachusetts, to his education at Yale University and his years as an artist in New York City. The fictional Kapler, as was the real Rabinowitz, is a complex person who struggles with financial insecurity and disapproving parents as he tries to establish himself as an artist, and is also an avowed pacifist who feels he must enlist as a soldier.

In crafting Kapler’s rich story, Hittner has skillfully interwoven fictional lovers and friends of Kapler with real events and people from the first half of the 20th century. Hittner has succeeded in creating a story that not only holds the reader’s interest but may inspire further reading about some lesser-known real people and historical incidents.

American Furniture: 1650 to the Present by Oscar P. Fitzgerald (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, 631 pp., hardbound, $130).

“Furniture is everywhere,” Oscar P. Fitzgerald writes in the preface to his latest survey of American furniture, which updates and expands his earlier books, Three Centuries of American Furniture (1982) and Four Centuries of American Furniture(1995). Furniture is certainly the focus of this large volume, from Jacobean to studio style. It has an updated layout and is longer than the other two volumes. Brock Jobe has written the foreword, and a very long bibliography accompanies the text.

Fitzgerald credits new scholarship since 1995 as the basis for much of the updated information he presents. In this book an entire chapter is now dedicated to Windsor chairs, thanks to Nancy Goyne Evans’s work on the subject. There are also two new chapters expanded from one in earlier texts—one devoted to rural Pennsylvania furniture and the other to Shaker furniture. Taking the book to the present, there’s a chapter devoted to “Studio Furniture and Furniture as Art.” A closing chapter on connoisseurship makes its way, slightly updated, back into this version from Three Centuries of American Furniture.

The book includes over 800 photos, most in black-and-white, and not all new or super clear. There are 24 glossy pages with color photos. The book centralizes all the styles of American furniture into one volume with recent scholarship at its core. For “those curious about how old [a piece of furniture] is, where it came from, and why it looks like it does, this book will answer those questions,” writes Fitzgerald.

Appraising Personal Property: Principles and Methodology, 8th Edition by David J. Maloney, AOA CM (Appraisers Press, 2017, 708 pp., softbound, $94.95 plus S/H from Appraisal Course Associates, [301] 228-2279 or [www.appraisalcourseassociates.com]).

Appraisals are a key function of modern life. This comprehensive textbook is updated every two years to reflect changes in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), and this eighth edition conforms with the 2018-19 USPAP. More than 50 topics have been updated or added since the last edition, and extensive footnotes have been added.

Chapter 7 is a sort of “mini course” in USPAP. Many edits throughout the book have enhanced its readability. The table of contents and index as well as an oval “Updated!” graphic, “What’s New” segment, and chapter synopses will guide users to specific and new or updated topics. This is considered a must-read for appraisers or would-be appraisers. Heavy and dauntingly like a textbook, it is actually very readable and in a useful format for home or office study and reference. It is chock full of what you need to know now to conduct appraisals to the highest standards.

Along the Valley Line: The History of the Connecticut Valley Railroad by Max R. Miller (Wesleyan University Press, 2017, 160 pp., softbound, $24.95).

The early era of train travel in the United States is filled with fact and folklore and is fascinating to many. Max R. Miller takes readers on a ride through the business and politics, problems and successes, and wrecks and revival of a local Connecticut line. The book includes 128 illustrations (vintage and contemporary photos plus a few maps), a time line, and an 1876 train schedule to augment the text.

This books will help readers better understand the importance of the development of the railroad in the Connecticut Valley to commerce and growth, as well as its role in supporting the military movement of men and supplies before and during World Wars I and II. Despite its eroding importance (as a result of better automobile transportation), the railroad has survived into the 21st century and has been developed for use as a tourist train excursion. Included are chapters on wrecks, washouts, and on the railroad’s fame in movies and photo shoots. Railroaders and local historians will appreciate the research done by Miller, who worked for Valley Railroad and is a railroad historian and a collector of railroad memorabilia.

A Tea Caddy Collection by Mark Bramble (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2017, 160 pp., hardbound, $39.99 from Schiffer Publishing, [www.schifferbooks.com] or [610] 593-1777).

This book highlights the collection begun in the 1960s by the author’s mother, Margaret “Marnie” Kintner Bramble (1918-2015). Over the years, Mark and Marnie Bramble collected more than 400 tea caddies dating from the 1700s to the 2000s. The caddies take various forms and are made of silver, stoneware, pearlware, creamware, porcelain, and wood. They came from many places: China, Germany, England, and other European countries.

In the introduction, Bramble, who is well known outside the antiques world as a director and author of Broadway musicals, provides a brief historical overview of tea, touching on tea drinking, tea storage, tea houses, the East India Company, the American Colonists’ boycott of tea, and a king’s furious search for a way to chemically make gold, which led to the fortunate development of the Meissen porcelain factory.

Each chapter includes an introduction, a tea-art illustration, and photographs and entries for the Bramble collection. The listings include information on materials/decoration, marks, dimensions, maker (when known), provenance, and notes. This catalog was produced in conjunction with an exhibition of tea caddies at the Homewood Museum at Johns Hopkins University in late 2017.

Bone Tipped & Banded Horns: Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns, Vol. 1 by Jay Hopkins (The Honourable Company of Horners, 2016, 385 pp., hardbound, $100 plus $10 S/H [check or money order payable to HCH] from HCH Treasurer, 2210 Acorn Circle, Huntingdon, PA 16652).

In this first of two planned volumes, Jay Hopkins organizes his 50 years of experience studying powder horns into a methodical investigation into where professionally made bone-tipped and banded horns originate based on regional characteristics. Hopkins sets out in this hefty reference book to do for horns what similarly in-depth studies have done for more established categories of finely crafted antique objects, such as furniture and rifles, albeit in a field where known artisans and signed examples are practically nonexistent. Formal qualities of horns—namely the tips, butts, and bands—comprise the language used to identify the region a horn is from alongside its provenance. Aided by abundant photographic documentation, made possible by a slew of collaborators, Bone Tipped & Banded Horns provides a foundation upon which future study can build in this area of burgeoning scholarly inquiry.

Sutures and Spirits: The Photographic Illustrations of Lejaren à Hiller by Doug Manchee (Rochester Institute of Technology Press, 2018, 190 pp., softbound, $39.95 plus S/H from RIT Press, [www.rit.edu/press] or [585] 475-6766).

For an artist whose work frequently appeared on the covers of pulp magazines, it’s fitting that Lejaren à Hiller’s work narrowly escaped the dustbin of history. That’s a harrowing story but only a small part of the larger picture painted in Sutures and Spirits. As photography professor Doug Manchee recounts in the introduction, much of the material created by commercial photographers in the early 20th century was regarded not as art but as cultural ephemera of the lowest order. For this reason, the surviving archive of Hiller’s work, which spans his entire career, provides a rare glimpse into an overlooked area of visual culture.

At once a biographical account, historical snapshot, and catalog of early photographic illustrations, this book captures a pivotal moment in the development of photography as a medium of choice for artists and illustrators alike. Manchee details the life and artistic methods of Lejaren à Hiller (1880-1969), a midwesterner-turned-New Yorker whose many interests led him into uncharted territories in the world of commercial art—an adventure that paid off in the end.

Images interspersed throughout the book’s five sections portray Hiller as not only a photographic illustrator and photographer but also as a set designer, director, traditional illustrator, and innovator. Matching Hiller’s array of skills is the variety represented in his work, which, as the title suggests, encompasses pulp-style liquor advertising and scenes from surgical history that were created for a manufacturer of surgical sutures. Particularly illuminating are the behind-the-scenes sketches and photographs documenting Hiller’s process.

Sutures and Spirits is a detailed yet accessible read that unearths a nearly forgotten chapter in the history of art and advertising.

Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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