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John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker

Heckscher, Morrison H., with the assistance of Lori Zabar (2005)

This title is out of print.

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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (3)
Exhibition
John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker

Early in the eighteenth century, Boston was the dominant urban center in colonial America and the center of innovative furniture design. Within a few decades, however, Boston's supremacy was challenged as the cabinetmakers of Newport, Rhode Island, introduced more simplified and elegant forms, replaced painted or veneer woods with solid mahogany, and invented a uniquely American furniture style. Newport became a leading center of American furniture making, with members of the Townsend and Goddard families dominating the trade. Preeminent among these stellar cabinetmakers was John Townsend (1733–1809), whose meticulous craftsmanship and elegant designs set a standard that was seldom matched. This exhibition celebrates his pivotal role in the history of American furniture.

This first-ever retrospective of the renowned cabinetmaker and the first reexamination of Newport furniture making in four decades features some forty works by Townsend, displayed alongside an additional twenty comparative examples by his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors. The works are drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's own holdings, which include the largest collection of documented works by Townsend, from the Winterthur Museum, and from fifteen other public collections and eighteen private lenders. A highlight is the fine and important 1772 mahogany chest on chest, the only known labeled work by John Townsend's cousin Thomas Townsend, which descended in the Gardiner family of eastern Long Island until its recent acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum....