Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 27
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American Furniture in the
Charles L. Venable
University of Texas Press, Austin
Published in association with the Dallas Museum of
Art. Hardcover $45.00.
Reviewed by Gerald L. Maffei
In this permanent collection catalogue
Mr. Venable, curator of decorative arts at
the Dallas Museum of Art, celebrates,
illustrates, and closely examines eightytwo
pieces of American regional and rural
furniture acquired from Faith and Charles
The collection reflects a rigorous
aesthetic that is free of conventional high
style assumptions and possessed of great
authority and presence. Beautifully
proportioned and carefully crafted, these
objects form a core of American decorative
art that the Dallas Museum of Art and Mrs.
Bybee have pledged to expand into a great
Each of the eighty-two entries is
composed of a full page color photo of the
object along with its name, date, attribution,
place of origin, inscriptions, woods,
materials, dimensions, provenance,
accession number, exhibitions and
publications and extensive endnotes.
The body of the entry consists of a short
essay which describes the object, occasionally
commenting formally and
places it within its original socio-historic
context. Structure and condition are also
discussed and illustrated with extremely
clear and highly descriptive duotone black
and white photos. These include furniture
backs, interiors, undersides, close-ups,
inscriptions, labels, and joints. Similar
objects, room interiors, drawings from
contemporary trade catalogues and
furniture design manuals are also included
for many of the entries.
Four study objects in the collection
which have been "compromised in terms of
condition and provenance" are illustrated
in order to "aid other collectors and
curators in understanding similar pieces in
An excellent seven-page reference
bibliography from the eighteenth century
to the present finishes off the catalogue.
The innovative format combines the early
work of Charles Montgomery (491 entries)
and Richard Randall (218 entries) with the
recent work of Morrison Heckscher (213
The writing is crisp, objective, and
consistently avoids twentieth century
stylistic terms such as William and Mary,
Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal.
Rather, readers encounter terms such as
mannerist, baroque, rococo, and neoclassical.
The objects are of great geographic,
temporal, material, and stylistic diversity,
and well worth knowing for any lover of
American furniture or connoisseur of art.
Gerald L. Maffei is associate professor of architecture
at Texas A&M University.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/27/: accessed May 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.