Luxury and Innovation: Furniture Masterworks by John and Thomas Seymour - November 17,2003-February 16,2004

The Seymour Story Furniture Making ARTscape Gallery Book Index


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The Furniture Masterworks of John & Thomas Seymour
By Robert D. Mussey Jr.

The Peabody Essex Museum is pleased to present the first major exhibition of the work of John and Thomas Seymour, two English émigrés who played a significant role in shaping New England’s artistic heritage during one of the most pivotal chapters in American history. During the Federal period, from the 1780s to the 1820s, the Federal government took shape, along with many of the values and ideals that we live with today. It was also an era that adopted the classical style inspired by the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome as suitable for all branches of the creative arts. The style went through several different phases, but its salient features – fine proportion, symmetrical arrangement of parts, and decorative details copied from ancient buildings and furniture – remained constant and continue to be a vital part of America’s decorative vocabulary.

The Seymours thoroughly mastered the intricacies of this elegant style, kept pace with its constant reinterpretation during their long careers, and used it to create some of the truly iconic pieces of American furniture. They borrowed elements judiciously from English sources and developed their own style through the use of restrained but rich ornamentation combined with elegant, balanced proportions. Their designs influenced the work of other artisans, and they set a standard for meticulous workmanship that has rarely been matched.