When Furniture Becomes Art. The Decorative Arts, a Cut Above the Rest.

Posted on Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Escher Birds

I was born an artist. My grandfathers were artists. One was head of the graphic arts department at SanDiego State University, the other was Konzertmeister of the Hamburg symphony.

My maternal grandfather could take pen in hand, and with a single stroke, draw a perfect circle. Checked with a dividing compass, it was no more out of circumference than the thickness of the drawn line.
Amazing! Yes. He really could do it.

Not to be left out, my mother is a classically trained oil artist; specializing in equine portraiture. My girlfriend and her mother are also artists. So, I’m surrounded. Birds of a feather

As a young child I distinctly remember having the adroitness to color within the lines. At least in comparison to most other children; decades before this had any meaning for me. All I remember caring about was being careful and precise. Decades later this hardwired trait of mine has only intensified.

In the “good ol’ days” prior to the Industrial Revolution, children exhibiting artistic talent were sent to art trade schools to study under Masters, producing the King’s next army of skilled artisans: blacksmiths, jewelers, painters, stone carvers, poets, horse trainers, foundry workers, armorers, engravers, ebenistes, and marqueters. All would be employed by the Monarchs and the very wealthy of Europe, England, and a young place called America.

One need only open a history book to realize that the greatest civilizations in history drenched themselves in spellbinding architecture, art, literature, music, et cetera. This is what made them into cultural superpowers. (Ironically and unfortunately much of this was funded by conquests.) Today we find museums in America and Europe filled with amazingly beautiful Decorative Art.

So then, when does “furniture” become art? My favorite furniture is of the Craftsman style, in quartersawn(ammonia-fumed) white oak. It is rugged, timeless, and I love it; but it is far from being considered art. A piece of furniture transcends into the realm of decorative art (at least for me) when a furniture carcass is decorated with – art. Marquetry is artwork. The birth of of marquetry originates in medieval Italy by furniture makers with the desire and necessity to “paint” in the wood medium. The spark originated in Italy, but the inferno later arose in France under Louis XIV and XVI.

When expertly schooled artists graduate Master Craftsmen, and then go on to create exalted carvings,bronze mounts, and marquetry, and bring them together, they (we) turn furniture into Art.

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