Reynolda House Fall Exhibition ‘The Art of Seating’ to Highlight 200 Years of American Chair Desig

"Reynolda House Museum of American Art will host “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design” Aug. 23-Dec. 31, 2014.

 The traveling exhibition features 43 chairs representing two centuries of American history, design and craftsmanship. Reynolda House is the exhibition’s only venue with its own decorative arts collection on view in its original setting.

“The Art of Seating” presents iconic and historic chairs dating from the early 1800s to today’s studio furniture movement. The exhibition provides an opportunity for visitors to see readily recognizable pieces from the Arts and Crafts movement and the mid-century Modern period alongside rare and exceptionally well-preserved antiques.

Designed by Thomas E. Warren (active with American Chair Co. 1849-52). Manufactured by the American Chair Co. (1829-1858), Troy, NY. Centripetal Spring Arm Chair, c. 1850. Photo by Michael Koryta and Andrew VanStyn, Director of Acquisitions, Conservation and Photography.

 Designed and Manufactured by Vivian Beer (b. 1977),
Penland, NC. Current, 2004. Photo by Douglas J. Eng. 

Curated by Ben Thompson, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, “The Art of Seating” takes the viewer into the design studio, sharing stories behind the designs, patent drawings and artist renderings. Selections from the Jacobsen Collection of American Art offer a stylistic journey in furniture with showstoppers by John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry and others waiting to be discovered. The exhibition also features both contemporary and historic designs by some of the leading furniture manufacturers such as Knoll, Herman Miller and Steelcase.

Perhaps the most illustrious object in this exhibition is the House of Representatives Chamber Arm Chair from 1857. Designed by Thomas U. Walter, Architect of the U.S. Capitol from 1851 to 1865, the House of Representatives chairs were created to be used by legislators in the House chamber and were showcased in portraits of political leaders such as Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. A later chair in the exhibition by David Wolcott Kendall, deemed by his peers as “The Dean of American Furniture Design,” was presented to William McKinley during his term in the White House and has become known as the “McKinley” arm chair.

The exhibition’s time at Reynolda House will be complemented by the museum’s own decorative arts collection on view in the historic house and recently made available on the museum’s website. In furnishing her 30,000 square-foot house, Katharine Reynolds, wife of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds, worked with architect Charles Barton Keen and interior designer Earle Ash Belmont of Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia. Most of the museum’s furnishings are original to 1917. The museum plans programs and online content that will make connections between the chairs featured in “The Art of Seating” and those on view throughout the historic house.

The exhibition has inspired a number of collaborative exhibits and programs throughout the Piedmont Triad, including collaborations with High Point University, the Center for Design Innovation, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and the High Point Furniture Market Authority. More information on related programs and events will be publicized on the museum’s website in the coming weeks. Sponsorship opportunities are available by calling Stephan Dragisic at 336.758.5595.

“The Art of Seating” is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville in collaboration with the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a private non-profit visual arts educational institution and cultural resource of the University of North Florida, serves the community and its visitors through exhibitions, collections, educational programs and publications designed to enhance an understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art with particular emphasis on works created from 1960 to the present.

The American Chair Collection started as a way to provide further context to the Thomas H. and Diane D. Jacobsen Collection of American Art—paintings, sculpture, silver and furniture which were acquired during the early 1990s. The creation of the chair collection began with the purchase of an Egyptian Revival Side Chair and has since blossomed to the more than 40 works on display in this exhibition.

International Arts & Artists in Washington, DC, is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally, through exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions and the public. Visit

Reynolda House Museum of American Art is one of the nation’s premier American art museums, with masterpieces by Mary Cassatt, Frederic Church, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and Gilbert Stuart among its collection.  Affiliated with Wake Forest University, Reynolda House features changing exhibitions, concerts, lectures, classes, film screenings and other events.  The museum is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the historic 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Reynolda House and adjacent Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village feature a spectacular public garden, dining, shopping and walking trails. For more information, please visit or call 336.758.5150. Connect at and @CurateReynolda."
A Press Release

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