Anyone with love for American design knows that the most glorious chapter in its history was rooted in 18th-century Rhode Island. As a graduate from the program of Museum Studies: Decorative Arts at F.I.T (a program no longer in existence), I was fortunate to have Marilyn Johnson, the legendary curator of decorative arts at the American Wing of the Met, as my inspirational teacher. Through her passion, I had first discovered, as a young student, the Goddard and Townsend, families who established a cabinetmaking dynasty in the Easton's Point neighborhood of Newport. No less than 21 members of successive generations of these two intermarried families worked as cabinetmakers over a period of 120 years, creating some of the most majestic pieces of furniture, selling their products not only in New England but also in the coastal trade and in the West Indies. Now, the Yale University Art Gallery opens a groundbreaking exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830, a comprehensive survey of the Rhode Island furniture, which has come to capture the imagination of generations, a celebration to anyone with love or interest in design and its most magnificent roots.
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