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  • Duncan Phyfe

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    Duncan Phyfe (1768-16 August 1854) was one of nineteenth-century America's leading cabinetmakers. Although he did not create any new furniture style, he interpreted fashionable European trends in a manner so distinguished and particular that he became a major spokesman for Neoclassicism in the United States, influencing a whole generation of American cabinetmakers.

  • American Empire style

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    Bookcase, c. 1830-40, probably from New York, maker unknown. Rosewood, mahogany, bird's eye maple veneer, marble, ormolu, and leather. In the collection of the Cincinnati Art MuseumAmerican Empire is a French-inspired Neoclassical style of American furniture and decoration that takes its name and originates from the Empire style introduced during the First French Empire period under Napoleon's rule. It gained its greatest popularity in the U.S. after 1820 and is considered the second, more robust phase of the Neoclassical style, which earlier had been expressed in the Adam style in Britain and Louis Seize, or Louis XVI, in France. As an early-19th-century design movement in the United States, it encompassed architecture, furniture and other decorative arts, as well as the visual arts. In American furniture, the Empire style was most notably exemplified by the work of New York cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Paris-trained Charles-Honoré Lannuier. Other major furniture centers renowned for regional interpretations of the American Empire style were Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Many examples of American Empire cabinetmaking are characterized by antiquities-inspired carving, gilt-brass furniture mounts, and decorative inlays such as stamped-brass banding with egg-and-dart, diamond, or Greek-key patterns, or individual shapes such as stars or circles. The most elaborate furniture in this style was made around 1815-25, often incorporating columns with rope-twist carving, animal-paw feet, anthemion, stars, and acanthus-leaf ornamentation, sometimes in combination with gilding and vert antique (antique green, simulating aged bronze). The Red Room at the White House is a fine example of American Empire style. A simplified version of American Empire furniture, often referred to as the Grecian style, generally displayed plainer surfaces in curved forms, highly figured mahogany veneers, and sometimes gilt-stencilled decorations. Many examples of this style survive, exemplified by massive chests of drawers with scroll pillars and glass pulls, work tables with scroll feet and fiddleback chairs. Elements of the style enjoyed a brief revival in the 1890s with, particularly, chests of drawers and vanities or dressing tables, usually executed in oak and oak veneers. This Americanized interpretation of the Empire style continued in popularity in conservative regions outside the major metropolitan centers well past the mid-nineteenth century.

  • Nancy Vincent McClelland

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    Nancy Vincent McClelland (1877–1959) was the first female president of the first US national association of interior designers, the American Institute of Interior Decorators (A.I.D), which is now called the American Society of Interior Designers (A.S.I.D.) and was one of an early group of female interior decorators practicing during the first decades of the 20th century. McClelland was also an expert on the European/American antiques. She was a writer for interior journals such as: Collier's, Country Life, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. She was an expert on wallpaper and the Scottish furniture designer Duncan Phyfe of New York. She received several rewards for her work. Being multilingual gave her the opportunity to be internationally active and to be known beyond the US as a writer, speaker, interior decorator, wallpaper designer, and collector of antique furniture. She traveled widely and met figures of the time such as Picasso. Throughout her career she was an advocate for the professionalization of interior decoration throughout various means such as training, experience, and professional organizations. Although not formally schooled in interior decoration, Nancy McClelland believed that her on-the-job training and study of architecture and antiques abroad, along with her experience, made her a professional. And she may have helped to write AID's 1931 definition of an interior decorator: "A decorator is one who, by training and experience, is qualified to plan, design and execute structural interiors and their furnishings, and to supervise the various arts and crafts essential to their completion." Throughout her long career, she wrote and lectured about the necessity of training for decorators, which helped to separate professionals from the amateurs. In 1922, Harold Eberlein and she published a correspondence course calledThe Arts and Decoration Practical Home Study Course in Interior Decoration for both home and professional decorators. By the 1930s, she advocated a college education and, later, worked with AID to develop a four-year university curriculum that was "equivalent in scope to the comprehensive course in architecture" offered in universities.

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