NEW HAVEN, CT.- A doll’s quilt inscribed with a tender lullaby, an ivory trinket carved by a sailor far from home, a portrait of a father and daughter—these and other captivating works of folk and decorative art from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery in Made for Love: Selections from the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana. The thematic exhibition, drawn from this important collection features thirty-nine objects that contain expressions of affection between men and women, parents and children, students and teachers, and friends, examining the material symbols Americans used to express bonds of affection.
The works in the Katcher Collection were created in New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Among the objects selected for inclusion in the exhibition are carvings, watercolors, paintings, portrait miniatures, needlework, cooking utensils, furniture, and children’s toys. Some of the objects were handmade as presents; others were created by professional artists or craftsmen—all showcase the ties that bind through inscriptions, symbols, and visual clues.
The exhibition features furniture and toys created for children, helping to protect them from and prepare them for the hazards of life in the adult world. Paintings and watercolors of children holding books, and artwork produced by young girls at school speak to the care that parents put into the education of their children, particularly in the years after the American Revolution, when raising the first generation of truly “American” children was of great concern to the young republic. The friendships made at school were lasting ones, especially for young women, whose stays at school were crucial to the formation of their identities and were often their only period of independence before they married. The importance of these relationships can be seen in the numerous friendship albums and tokens on display. Many of these feature hair, a lasting reminder of a loved family member or friend.
Made for Love also features family portraits, including John Brewster’s painting of Comfort Starr Mygatt and Mygatt’s daughter, Lucy, one of four portraits the family commissioned from the artist in 1799. The strong bond between father and daughter is eloquently conveyed by their touching hands. An unusual double “porthole” portrait of two sisters from Connecticut, circa 1780, and an extraordinary group of four miniatures by Mrs. Moses B. Russell ingeniously set into a golden watchcase, are also on view. Captain Hiram Stinson, the patriarch of the clan depicted in the watchcase miniatures, was a sea captain and would have carried this reminder of his family on his ocean voyages.
Made for Love is organized by Erin E. Eisenbarth, the Marcia Brady Tucker Curatorial Fellow at the Yale University Art Gallery. The exhibition is supported by an endowment made possible by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by Friends of American Arts at Yale Exhibition and Publication Fund.
A lecture and symposium organized in conjunction with the exhibition will be held on March 30 and 31, 2007, respectively. The keynote lecture at the symposium will be delivered by Steven Mintz, author of the prize-winning Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood. The symposium will feature a lively series of presentations on the ways in which decorative objects serve as physical representations of relationships, and the associations that collectors and curators have with these objects. For more information and to register, the public should call the Yale University Art Gallery’s Department of American Decorative Arts at 203.432.0615.