25 March 2018

The Elephant in the Room: Ivory and the Art World

Queen Mother Pendant Mask

Queen Mother Pendant Mask, Nigeria (Benin), Edo peoples, 16th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Nelson D. Rockefeller, 1972.   On 22 March, the Courtauld Institute, London hosted a debate on how we should consider historic works of art…

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3 August 2017

An anonymous workshop Daybook, 1851-1885

While considerable evidence, such as insurance records, bills (perhaps matched to surviving furniture), letters, rate books and, sometimes, personal accounts, exists for the activities of larger cabinet-making firms, day-to-day records for smaller, more general workshops are far scarcer. Thus, it…

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29 March 2017

Expertise and enthusiasm: present and future appreciation of the decorative arts

For many years now, there has been a perception that so-called ‘traditional areas’ under the umbrella of the ‘decorative arts’ have fallen from favour.  But what does this mean?  Is this a reference to the market, or to public appreciation?…

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17 May 2016

Summer is coming, so we are told…

Just back from Chicago, where I was kindly invited to speak to the Antiquarians at the Art Institute of Chicago, on ‘Alfred Morrison (1821-97): an overlooked patron and collector of decorative arts’.  This remarkable maecenas lived in Carlton House Terrace,…

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7 March 2016

Local authority budget pressure threatening Lancaster’s Gillows collection at the Judges’ Lodgings

Time is rapidly running out to find a solution for the Judges’ Lodgings Museum in Lancaster, and its renowned collection of furniture by Gillows, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ cabinet-maker. Against the brutal background of cuts to local authority budgets, Lancashire County…

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6 January 2016

Philip Blairman: some early memories, in his own words

Since 2013, Mark Westgarth, based at the University of Leeds, has been investigating ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antiques Trade in the 20th Century’.  This project grew out of his earlier work that culminated in A Biographical Dictionary of Nineteenth Century…

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19 November 2015

A Thomas Hope chandelier identified

Lost works of art are sometimes hidden in plain sight. Such is the case with a magnificent chandelier that undoubtedly once hung at Thomas Hope’s Duchess Street mansion in London, and later at his country house the Deepedene, Dorking, Surrey….

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14 July 2015

Sybella Bullock (1805-1850): her prize medal of 1825 re-discovered

  Sybella Bullock was a daughter of the entrepreneur and showman William Bullock (1773-1849), and the niece of the sculptor, designer and cabinet maker George Bullock (1782/83-1818). Such little information as is known of Sybella Bullock’s life can be gleaned…

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3 July 2015

News from London

As July begins, it finally feels like summer.  The art market is entering its end-of-season phase, but here in London, at least, things will remain active for several more weeks. In what a modernist architect perceptively described to me as…

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2 June 2015

Furniture and Works of Art, 2015: now online

In the middle of last week we received a pallet-load of cartons containing the latest edition of our annual publication  Furniture and Works of Art; it is ‘sage green’ this year, for those who always refer to these by the…

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26 May 2015

Summer in London: our new catalogue, and Masterpiece

As June approaches, the traditional art market in London will once again be centre stage. We are about to send out the 2015 edition of our annual catalogue Furniture and Works of Art. This year we include a cup and…

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15 May 2015

Instagram: eye-catching thoughts on the move

In circumstances that are beyond ridiculous, I recently lost my BlackBerry somewhere between New York and Chicago.  So, following years of lobbying by Clive Wilson (responsible for this website) I have been persuaded to move on to an iPhone.  I…

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17 November 2014

The Destruction of the Country House: a symposium at the V&A, forty years on

With the latest twist in the fate of Wentworth Woodhouse (above) on everyone’s mind, the lecture theatre at the Victoria and Albert Museum was packed on Saturday for a symposium, organized by ‘SAVE Britain’s Heritage’ and the V&A, to commemorate…

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7 November 2014

A tale of two cities: new galleries in Boston and New Orleans

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has just opened a magnificent new gallery celebrating the seventeenth-century European Kunstkammer.  Different in ambition, but equally thought-provoking, is a gallery at the New Orleans Museum of Art, examining the Western concept of Orientalism…

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9 October 2014

Blairman’s in the 1930s and 1940s: exhibition catalogues from our archive

Philip Blairman (1896-1972), whom I remember well in his older age, remains an inspiration.  He had taste, curiosity and foresight.  It was my grandfather who saw our firm flourish in Harrogate and London, as well as, for a period, in…

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15 September 2014

Loss and memory: William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey

The fitting climax to the consistently stimulating ‘Recovering Fonthill’ symposium and visits organised by Caroline Dakers (University of the Arts London, 12-13 September), was the haunting experience of standing on the ground beneath what was once the nearly three hundred foot…

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