The Kaufman Collection of American decorative arts c. 1700-1830 was acquired over a period of fifty years by George and Linda Kaufman. It is is now on loan and a promised gift to the National Gallery of Art. This gift to the Gallery, known for its American paintings and sculpture, provides an opportunity for one of the great American museums to present a wider perspective on American creativity.

The pieces are displayed in large scale rooms giving each object the space it needs to be viewed critically. And, if you are at all interested in American furniture, the masterpieces displayed in Washington, DC set the standard for fine craftsmanship, beautiful materials, perfect balance, proportion and scale. You will be given a view into  the eye of collectors who educated themselves by going to museums and cultivating friendships with curators and dealers. They loved collecting; it was their shared hobby and passion. They bought objects because they thought they were beautiful and were excellent examples of a particular form. The Kaufmans have been generous patrons of American arts and they have left an indelible mark on on this field by supporting special exhibitions, collection catalogs, acquisitions and scholarly research at numerous museums.

The breadth and depth of their collection is impressive with collections within collections. There is a group of Philadelphia Queen Anne and rococo furniture; a monumental desk-and-bookcase, inspired by a plate in Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director, as well as countless carved and decorated side chairs. There is a selection of Newport furniture that includes a sculptural tea table by John Townsend, a card table by John Goddard and a four shell kneehole bureau in the refined Quaker taste of Rhode Island.

Later in their collecting years, they acquired classical pieces with painted and grained finishes and gilded decoration. But it was not just furniture that caught their eye. The Kaufman’s collected early brass candlesticks with the encouragement of Charles Montgomery, Dutch paintings and ceramics. Linda Kaufman and the National Gallery hope that by giving the public the opportunity to see these extraordinary objects there will be a rekindling of interest in collecting and appreciating American furniture once again.

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