Carley Berlin, Carswell Rush Berlin, Inc
Pair of walnut and mahogany dining chairs, attributed to Richard Parkin (ca. 1787-1860), Philadelphia, ca. 1835
Paint and gilt-decorated mahogany marble-top center table, stenciled “Cook & Parkin,” Thomas Cook and Richard Parkin, Philadelphia, 1825-1830
In a period that seems to have been dominated by a few “name” cabinetmakers, accompanied by a multitude of distinguished, but unidentified, craftspeople who furnished the early United States with elegant, classical furniture, Carswell Rush Berlin has reestablished Cook & Parkin in the firmament of important and successful classical period cabinetmakers. Mr. Berlin’s multi-tiered research delved into Philadelphia historical archives, as well as period French and English pattern books. He also intensively searched for furniture among private and museum collections that could be definitively attributed to the partnership of Thomas Cook (1786-1868) and Richard Parkin (1787-1861) from 1819-1833 and, later, to Richard Parkin working independently (1833-1860).
Mr. Berlin will trace the cabinetmakers’ English origins and training, refined sources of inspiration and their marketing initiatives. The breadth of Carswell Rush Berlin’s knowledge of decorative arts enables him to place Cook & Parkin in the historical context of Philadelphia’s early 19th century furniture trade. The firm’s marketing efforts resulted in distribution of their wares as far south as Savannah and as far west as New Orleans.
The firm’s veneered and painted pieces were executed according to the highest standards of craftsmanship. Mr. Berlin will also demonstrate, by the progression of styles that the firm produced, how individual creativity inspired the firm’s *avant garde *ethos. Although their designs reflect a thorough knowledge of the most fashionable English and French pattern books, their furniture often transcended pattern book orthodoxy to achieve original designs of rare distinction and beauty.