Wendy Cooper, Winterthur Museum
The moment America and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris in September 1783, Americans began traveling abroad, touring important houses, dining with the elite and viewing great gardens and landscapes. They applied the newest architectural, landscape and agricultural ideas to their own properties.
They renovated older city houses, adding elliptical rooms projecting into gardens. New country houses, some with multiple oval saloons, heralded a fresh perspective, leading to a more leisurely and elegant lifestyle inside. This new architecture also invited guests outside to the gardens that featured new imported botanical specimens as well as ranges of hot houses and greenhouses. Often these elegant saloons opened onto a raised veranda under a colonnaded portico, and sometimes the garden was even brought inside with various odoriferous potted plants. Light and portable painted furniture frequently graced these rooms, including sets of card tables and pier tables for entertainments and various provisions for jollyment.
Along with this new style of living and entertaining came an intense interest in agriculture and animal husbandry among these wealthy families. The term “gentleman farmer” takes on new meaning as one explores what they were growing, the quantities of vegetables and fruit trees they planted, and the edibles with which they experimented.
Focusing primarily on late 18th and early 19th century houses in the mid-Atlantic and New England, this illustrated presentation explores the design of these new rooms, their furnishings and the entertainments that took place in them. The lifestyle of these elegant and enterprising Americans promises to excite and enlighten anyone interested in post-revolutionary culture in the new federal republic.
Wendy Cooper is a frequent, and always enthusiastically received, contributor to the American Decorative Arts Forum, having spoken to the Forum about “Paint, Pattern and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850” in June 2011; “America’s Earliest Garden Rooms: Painted Furniture Inside and Out” in September 2002; and “Classical Taste in America, 1800–1840” in June 1994.
Ms Cooper is Curator Emerita of Furniture at Winterthur Museum following almost two decades there as Senior Curator of Furniture. A cum laude graduate of Brown University, she has a Master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. She has guest curated four exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art: Masterpieces of Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830 (2012–the present); An American Vision: Henry Francis du Pont’s Winterthur Museum (2002); The Kaufman Collection of American Furniture (1986–87); and In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1640–1840 (1980). Prior to coming to Winterthur in 1995, she served as Curator of Decorative Arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art and organized the traveling exhibition Classical Taste in America, 1800–1840 with the accompanying book. In 2011, she organized the ground-breaking exhibition Paint, Pattern, and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850 at Winterthur. She is now a freelance consultant, researcher, writer and lecturer. She also serves on various museum committees and boards including The Committee for the Preservation of the White House.