American Furniture: The Empire of Democracy

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News release from ARCH:

American Furniture: The Empire of Democracy

(March 2, 2011) – ARCH announce that a Fun and Free lecture entitled “The Empire of Democracy: American Craftsmen Turn a French Style to Suit America’s Spirit,” will be held March 22, at 6:30pm at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, presented by Charles A. Shepard III, the Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

The Empire style originated in France in 1798 after Napoleon returned triumphant from his Egyptian campaign. The victory brought to light large numbers of archaeological discoveries from Egypt and encouraged the worlds of fashion and the applied arts to explore Egyptian design themes. All over Europe, Egyptian motifs, as well as those drawn from Ancient Greece and Rome, were to become prominent features of the sumptuous Empire style of decoration.  In France, the stress on Egyptian and Roman-inspired design was part of an ambitious scheme to suggest Napoleon’s role as an Emperor as the French government was transformed from a republic into an empire.

The American Empire style of furniture was only loosely based on France’s Empire style of furniture, with none of the political overtones.  American Empire furniture became immediately popular in the early 1800’s, but American craftsmen and designers had no intention of slavishly copying French models.  Their interpretations of the Empire style highlighted their ingenuity and inventiveness, qualities for which American cabinet makers have always been distinguished.

Charles A. Shepard III, Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, has been involved in making, presenting, teaching, and introducing people to art for over thirty years. He has been the director of the Michigan Guild and, as such, responsible for the Ann Arbor Art Fair, the Plymouth Art Fair, and the Ann Arbor Winter Fair. He has been a professor of art history, senior curator and director at three university museums, most recently the Lyman Allyn Art Museum at Connecticut College, before accepting his post as Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in 2003.  Since then, Shepard has been instrumental in guiding the museum in many new directions.  Figuring most prominently in Shepard’s tenure at the FWMoA was the successful $7.5 million expansion and renovation which was recently completed in Spring 2010.

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