National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION

Tour: Shaker Crafts from the Index of American Design

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image of Small Shaker Chest image of Shaker Cot image of Shaker Kitchen Piece with Tray
13 14 15
image of Shaker Tall Clock image of Shaker Stove/Built-in Closet
16 17
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The Shaker church in American was founded by Ann Lee and seven followers who came from Manchester, England, in 1774. After an early settlement near Albany, the Shakers founded in 1786 what was to be their central colony at New Lebanon, New York. There, they were able to form an independent, communal society where they could live, work, and worship without persecution. The Shaker sect was distinguished from other communal groups by the strict religious tenets that guided every aspect of life. Shaker life was modeled on the vision of a heavenly kingdom in which "true gospel simplicity" was the cardinal principle. Purity of mind, harmony, and order were the most esteemed Shaker virtues. The qualities of harmony and order were translated into the design of articles for daily life made by Shaker craftsmen. Shaker design is distinguished by simplicity of form, harmonious relationship of parts, good workmanship, and utility. Because ornate forms represented a worldliness that they had abandoned, the Shakers kept decoration to a minimum and eliminated veneers. Belief in the sanctity of labor and emphasis on the quality of each task were essential elements in maintaining the high standards of Shaker craftsmanship.


1Orville Cline, Shaker Visionary Image, 1935/1942
2Joseph Goldberg, Linen Bag, c. 1936
3Alfred H. Smith, Shaker Basket, 1935/1942
4George V. Vezolles, Shaker Rug, 1935/1942
5American 20th Century, Shaker Man's Costume, 1935/1942
6American 20th Century, Shaker Woman's Costume, 1935/1942
7John W. Kelleher, Shaker Tilting Chair, c. 1937
8Lon Cronk, Shaker Dining Table and Chairs, c. 1937
9Victor F. Muollo, Shaker Table, c. 1936
10Alfred H. Smith, Shaker Round Table, 1935/1942
11John W. Kelleher, Shaker Secretary Desk, c. 1937
12Alfred H. Smith, Built-in Cupboard and Drawers, c. 1937
13Sumner Merrill, Small Shaker Chest, c. 1937
14Alfred H. Smith, Shaker Cot, c. 1937
15Alfred H. Smith, Shaker Kitchen Piece with Tray, c. 1936
16Irving I. Smith, Shaker Tall Clock, c. 1937
17John W. Kelleher, Shaker Stove/Built-in Closet, c. 1938