In Praise of America

Masterworks of American Decorative Arts, 1650-1830

February 17 – July 6, 1980

East Building Upper Level


Overview: 83 chairs, highboys, sofas, chests, sideboards, desks, mirrors, clocks, and works in glass, silver, brass, copper, and iron were displayed as individual works of art on platforms or in cases, rather than in traditional period room style. They represented the best in the taste and skill of craftsmen working before 1830 in the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and New Orleans, and in various rural areas.

Organization: The show, based on the celebrated 1929 Girl Scouts decorative arts exhibition in New York and guided by its catalogue, was directed by Wendy A. Cooper, guest curator from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gaillard Ravenel, Mark Leithauser, and Cooper designed the exhibition, and Gordon Anson designed the lighting.

Sponsor: The exhibition was supported in part by a grant from Dayton Hudson Corporation and J.E. Caldwell Jewelers, as well as by a group of individual contributors.

Book: In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1650-1830/Fifty Years of Discovery Since the 1929 Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition, by Wendy A. Cooper. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

Image: Installation view of In Praise of America: Masterworks of American Decorative Arts, 1650-1830, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives

Attendance: 315,430

Brochure: In Praise of America: Masterworks of American Decorative Arts, 1650-1830, by Wendy A. Cooper. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980.