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Four Centuries of American Chairs

Oscar Fitzgerald, adjunct professor of decorative arts and design history, Corcoran School of Art and Design, George Washington University. Chairs reflect the change of styles over time better than any other form of furniture. They get a lot of use, and when they wear out, owners usually want to replace them with the latest style. On October 15, 2018, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Oscar Fitzgerald traces the evolution of furniture styles from the 17th to the 20th century. Referencing highlights from Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830 installed in the West Building, Fitzgerald discusses 17th-century mannerism; baroque, rococo, and neoclassical styles of the 18th century; the Victorian reaction to classical design in the 19th century; and 20th-century modernism, with its rejection and then rediscovery of ornament.