Elizabeth A. Williams, the David and Peggy Rockefeller Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, will speak on “Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1850- 1970.” Her talk will be based on the major exhibition of the same title which she curated for the museum last year. Her lecture is part of the Summer 2020 series of our Tuesday Talks.
When Gorham Manufacturing opened its doors in 1831, the company was located in Providence. The most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled, it showcased 600 Gorham pieces created during the company’s heyday, along with tools and design drawings. “We wanted to also focus on the people who made Gorham what it was within the context of social history, design history, industrial history, manufacturing and advertising,” says Williams.
Gorham was perhaps best known for innovating the use of the steam-powered press in its operations, but mechanization was always accompanied by meticulous handwork. The company’s influence in the US and worldwide hit full stride in 1860 when Mary Todd Lincoln chose a Gorham pattern for the White House.
One of the most extravagant services ever made was an 816-piece collection of gilded silver created between 1866 and 1880 for Henry Jewett Furber and his wife, Elvira, and reacquired for the company’s corporate collection in 1949. Another showstopper was a 1903 Art Nouveau Martele (hammered silver) writing desk and chair that incorporates 47 pounds of silver and took 10,000 hours to complete. The 1927 Cubic Coffee Service is an example of the modernist approach that reflects the artist Picasso’s influence on design. Many pieces in the exhibition belong to the RISD Museum.
Before joining the museum, Williams was assistant curator of decorative arts and design at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she reinstalled 450 pieces of decorative arts in its European galleries. She also curated at LACMA “Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics.” She created new educational and interpretive materials for European decorative arts objects among many other responsibilities.
Tickets for the Williams lecture are $20 per person. To view her on online using Zoom register at https://ventforthall09012020.eventbrite.com
Although she will be seen only from the RISD Museum via Zoom, reservations for viewing her at Ventfort Hall are required as seating will be strictly limited. Teas cannot be served until further notice due to the Coronavirus. For information or reservations call us at 413-637-3206.
The Summer 2020 series of Tuesday Talks are sponsored by Ventfort Hall board member Lucille Landa and William Landa.