Glamorous Newport Antiques Show Makes Fine Arts Its Calling Card

 MIDDLETOWN, R.I. — Successful fairs such as the Newport Antiques Show have a distinctive chemistry all their own. At St George’s School, minutes from downtown Newport on a hilltop overlooking the ocean, the July 25–27 event is a favorite among its several loyal constituencies: the patrons who attend its glamorous preview party, the exhibitors who look forward to a working holiday in one of America’s great seaside resorts and the collectors who shop the enjoyable range of art and antiques that this handsome showcase has to offer.

Launched in 2007, the Newport Antiques Show owes much of its success to chairman Anne Hamilton, manager Diana Bittel and facilities manager Ralph DiSaia. This hardworking trio has formed a durable partnership with the show’s beneficiaries, the Newport Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Club, as well as with the show’s presenting sponsor, this year American Realty Company. ARC’s chairman and chief executive officer Nick Schorsch and his wife, Shelley, and co-founder William M. Kahane and his wife, Elizabeth, all serious collectors, brightened the floor at the Thursday evening preview. Two days later, Nick Schorsch spoke at the fair about the car museum that he and others are establishing in Newport.

“We had a different kind of show this year. A lot of furniture sold, which isn’t always the case. We’ve added an extra day, which has made a big difference to attendance,” Hamilton told Antiques and The Arts Weekly.

Back home in Bryn Mawr, Penn., two days after the fair’s conclusion, Bittel said that the gate was up a buoyant 20 percent versus a year ago. She is confident that, after some trial and error, organizers have found the right date for their show, one that catches exhibitors as they head to Nantucket, Mass., and Manchester, N.H., and falls at a fortuitous moment in Newport’s crowded summer social calendar.

“I think it was the strongest show we’ve had. Wicker sold out and garden ornament was booming,” said Bittel. The sales trend favored two new exhibitors, Stephen Score and Francis J. Purcell Inc. A seasoned pro with one of the best eyes in the business, Score mixed garden seating and sculpture with architectural fragments and folk art. His many sales included a whirligig, swan and boat sculptures and — suitably, for Newport — a “bird chateau,” as the Boston dealer called his enormous birdhouse.

Offering a similar mix, Purcell featured a 6-foot, 9-inch-tall zinc fountain styled as the water nymph Hebe and a circa 1790–1800 transom light with decorative leadings, ex-collection of the Henry Ford Museum.

Regulars come looking for Bruce Emond of Village Braider Antiques, whose seductive display combined a cast limestone Birth of Venus figure styled after Botticelli’s famous painting and two large sea-clam shells. A third shell had already sold.

A smattering of folk art turned up at Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, which sold a carved and painted Bellamy eagle “Don’t Give Up The Ship” plaque, and at American Garage, where an oil on canvas farmscape from Galina, Ill., and a pair of yellow and white gates were offered.

Newport’s cabinetmaking tradition inspired some exhibitors to bring fine American furniture. Hanes and Ruskin attributed a circa 1770 Rhode Island candlestand to Newport’s Goddard-Townsend school. SAJE Antiques showcased a circa 1800 Abiel White of Weymouth, Mass., bowfront chest of drawers with distinctive veneers and bellflower inlays. Up from Naples, Fla., Ed Weissman placed a hold sticker on a diminutive cherry bonnet-top, blockfront secretary desk made in eastern Connecticut around 1770.

Newport’s high-style history guarantees a warm reception to English and Continental décor, a fact noted by James Kilvington, who sold a beautifully crafted London armchair of circa 1700. The Delaware dealer also showed the seat with an exceptional pair of Adam-style marble and mahogany pier tables.

Above all, Newport has emerged as a venue for fine art, a strength reinforced by two anchor exhibitors, Newport dealers William Vareika and Roger King. Vareika’s drop-dead display spanned the gamut from Michele Felice Corne to Martin Johnson Heade. Especially fetching was “Beach in Beverly Farms, Cape Ann, Mass,” a jewel of a Pre-Raphaelite influenced watercolor and gouache on carpet paper by William Trost Richards.

Roger King led with three paintings by Andrew Wyeth: “The Barnacles,” a marine scene of 1942; “Friendship Dory,” painted at the Wyeth retreat in Cushing, Maine, in 1952; and “Mother Archie’s Church,” 1943, illustrated in Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends, written by the artist’s wife, Betsy James Wyeth.

A fourth Andrew Wyeth, “Chopping Wood,” was offered by Roberto Freitas Antiques. Just back from a successful outing in Aspen, Colo., the Stonington, Conn., dealer is now representing Jerry Valentine Malzahn, a Texas painter whose paintings of the Colorado Rockies are reminiscent of Moran and Bierstadt.

Best known for Connecticut Impressionism, the Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., paired two works by Guy C. Wiggins, the instantly recognizable New York view “Winter Along Central Park” and the rare, early “Mystic Harbor,” an irresistible evocation of a sun-splashed summer’s day in southern New England.

Rehs Galleries took the Continental approach, going with two Eugene Boudin oils, “Dunkerque” and “La Rivage a Plougastel.”

Works on paper were well represented by Arader Galleries, featuring Captain John Smith’s “Map of New England,” printed in London in 1626; and at Hill-Stone Inc, which offered a drawing of Achilles by John Heinrich Tischbein and a mid-Eighteenth Century architectural capriccio by Louis-Joseph Lorrain.

Newport’s yachting history never far from mind, the show is rich in marine art and antiques. Diana Bittel paired shellwork with two unsigned watercolor depictions of the famous War of 1812 naval battles between the Constitution and the Guerriere, and the Macedonian and the United States.

New York dealer Paul Vandekar brought a trio of Cahoon paintings from Cape Cod: the large Ralph Cahoon oil on masonite “A New England Seaside Village Dock,” and two by Martha, “Farewell At The Dock” and “Still Life with Flowers and Mermaids.”

To their arresting assortment of English pottery, Maria and Peter Warren Antiques added “Harbor Scene,” an oil on canvas by Charles Milchay.

Port ‘N Starboard Gallery of Falmouth, Maine, hung a large, gilded spread-wing eagle, circa 1930-40, ex Stillington Hall, Gloucester, Mass., over William Gay Yorke’s “Sloop Julia G.”

“I’ve been sailing my whole life,” said Dave White, a North Yarmouth, Maine, dealer who arrayed pond yachts and half-hull models.

 An unusual pair of carved wood sconces from Pitcairn Island, circa 1880, were at Leatherwood Antiques.

Plans are already underway for the 2015 Newport Antiques Show, which will host a special loan exhibition from Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution.

For details, 401-846-2669 or www.newportantiquesshow.com.

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