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Simply Splendid: Rediscovering American Design

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Simply Splendid: Rediscovering American Design
May 13, 2017 – August 13, 2017

Well-designed objects tell complex stories of the greater world in which we live, as well as document interwoven relationships between people and place. Simply Splendid: Rediscovering American Design drew from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s exceptional collections of American art and design, re-positioning objects once celebrated as icons of their eras into groups that speak to critical episodes in the nation’s burgeoning visual culture, from the early frontier in New England up through the mid-20th century.

Reintroduction to the range and cohesiveness of the museum’s American decorative arts collections—particularly the breadth and quality of its exceptionally fine holdings in ceramics, furniture, glass, metalwork, as well as costume and textiles—was fitting, as many of these objects had not been on public view for some time. The Wadsworth’s Americana collection reflects the institution’s distinguished history, and this exhibition featured key items from The Wallace Nutting Collection of Colonial American Furniture and Ironwork, the Philip Hammerslough Silver Collection, and the Stephen Gray Collection of Arts and Crafts—all organized along the development of successive style waves, exploring how American decorative arts changed with and reflected the values of each emerging era.

Simply Splendid was on view with the exhibition Hand Painted Pop! Art and Appropriation, 1961 to Now, located in an adjoining gallery. A passing dialogue was created between the two exhibitions, as well as a continuous view on the larger idea of American cultural trends.