Exhibition celebrates return of antique brown furniture

An antique court cupboard in the exhibitionClassic English antique furniture will be celebrated in the annual autumn exhibition, Fifty Shades of Brown – by George, We’ve Got It! at W. R. Harvey & Co, the Oxfordshire antique dealers in Witney, from November 4 to 12. 

The exhibition will highlight the incredible range of designs, colours, forms and uses in English furniture dating from 1680 to 1850. A full colour catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Brown is back

As the history of English furniture reveals, so many different woods, sourced from all over the world, were used by cabinetmakers, craftsmen and artisan joiners to produce the finest furniture in England’s history. Today, fine and practical pieces are sought after, admired and in daily use in so many homes. Now antique furniture is back in vogue, desirable not just for its many fine, practical and decorative qualities and its longevity, but also its new affordability. 

As David explains: ‘This is a very exciting time to be an antiques dealer. The leading interior design magazines are saying that minimalism is now dead and so all those who said this often bleak and reductionist way of living would kill the antiques trade are finding the resilience of antiques is strong. Many commentators are at last saying what many have known for the past year – good antique furniture is back in demand and enjoying a resurgence. Our exhibition will show just how many wonderful pieces in such a wide range of styles, designs and colour are now available.’

Craftsmanship of antique furniture

Bookcases, cabinets, chests, coffers, tables, desks, four-poster beds, seating furniture and much more will all be on sale, demonstrating the full range of superb craftsmanship that continues to make the best antique furniture so appealing, practical and decorative. 

An antique chair in the exhibitionDavid Harvey: “During the past twenty years, prices for period pieces of furniture and many other kinds of antiques and art have changed dramatically. Today, good Georgian pieces are available for less than their modern equivalents, with the reassurance that they can be used daily and are made in a way that makes restoration possible, which is why they have survived for 200 years. The same cannot be said for modern pieces assembled from medium density fibreboard and designed to be disposable within a few years.”

Exhibition examples

Among the many pieces in the exhibition will be a superb Queen Anne burr walnut bureau bookcase in the wonderfully appealing colours mellow yellow, pink and brown hues of the faded walnut. It will be on sale for £16,950. 

The appearance of some woods has been known to give rise to particular terms. “Plum Pudding” mahogany is so called because of its randomly occurring darker flashes, akin to the inside of a traditional plum pudding. Demonstrating this qualities will be a single drop-leaf table, or bedroom table, very similar to several found at Dumfries House but this example made by Alexander Peter, the Scottish cabinetmaker, rather than Thomas Chippendale. 

During the Chippendale Period comfortable and large armchairs were made in both the traditional manner and in the French carved manner and called burjeres. Quite when the more common term of ‘Gainsborough Armchair’ came into use is not known and it is said that Gainsborough had one of these chairs for his better sitters to repose on whilst having their portrait painted – hence the term. The exhibition features a fine example.

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