Glenn Gissler - Blog - 2013 - RISD - show - 11 - 640x751

David Williams, American (Newport, Rhode Island), 1769-1823
Patent Timepiece ca. 1815-1820, Mahogany, pine, paint, glass, and brass
Museum purchase; Bequest of Eliza Taft
Attributed to workshop of John & Thomas Seymour, American,
1738-ca 1818 and 1771-1848
Lady’s Writing Desk, 1795-1800, Mahogany, pine, light & dark wood inlays,
ivory, brass & enamel hardware, Estate of Martha B. Lisle
“Arabesque Pigeons”, Adelphi Paper Hangings
Wood block printed wallpaper – contemporary recreation of a historic wallpaper by Adelphi

For “Making It in America”, curators at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum selected artwork, furniture and objects from their collection, and with the collaboration of New York decorator Thomas Jayne, created a wonderful exhibition that illuminates connections between American ambitions and the making of art.

Glenn Gissler - Blog - 2013 - RISD - Show - 4 - 640x480

Attributed to John Goddard, Desk & Bookcase, 1760-1785. Bequest of Mr. Charles Pendleton.
Background L-R;
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of the Honorable Moses Gill, Esq., 1764. Jesse Metcalf Fund.
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Sarah Prince Gill, 1764. Jesse Metcalf Fund
Photos courtesy of the RISD Museum, Providence, RI.


The exhibition title’s double entendre refers to both the actual fabrication of art and objects, as well as the idea of ‘making it’ – reflecting on the optimism and opportunity – a fundamental aspect of life in this new country.

Adelphi ‘Hedge House’ Stripe
Samuel Gragg, Elastic Armchair, ca. 1808.
Gift of the Wunsch Americana Foundation, Inc.
Courtesy of the RISD Museum, Providence, RI


Glenn Gissler - Blog - 2013 - RISDM 2004-28

Frank Lloyd Wright, Library Table, 1915-1916. George
D. Gannett Fund. RISD Museum, Providence, RI.


The School, and the lesser known Museum, were created in the same breath in 1877 with a modest sum of money left over after Rhode Island’s participation in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.  With a mission to train American designers and to promote American art, an impassioned and sophisticated group of committed founders began what is now an encyclopedic collection with more than 90,000 extraordinary objects.

American, Cabinet, 1875-1880. Abby Rockefeller Mauze Fund, by exchange.  RISD Museum, Providence, RI.
Herter Brothers, Side Chair, 1877-1879. Mary B. Jackson Fund. RISD Museum, Providence, RI


Glenn Gissler - Blog - 2013 - RISD Museum - Making It in America - Homer - Lee - Shore

Winslow Homer, On a Lee Shore, 1900. Jesse Metcalf Fund.
Courtesy of the RISD Museum, Providence, RI.


For “Making It in America”, museum curators Elizabeth Williams (Decorative Arts), and Maureen O’Brien (Painting & Sculpture) selected more than 100 outstanding works, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the RISD Museum’s excellent collection.

The  exceptional objects from the Museum’s collection includes items from pre-Revolutionary times to the early 20th century; revealing both developments in art and design, and the high aspirations of both the maker and collectors for high style and finely crafted art and furnishings, and America’s search for freedom, fulfillment and identity.

Some years ago I invited to join the Board of the RISD Museum of Art, giving me a perfect reason (and excuse) to visit Providence a few times a year ever since – it has been a deeply satisfying experience that will be the focus of future posts here.  If you find yourself in the Providence area, visit the exhibition: for the design aficionado it’s a worthwhile trip.


“Making It in America”

Through 9 February 2014

RISD Museum

224 Benefit St  Providence, RI 02903

(401) 454-6500