A Trip To The Winterthur Museum…
As promised earlier this week, I was planning to make a trip up to Delaware to see the Winterthur Museum. Having heard so much about it and never going there, my anticipation was very high. Unfortunately due to typical weekend chores that come up at home, my wife and I did not get on the road until noon. Fortunately, the museum is only about 1.5 hours away so we arrived shortly after 1:30 PM. We decided not to purchase a house tour but just to stick to the garden tour and galleries. I hope to go back in a month or so to dedicate more time to the house tour.
The Winterthur estate was established in the early 20th Century by Henry Francis DuPont. Currently it is a 1000 acre estate with over 60 acres of gardens and 85,000 pieces in the antiques collection. Mr DuPont was an avid collector of 17th and 18th century furniture as well as an accomplished horticulturalist. If you have ever been to the nearby Longwood Gardens in West Chester, PA, you will see his work at it’s prime. The Winterthur estate was his attempt at natural gardening and is less ornamental and topiary than sprawling hillsides with lots of local trees and shrubs.
From the moment you enter the property you are stunned by the beauty all around you. The drive down the rolling hills to the visitor center only served to get us more excited about our visit. After purchasing 2 $15 tickets for access to the gardens and collections, ($5 more for a house tour) we hopped on the open air tram for a guided tour around the gardens. Even in late June when the temperature is close to 90 and the humidity is in the 80s, under the canopy of trees it is quite cool. Through the trees you begin to see the looming mansion nestled into the hillside. With over 175 rooms on 5 floors there is much to see.
My mission here was to get up close to some of the beautiful furniture pieces. As you enter the galleries you are greeted by two beautifully carved chairs.
The galleries are grouped into periods and styles as best they can with some overlap. You will see excellent Queen Anne examples, intriguing Rococco, stunningly intricate Hepplewhite, and of course Federal. Here are some of the ones that stood out to me.
Another gallery was all about chairs. Many of you know about my fascination with the Windsor form and here is a wall of them.
You can just see the tops of some of the other styles but for unfortunately those shots just didn’t come out well. I guess I’ll have to go back 🙂
I am really drawn to the Federal period because I like the complete break from previous styles that so sets it apart. I think in a lot of ways this embodies the American spirit and I’d like to think that that is what these craftsmen were thinking when they broke all the rules and built these beautiful pieces. I must say that I was not impressed by the volume of good Federal style in the galleries. One of these pictures is actually taken in the gift shop. I understand that there are better examples in the period rooms and I will have to pick up on those on my next visit. I have been lurking in the background on the T-Chisel forum lately and I think I may take on the Federal table they built there after seeing some of this style up close. Here are a few examples and details though to whet your appetite.
Of course no visit to Winterthur would be complete for a woodworker without peeking into the Dominy shop up on the second floor. The whole setup is behind glass and the lighting is low, but I think I got some great shots. Some great traditional tools and of course the famous Dominy bench that woodworking luminary Chris Schwarz from Popular Woodworking and Woodworking magazines has mentioned so many times when speaking about form and function of a great bench.
I could go on and on about the things I saw this past Saturday, but I cannot guarantee how coherent it would all come out because I am starting to foam at the mouth just remembering it and looking over my pictures. I am sure there will be more to come here. I took some shots of specific pieces that have inspired me to try some things. You may see some more photos coming up once I embark on those projects.
All in all, get to Winterthur. No more excuses, it is worth every second and every penny it takes to get there!