Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence

Several years ago, Jane Katcher, a collector and longtime student of American folk art and Americana, was asked to prepare a magazine article about some of her favorite objects. As she discussed this project with David Schorsch, the folk art specialist who has been the principal advisor on her Americana collection, the idea of producing a major book emerged, and the result is Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence, published in December 2006 by Marquand Books in association with Yale University Press.

The book features more than 200 objects —many never before published—from Katcher’s extensive collection, which is rich in portraits and carvings, quilts and needlework, weathervanes and whirligigs, family records and calligraphy, boxes and baskets, toys, painted furniture, Windsor chairs, and a variety of objects created in the Germanic regions of Pennsylvania and Virginia and in the Shaker communities of New York and New England. In addition to these frequently collected categories of American folk art, the Katcher collection holds some notable surprises: mocha ware and spatter ware—colorful English pottery that was wildly popular with nineteenth-century Americans—and an often overlooked wealth of ephemera that includes handmade valentines, friendship albums and memory books, keepsakes woven from the hair of loved ones, and other fragile and intensely personal tokens of love and affection.

In her introductory essay, “Some Thoughts on Collecting,” Jane Katcher expresses her “heartfelt desire…that this book will be an inspiration for both those who have had years of experience in this area of art and antiques as well as for those who are reading about objects such as these for the very first time.” To fulfill her vision, a group of distinguished scholars was assembled to explore different aspects and themes of the collection in thought-provoking essays: Jean M. Burks, Paul S. D’Ambrosio, Erin Eisenbarth, Robin Jaffee Frank, Robert Hunter, Patricia E. Kane, Richard Miller, Charles Santore, Robert Shaw, Scott T. Swank, and Philip Zea. The photographs, featuring multiple views and dramatic details, are by distinguished fine arts photographer Gavin Ashworth. A comprehensive catalog by David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles includes detailed descriptions of each object, as well as the most complete information available on provenance and exhibition and publishing history; this section of the book will prove a valuable new resource in the field of American folk art.

In conjunction with the book’s publication, the Yale University Art Gallery presented “Made for Love: Selections from the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana,” from February 13 to August 26, 2007, featuring works created as tokens of affection or commissioned to reflect the loving bonds between families and friends in early America.

To learn more or order a copy of Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence (ISBN: 0-300-11965-8; cloth, 428 pages, 510 color illus.; $75.00), click here.

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