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Design for a Ceiling
Design for a Ceiling, chromolithograph,
Samuel Sloan, The Model Architect, 1852.
Historic Hudson Valley places high value on sharing its collection as broadly as possible, and staff members pursue a multi-faceted program with the public in mind. Visitors experience artifacts within period interiors during guided tours of historic properties. They also enjoy objects through publications, loans to other institutions, and display on the Internet. The popularity of the institution’s Web site, and the success of its first online exhibition, Cross Roads and Cross Rivers: Diversity in Colonial New York, have encouraged Kate Johnson and Ross W. Higgins to choose a “virtual” presentation for Beauty and the Brick: Illustrated Books and Nineteenth-Century Domestic Design.

In Beauty and the Brick, an exploration of how and why cultural advisors coached Americans about appropriate architecture and design, selected illustrated volumes from Historic Hudson Valley’s collection make a rare center stage appearance. Technology 19th-century style—specifically, advances in printing and illustration techniques—opened a formerly off-limits world to the American consumer. Suddenly, the lay person had at his or her disposal a rich trove of encyclopedias, pattern books, and instruction manuals with step-by-step plans, elements of design, and sources for obtaining materials. Here were sources of practical applications for arts and crafts, decoration, and construction, as well as strong guidance from that era’s professional tastemakers, trendsetters, and aesthetic champions.

The exhibition and accompanying catalog are made possible through the generosity of the Robert Lehman Foundation. We are particularly grateful to the late Paul Guth, the foundation’s chairman, for his support.

Waddell W. Stillman