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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

New York, 1865–c. 1906
Side Chair
c. 1876–79
Cherry, other woods, gilt, and upholstery

37 3/8 x 17 x 18 1/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided
by the Stella H. and Arch S. Rowan Foundation

Arts of North America

Beautifully crafted and perfectly proportioned, this side chair is decorated with a restrained design of inlaid blossoms. The cherrywood frame was ebonized (stained or painted black) to resemble Japanese lacquer.

In contrast to the flamboyance found in much 19th-century design, Japanese-inspired furniture was distinctive for its elegant simplicity. Influenced by Japanese ornament, the Herter Brothers company began producing its own interpretations in the early 1870s. German-born immigrants Gustave and Christian Herter were preeminent among the designers and cabinetmakers who helped nouveau-riche Americans outfit grand residences. The half brothers designed furniture and interiors for the sumptuous homes of Gilded Age clients such as Jay Gould, J. Pierpont Morgan, and William H. Vanderbilt.