thomas chambers double take


A viewer familiar with early- and mid-nineteenth-century American decorative arts, specifically with the painted ornamentation on the furniture, clocks, and china of the time—the squat travelers on their way, the sailboats with their pointy sails, the trees with their one-brushstroke boughs—might do a double take looking at the work of Thomas Chambers. It is as if all the curvy, streamlined, and dexterously executed flourishes on those pre–Civil War wood, fabric, and lusterware domestic items have been captured by, or perhaps stolen by, this British-born, American marine and landscape artist of the time. Whether he paints shipping in Boston harbor, with flags and clouds stretched by the wind, or sloops making their way up the Hudson River on a glistening autumn afternoon, or his subject is the wonder of being face to face with a giant waterfall, Chambers’s work, currently the subject of a rousing exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, seems at first less like the product of a particular person than an emanation of antebellum American life as a whole.

more from the NYRB here.