PORTSMOUTH – The Portsmouth Historical Society is preparing dual exhibitions for the spring to celebrate and document the important history of furniture in the city during the past four centuries, and to present outstanding work by some of today’s premier woodworkers.

The exhibits will be displayed from April 7 through June 18 at Discover Portsmouth.

Furniture helps us understand shifts in taste and style, evolving social customs and behaviors, and changes in technology and economics. On the first floor of Discover Portsmouth’s galleries, a loan exhibition of about 50 objects will interpret furniture made and used in Portsmouth as both art and history, starting with the joined furniture of the 17th century, through the Colonial and Federal periods of Portsmouth’s heyday of cabinetmaking, and finishing with the revival styles of the 19th century.

The Four Centuries of Furniture exhibition will conclude with examples from the arts and crafts and studio movements, including an important rocker from Rock Rest, furniture used at the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in 1905, and a few modern examples of locally owned and retailed works of the 20th and 21st centuries — perhaps even an IKEA chair for contrast. 

Changes in how furniture has been regarded over time will be explored, including the transition from its role as a symbol of status and wealth, as well as the evolution of Portsmouth from a furniture-making center to a primarily retail market.

Featured objects in the exhibition will be drawn from distinguished private and public collections, including several works from Portsmouth Historical Society’s holdings. While furniture will be the focus of the exhibition, the display will also include some paintings, prints and smaller objects to provide visual variety, as well as a few carefully selected documents.

Concurrent with the main floor exhibition, the balcony gallery will include a display of works made by 15 to 20 members of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters, an elite group of woodworkers from throughout New England including Jon Brooks, David Lamb, Richard Oedel, Jeffrey Cooper and others.  This NHFMA display will be accompanied by works in other media, and will also include examples of the NHFMA’s important Prison Outreach Program. 

“We’re excited about the broad, diverse audience this two-part show will bring,” said curator Gerry Ward. “The first floor exhibition may more likely draw the traditional decorative arts crowd of collectors, dealers and scholars, while the contemporary craftsmanship and woodworking featured in the balcony would draw craftsmen, decorators and interior designers.”

An accompanying exhibition catalogue has been underwritten by Craig & Alison Jewett, and the Jewett Family. It is available for purchase online at http://bit.ly/2n13c0Z.

An opening gala will be held April 6 and non-members are encouraged to join. Tour the furniture exhibition before it opens to the public, have a glass of wine, savor delicious refreshments and relax and mingle to the music of the popular Ben Baldwin Trio. Not yet a member? Join online at http://bit.ly/2mGXWNA.

The exhibition will also include a lecture series. For information on the Four Centuries of Furniture exhibition, visit www.portsmouthhistory.org or call 436-8433.