Georgia Museum of Art

University of Georgia

Athens, GA



Athens Treasures: A Bicentennial Celebration by the Athens Historical Society


"Athens Treasures: A Bicentennial Celebration by the Athens Historical Society" will open on January 20, 2001, at the Georgia Museum of Art. Spanning two centuries and four galleries, this exhibition will be a visual celebration of the fine and decorative arts during Athens' bicentennial.

Located in the heart of Georgia's Piedmont region, Athens is renowned for its classical architecture, its exciting arts scene and for being the home of the University of Georgia. Collaboration between the university and the town on projects such as this exhibition has existed since Athens was founded in 1801. The town literally grew up around the University of Georgia, which was chartered in 1785.

On view until March 18, 2001, the bicentennial exhibition includes a wide range of decorative arts. Vernacular furniture, often termed primitive, will be shown in a grouping that is typical of objects used by early settlers in Clarke County. At a time when university professors were holding the first classes outside on a hill above the Oconee River, residents of nearby log cabins were using items such as the mid-18th-century cradle or the small saddle trunk or blanket chest on view in the exhibition.

Of particular interest is a rare example of early 19th-century Southern needlework, a sampler made by Martha Strong in 1818. Items used for cooking include an iron trammel, made by a local foundry and used to raise and lower cocking pots in the hearth.

It was not until the 1820s that building in Athens began in earnest on ante-bellum architecture such as the university's historic north campus and the imposing Greek Revival houses nearby. At this time Athens became known as "the Manchester of the South" for its growing manufacturing industry. Financial prosperity during the Industrial Revolution gave birth to a culture of leadership and civility that has distinguished Athens ever since.

This wealth was reflected in the many fine furnishings purchased during this building heyday, as the exhibition's items in the mid-to-late 19th-century groupings demonstrate. Appropriately, the Cobb family's contributions to Athens are celebrated by the presence of T. R. R. Cobb's 10-foot-tall mahogany secretary, as well as his parlor set and portrait. Cobb was the framer of the Confederate Constitution and codifier of the laws of Georgia. Howell Cobb, who served as governor of Georgia, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and as a Confederate general, is represented by a porcelain tureen (1857-60) decorated with the seal of the state of Georgia.

Included in the mid-to-late-19th-century grouping is a marble and walnut table made by Athens' Gilleland Furniture Company and an intricate silver tea service made by Asaph K. Childs in the 1850s. A native of Massachusetts, Childs settled in Athens in 1846, opened a silver shop, and later became president of the National Bank of Athens. (left: Asaph K. Childs, five piece silver tea service comprised of coffee pot, tea pot, cream pitcher, lidded sugar, waste bowl, 1856)

The 20th-century gallery in this exhibition focuses on the city's growing arts movement, which has produced an unusual number of accomplished local artists in the past 100 years. Included in that company are Ann Orr, Lucy May Stanton, Josephine Wilkins, Earl McCutcheon, Martha Odum, Lamar Dodd, and Alfred Holbrook.

On display will also be items of historical interest, including two carbines and a rifle made in the 1860s by the local Cook and Brother Armory. The 1936 Olympic gold medal won by Forrest Grady "Spec" Towns at the Berlin Olympics will also be on view.

Read more about the Georgia Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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