Our Past Exhibitions

Solutions and Results

 

Home in the Cotswolds

The solution

After 12 months of travelling around the counties as I wanted to be reasonably close to the capital, I found a charming and spacious home here in the centre of Witney at the heart of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. The large double fronted town house had probably been built originally for one of the blanket mill owners back in about 1730. During the 19th. Century it had become “ R A Jones & Sons, Cabinetmakers, Upholsterers and Furniture Sellers” – ideal for Harvey’s. Having bought the freehold a few months intense building and decoration culminated in my opening exhibition “Past, Present and Future”. 

The result

I had forsaken three hours commuting 6 times every week for a better way of life and proven Napoleon right, “ England is a nation of shopkeepers’, ‘L’Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers’. I come to work by opening a door! This has also given me more time to prepare and produce the exhibitions which have been such an important facet of our business over the past half a century. I hope they have given a great deal of pleasure to all who have visited them and I am confident that you will enjoy viewing any of the topics covered in this selection of catalogues.

Exhibitions from the 2000 onwards

William III to William IV Summer 2000

For its 50th Anniversary celebrations, Harvey’s staged the “William III to William IV: A Legacy of Excellence in Cabinetmaking” exhibition in the Autumn of 2000. The theme focused on “that certain something” or “je ne sais quoi” gained through experience in the antiques trade, where the dealer develops an acute “eye” for a piece. In the family run company, Walter Harvey trained his son David on his eye, which was honed through time and interactions with other dealers, cabinetmakers, polishers and collectors. These experts can often walk into a room full of furniture and in a short space of time determine which, if any, is worth inspection – they are simply drawn to the “rightness” of certain items. The secret is in recognising proportions, and what may be dormant under the varnish or where the polish has perished and developed a bloom, perceiving that a wonderful honey coloured Burr Walnut is hidden and waiting for some TLC. An adage from an old dealer was understood to its full advantage in this exhibition: “The better the figure – the better the piece”.

David Harvey adds that, “I often wish the pieces themselves could talk to us and regale us with stories from their history. Who owned them, where they had been, who had used them and so on. I think one important part of what we do is to look at a piece and see where these stories are hidden from us but intimated by a stain here or a scratch these or even a minor bit of restoration. This is all part and parcel of the Romance of Collecting Antiques.”

 

The Times of Day II Summer 2001

William Hogarth, and his paintings on the same theme, inspired the Summer 2001 exhibition “The Times of Day: Morning, Noon, Evening and Night in a Classical Georgian Home”. Hogarth’s series was commissioned in 1736 by Jonathan Tyers for the Vauxhaul Pleasure Gardens, which were attracting the patronage of the aristocracy, and they parody and show scenes of middle class and vulgar entertainment in London, some scenes of which are set in interiors and greatly capture all aspects of life in the middle Georgian period. By the Regency Period, homes in Britain had developed a quintessentially English Style created from a glorious mixture of the early William and Mary Period with the warmth of the Kingwood, Oak and Walnut furniture balanced with the Mahogany pieces, which became more popular from about 1730. Satinwood, and Rosewood with Brass inlay balance the aesthetic of the time. Harvey’s thus explored the juxtaposition of the many different pieces from such disparate periods and the way that they interacted with one another to produce a wonderful richness and strangely eclectic style.

David Harvey notes, “We were so lucky to be able to use a William and Mary Period House here in the centre of Witney. The Mary Box rooms are the original 17th century part of the Henry Box School adjacent to the wonderful Church Green and St Mary’s Church, which are the signature of old Witney. The headmaster very graciously allowed us to take over this part of the school during the school holidays.”

 

Hide and Seek Summer 2002

The title of the Summer 2002 exhibition, “Hide and Seek: The History of Georgian Writing Furniture and Secret Compartments”, is based on the childhood amusement: implying fun and games, but also because it described the pieces on display. The ‘History of Georgian Writing Furniture’ suggests those Desks and Bureaux with leather lined tops and slides, which explains the “Hide” part of the title, and the much sought after secret compartments which abound in cabinets and boxes provide the “Seek”. The emphasis in the Corn Street display was on Writing Furniture from the late 17th century to the end of the Regency Period in chronologically organised room settings. From Bureaux and Cabinets to Writing Boxes and the Lady’s Compendiums, the quality of the materials and cabinetmaking which past craftsmen had achieved was shown throughout.

David Harvey provides more details about the theme, “The public fascination with secret compartments has always been a strong conversation point, and at numerous Antiques Fairs over the past many years, I have been asked so often to show where any hidden compartments were. In some cases, they are done in a special way which gives the clue to the maker and, in particular, to Gillows of Lancaster, who made a model of a Secretaire Cabinet which had alphabetically inlaid ‘Private Drawers’. And when one sees such a Cabinet, you just know this came from Gillows. To date the best piece with secret compartments was a 17th century Burr Walnut Escritoire I had the good fortune to own twice, which had some 40 secret compartments and drawers.”

A Dictionary of English Furniture Summer 2003

Every Antique Furniture dealer refers to “The Dictionary of English Furniture”, originally published between 1924 and 1927, as the “Bible of English Furniture”. The main body of the work was written by Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards, with contributions from a further ten historians, and it inspired many others to research the history and context of domestic English furniture at a time when there was ample availability of pieces to inspect. So popular it soon went out of print, the books were fully updated, revised and reprinted in the 1950s. The 1983 second edition, reprinted for the Antique Collectors Club in a limited edition of 1000 three volume sets, was available for purchase during the Harvey’s exhibition titled “A Dictionary of English Furniture” after the opus. The exhibition and catalogue were created partly as a tribute to the original, where the illustrations are mostly black and white, but also as a modest update of our own both in colour and showing pieces that were available on the market at the time.

David Harvey notes that, “We did manage to cover most letters of the alphabet but came a little unstuck trying to find a Zograscope and had to settle for Zebrawood! Once again however, by setting a hard challenge in the first place, we have had all the fun of finding the items to illustrate the theme and then researched them to write the catalogue.”

A Hard Nut to Crack Autumn 2004

It was the aim of Harvey’s to hold an exhibition of Walnut Furniture for some years. Since 1978, Harvey’s had held annual themed exhibitions on subjects as varied as Satinwood furniture and the role of Fine Furniture in the English obsession with gambling and gaming. From the early days in Chalk Farm through 20 years at 5 Old Bond Street in Mayfair to the company’s third location in Corn Street, Witney, the exhibitions have been tremendous fun. And, in the Summer of 2004, the team finally go around to Walnut, selecting Walnut pieces from three centuries brought together in a magnificent setting: “A Hard Nut to Crack…The Age of Walnut Furniture and Related Items”. The name of the show derives from the difficulty encountered by anyone at the turn of the millennium in finding sufficient fine old Walnut furniture of a quality and integrity to put on a reasonable show. “The Age of Walnut” was first used by Percy Macquoid as one of the four ages in his major work on the “History of English Furniture”, published between 1904 and 1908. He took the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1659 as the starting point and noted the gradual demise of Walnut as Mahogany replaced it in popularity in the 1720s.

As David Harvey describes the experience, “This was certainly one of the many interesting subjects which we have explored, and I found it quite difficult to trace enough early Walnut pieces to mount this show. We took over Ditchley Park from the Ditchley Foundation here in West Oxfordshire, and it provided a suitable backdrop for our photo shoot. Up until now, of course all the exhibition images had been captured on 5X4 plate transparencies, which meant getting the films to a laboratory for collection the following morning before we could ‘strike’ a set, so it was incredibly useful for us to have several rooms to use, so we could be working on the next setting whilst the previous films were being processed. I have to say the image of the set of 12 chairs in the Great Hall did cause some hilarity!”

Changing Rooms Summer 2005

It is a myth that minimalism can only be achieved with modern furniture, a myth put to rest by Harvey’s Summer 2005 exhibition and accompanying catalogue “Changing Rooms”. From a Burr Elm Escritoire from the William and Mary Period, made about 1685 to 1690, to a Lowboy from the 1730s, figuring, grain and graceful construction make the overall design of some pieces a real delight. Unavailable for a previous Harvey’s catalogue, “A Dictionary of English Furniture”, to illustrate the letter “Z”, a charming Zograscope was used in “Changing Rooms” as a part of the “Brown Furniture” setting. This particular setting dispelled another myth of the time – that “Brown Furniture” was no longer desirable in a world of “off the shelf” home furnishings.

As the Harvey’s team knew then and still knows now, Antique Furniture of good quality is sure to outlast all others, made by cabinetmakers who had pride in the quality of their materials and workmanship. It was a matter of personal esteem that their furniture should be constructed to last for centuries, and made in ways which ensured ease of restoration for any worn or deteriorated parts. Therefore, the “Changing Rooms” catalogue and exhibition was also made to show some of the good reasons for buying Fine Antique Furniture! These reasons are as valid today and in the future as they were at the time of this exhibition.

The Gentleman's Library Summer 2006

Nowhere in furnishing is the quintessentially “English Look” more strongly epitomised than in the English Gentleman’s library of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Shown in period room settings, the Harvey’s exhibition and catalogue of Summer 2006, “The Gentleman’s Library: An Open and Shut Case”,was an opportunity to see the progression in styles from the Walnut pieces of the Charles II period through to the Rosewood of the Regency. The exhibit included a wide selection of Bureaux and Library Tables, Metamorphic Pieces, and, of course, Bookcases of many different sizes and shapes – all complemented by a rare Paire of Regency Period Lyre-shaped Library Chairs. From the earlier rooms settings with books in bookcases, locked away from dust and finger marks where their condition would have been watched over to ensure that there was no deterioration in their state or value, the final room in the exhibition focused on the Regency period. The highlight was a floor-standing open-fronted “Waterfall Bookcase”, so called because of the cascade effect of the graduated shelves – perfect for perusing and showing off a wonderous collection.

A Spirit in the Woods Summer 2007

Over a century before the Summer 2007 exhibition took place, Percy Macquoid’s “History of English Furniture” was published in 20 parts, the author titled the final four volumes “The Ages of Oak, Walnut, Mahogany and Satinwood”. Although these simple classifications have been updated and expanded upon over the intervening century, it is still useful shorthand for breaking two hundred years of changing furniture styles and cabinetmaking techniques into manageable periods. In the Harvey’s exhibition and catalogue “A Spirit in the Woods”, this theme was expanded upon with room settings in each of the four major woods, with some surprises as well. The title of the exhibition was taken from William Wordsworth’s romantic poem “Nutting”, published in 1800. Much has been written about this poem; the commonplace language used, the evocative phraseology and heavy symbolism as Wordsworth refers to his own childhood experiences in what is widely held to be as much a journey or passage of rite with the author discovering himself, as a simple trip into a wood to gather hazel nuts. The final stanza reads: “with gentle hand touch – for there is a spirit in the woods”, and this is what collecting antiques is all about. Certainly, it is a voyage of discovery, but it is also the way we all hold a piece or examine it – touching it, rubbing it, feeling the intricate nuances of the wood or, as Wordsworth might have put it, searching for that “Spirit in the Woods”.

Hickory Dickory Dock Summer 2008

Harvey’s has always carried a selection of fine period clocks to complement the Fine Furniture for which they are renowned world wide, and for the Summer 2008 exhibition the team decided it would be rather special to show a series of room settings with the clocks stopped at different times of the day and night to illustrate how the British lived at home. Thus, the title “Hickory, Dickory, Dock: Harvey’s have stopped the clock”. By the early 19th century, homes in Britain had developed that quintessential style that has become such an important part of our heritage. Going from the aftermath of the Great Fire in 1666 through to Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837, this period of nearly two centuries shows dramatic changes in both styles and techniques of furniture and furnishing. The aim in this exhibition and catalogue was to create room settings that are hopefully enjoyed, and from which many clients found those elusive pieces they had always promised themselves they would acquire one day…

As David Harvey recounts, “One of the surprises on our second shoot in Ditchley was the evening setting, and we had struggled for several hours with the lighting to try and get the right feel for the late return of the master of the house to a cold supper all laid out for him with the wine chilling in the cooler. Eventually we did away with all the electric lamps and tried to just light it as it would have been over 200 years ago using candles – and the following day we had a wonderful surprise when the transparency returned from the laboratory. I do hope you will enjoy this exhibition catalogue as much as I did with my team.”

Masterful Marquetry and Majestic Mahogany Summer 2009

As David Harvey introduced the catalogue “Masterful Marquetry and Majestic Mahogany” in the Summer of 2009, “Once in a while, as an antiques dealer, I am privileged to own a piece I am really reluctant to sell because it some who embodies what being in this business is all about. This wonderful Marquetry Inlaid Chest on Stand is just such an example. It awakens the spiritual element within the dealer as it has all the particular attributes which ‘tick the boxes’. To some degree it has to do with the attribution to Gerreit Jensen, but goes well beyond that. The apocryphal stories about the dealers of legend who fell so in love with their own stock that they refused to sell pieces, and suffered the ultimate poverty to which that must lead, abound. It is in that vein this Chest lies. It is just so complete in the quality, colour, condition and design that I doubt whether I shall ever have the honour of owning another of this magnificence.”

It almost seems wrong to single out one chapter in this catalogue as there are nine others with very considerable research having gone into every item. This was very much a labour of love and David Harvey notes that he can still remember every piece and where they all are now. The Longcase clock is indeed a masterpiece and was sold to him by a very interesting collector who has since allowed Harvey’s to purchase a few more items from his collection. As David says regarding this exhibition, “One of the great things about this business is the long term friendships we dealers are able to establish with like-minded people.”

The Coalition Exhibition Summer 2010

Coali´tion n. union, fusion;|| (Polit.) temporary combination of parties that retain distinctive principles, whence ~IST (l) n.
Exhibi´tion n. 1. showing, display, (of thing); 2. public display of works of art, industrial products, etc.
For their Annual Exhibition this year Harvey’s formed a coalition with Callaghan Fine Paintings & Contemporary Bronzes to provide an exciting experience for visitors – a unique opportunity for friends and clients to see rare and wonderful pieces of Fine English Furniture from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries combined with selected 19th and 20th century masterpieces from artists such as Marcel Dyf and Antoine Bouvard.
To top off this brilliant showing, Callaghan’s exhibited some stunning contemporary bronzes by Carl Payne and Benson Landes in the galleries at Harvey’s.

The genesis for this came about in June of 2010 in the aftermath of the General Election when all the talk was of the new Coalition Government, David Cameron and Nick Clegg as Prime Minister and Deputy PM. In the quieter moments at the June Olympia Fair, David and Dan found themselves discussing current politics, and agreed to hold a joint exhibition with the aim of introducing their friends and loyal patrons to each others disciplines.
The more astute observers will have spotted The Coalition Exhibition was of course taking place in “Cameron Country” as Witney was the then Prime Minister’s Constituency.

A Mid Summers Day Summer 2013

“A Midsummer’s Day: Sunrise to Sunset in a Geogian Home”. As the title of the exhibition and catalogue for Summer 2013 implies, Harvey’s wanted to take friends and guests back in time and transport them even beyond Downton Abbey to the 19th century in an affluent Georgian Home, where one can enjoy looking at Fine English Antique Furniture and Works of Art in period room settings, seeing how individual pieces would have been used and the relationship between these. Visitors were invited to sit in that chair, test the bed, join the card game or relax in the reclining armchair with a book open on the nearby reading stand. This is how the British lived at home. There are so many instances during the 18th and 19th centuries of entire houses being built and newly furnished in one go, but, more generally, we see the acquisition by marriage, inheritance, gift of dowry and the buying of refurbished second hand furniture as the more usual route to furnishing one’s family home. Indeed, it is this variety of sources that is responsible more than anything else for the wide range of periods and styles coming together in a cacophony of different colours, textures and influences that is the quintessential English Country House look that is so sought after and is part of the company’s heritage.

Harvey’s closed the shop for a few days to photograph all these room settings and then packed all the pieces away in the conservation warehouse, ready to bring out for the exhibition once the catalogue had been printed. It was a lot of work, but well worthwhile, and the team enjoyed doing it. Once again though, the pieces are always the stars of any of Harvey’s exhibitions. The exhibition was opened this time by David Harvey’s good friend Carole Ann Ford, who was the first “Doctor’s Girl” in the long running BBC series Doctor Who!

Back to the Future Summer 2014

The exhibition at 86 Corn Street, “Back to the Future: Antiques in the 21st Century”, was introduced in the Summer of 2014. Huon Mallalieu accepted the invitation to speak to a specially invited audience at the opening of the exhibition, as a renowned wit and raconteur, as well as being an outstanding fine arts correspondent in the past few decades. Advocating the use of antiques in the modern world, Harvey’s sought to emphasise the appeal of fine antiques for today’s and future generations. David Harvey was quoted by Antiquexplorer, “Over the past decade or so much has been written about English antique furniture being out of fashion or not appreciated by young people. Comments such as ‘Nobody buys a bureau these days because people don’t write letters any more’ epitomise the situation. So in our summer exhibition we are setting out to demonstrate how pieces from the past not only fit in with the way we live today but are of an enduring quality that will enable future generations to use and enjoy for many years to come.” For example, a Georgian Bureau is not only a very useful piece of furniture in its own right, but today is the perfect place to keep a laptop or iPad in the modern, wireless office. So often, we now find that one or two pieces in a modern home can act to soften the overall appearance, bringing a warmth to the surroundings and providing a talking point for guests and family.

George Meets the Dragon Autumn 2014

“George Meets the Dragon” was the title of the Autumn Exhibition at Harvey’s in 2014. Furniture and works of art from the reigns of seven monarchs and mandarins in China and Great Britain from the 18th and 19th centuries will demonstrate the fine work of craftsmen from two sides of the world. Shown side by side, the exhibition will show how pieces from such different cultures can complement each other in style and designs and work well together in contemporary homes.
This unique selling exhibition featured the English period furniture specialists Harvey’s stock, and the Fitzsimmons Collection, belonging to Sharon Fitzsimmons, a noted expert in Chinese furniture who runs a highly successful import furniture company. The event coincides with the ‘Asian Art in London’ series of exhibitions and the widely applauded Ming exhibition at the British Museum.

David Harvey stated: “China’s re-emergence as a global superpower serves as a reminder of its fascinating history and its influence on Western culture throughout the past five hundred years. Furniture buyers seeking to add an extra dimension to their home decor will find plenty to enjoy. Chinese furniture and objets d’art, both old and more recently made, are appealing, practical and competatively priced”.
Amongst others on show were a Regency period mahogany metamorphic reading table and a pair of Chinese 19th century tall elm yoke-back armchairs in a classic Ming design – exemplifying contrasting styles that complement each other.

65 Knot Out Autumn 2016

It was with great pleasure that Harvey’s was able to celebrate 65 years of being in business and set out to produce a commemorative book detailing the history of the company from its beginnings in Chalk Farm, through the years at 5 Old Bond Street and latterly in the freehold Cotswold Stone Georgian Townhouse in Witney. In many ways, this is a reflection of the Antiques Trade more generally. So many of the important names from the West End, The King’s Road and the Fulham Road are no longer there, and throughout the country, market towns which had half a dozen antique dealers, always worth a visit, are no longer there. The value of the properties and the needs of nail bars, beauty salons, estate agents and others has made the retention of antique shops a distant memory. Here in Witney, however, we still have several Antique Shops gathered around us, making it a worthwhile place to visit.

The book is also fully illustrated and makes a fascinating read, with a selection of pieces to celebrate this anniversary coming from several different sources. It is a celebration, most of all, not of longevity but of so very many friendships that David Harvey is delighted to highlight both within and outside of the trade. So many clients have become close friends who always enjoy the warmest of welcomes here and the opportunity to sit beside the open fire with a warming coffee or tea on a cold day. Every piece tells a story, whether it is where it came from, who performed any conservation work, where it is now and how did it get there.

50 Shades of Brown Autumn 2017

A celebration of a most exciting time to be an antiques dealer inspired the exhibition and catalogue of Autumn 2017 with “50 Shades of Brown: By George – We’ve got it!”. It shows the incredible range of exciting colours and designs in pieces made between about 1680 and 1850. As trade papers and Antique Collecting magazines were full of the growth of the “Georgian Brown” market with auctioneers all reporting a strong upswing in prices for better examples, the message had finally got out into the public domain: Good antique furniture is exciting and terrific value and far from being dead is suffering a resurgence! Begone are the ideas that these pieces are out of fashion, when rather they are ever fashionable especially in quality pieces.

The pejorative expression “Georgian Brown” when referring to Mahogany pieces is a sign of lazy journalism, as is the idea that youngsters aren’t interested in Antiques any more. If you stand at a decent Antiques Fair, you will see many young couple with babes in push chairs attending and showing interest in pieces. What many journalists have not bothered to research is the changes in demographics here in the U.K. As David Harvey noes, “When I was an my twenties, I couldn’t wait to buy my own home and move out of the family home. Today, many have to wait until they are in their late 30’s or 40’s to be able to get on the housing ladder, and this has led to a break in the chain because so many are in rented accommodation and most will not want to buy any Antiques until they have the home of their wishes later in life than I had some 50 years ago. That does not mean that they are not interested – just that they are waiting for the right time!”

A volume of Libraries Spring 2019

“A Volume of Libraries: An open and shut case.” The exhibition and catalogue created for the Spring of 2019 were made as an opportunity to see the progression in styles from the Walnut pieces of the James II/William and Mary Period through to the Rosewood of the Regency. It included a wide selection of Bureaux and Library Tables, Metamorphic Pieces, and of course, Bookcases of many different sizes and shapes. Probably the earliest Bookcase to come to hand was the James II Walnut Bureau Bookcase, a truly early example showing the progression from the earliest of Bureaux, a table top “work station” which then developed as a separate stand with legs and became free standing before developing drawers and bun feet but the carcass was most often in two parts. The addition of the third element, the bookcase top, exemplifies the time of the Harvey’s beautiful highly figured Walnut piece. The Bookcase even retained the lower moulding separating the bureau section from the drawers or chest below. This also made it easier to transport and move in houses, many of which historically were not blessed with wide doorways.

This was another good opportunity to show how the Library became a much more feminine room as time progressed through the 18th century with the Circulating Libraries and the advent of the novel which introduced so many women to the joys of reading. The men would have still largely preferred the women to read in the drawing room, preserving their own domain. In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mr Bennet certainly upheld his privacy with long hours spent in his Library! Or there again in the character of Lydia Languish in Sheridan’s play “The Rivals”, published in 1775.