Wallace Nutting


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(1861–1941). Antiquarian, collector, photographer, and tastemaker. Also an author, Congregational minister, and entrepreneur. A popularizer of the colonial revival, he produced hand-tinted photographs of quaintly retrospective subjects, which sold millions of copies. He also published a steady stream of books and articles idealizing the American past and manufactured reproduction furnishings, making available copies of pieces from his own first-rate antiques collection. To the burgeoning consumer society of a modernizing era, he promoted a comforting lifestyle of simplicity and traditional values. By using modern sales and marketing techniques to promote his interconnected activities, he successfully capitalized on his vision of the old-fashioned virtue and taste embedded in New England history. A native of Marlborough, Massachusetts, west of Boston, Nutting spent his early years in Maine. Educated at Harvard, Hartford Theological Seminary, and New York's Union Theological Seminary, he was ordained in 1888 prior to serving as a clergyman in several locations. Even before physical and psychological ailments drove him from the ministry in 1904, he had taken a serious interest in photography. When this became his primary occupation, he focused on New England landscapes and interiors of colonial homes, sometimes including costumed inhabitants, and soon recruited a staff to color his platinotypes for sale. In 1905 he bought a vintage house in Southbury, Connecticut, and began educating himself about antique furnishings, which he bought at first to provide decor for his photographs. Before long, he had become an authority on then underappreciated colonial furniture. In 1912 he moved permanently to Framingham, Massachusetts, not far from his birthplace, and the following year began issuing books combining photographs with his own texts. His many publications include travel guides for historically minded motorists and authoritative manuals on antiques, as well as Wallace Nutting's Biography (1936). Eventually he owned five restored New England residences, the Wallace Nutting Chain of Colonial Houses, furnished with antiques and open to the fee-paying public. In 1917 he established a workshop for production of handcrafted reproduction furniture, which he sold by mail order. After restoring an eighteenth-century forge in Saugus, Massachusetts, he added colonial-style hardware to his product line.

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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