Picks and Pans Review: Shaker Design

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pleasing to the eye in a different way, this show offers a glimpse of the artistic fruits of a nearly extinguished society. Founded by the Englishwoman Mother Ann Lee, who arrived in New York in 1744, the Shakers grew by the mid-1840s to include some 4,000 to 6,000 members. (Today there are fewer than a dozen members, living in Maine and New Hampshire.) "Put your hands to work and your hearts to God," was Mother Ann's credo, and her followers infused the everyday objects they created with a purity of line now recognized as the hallmark of their art. Such simple things as mitten forms, a grain shovel, oval boxes made of maple and pine and a tin-plated 1850 food warmer all radiate a kind of quiet grace. As June Sprigg author of the fine show catalog, writes, "The Shakers did not spurn beauty; they simply reinvented it." And they perfected it on the altar of functionalism. Some 100 examples of Shaker art are in this show, which is at the Whitney Museum in New York until Aug. 31, then opens Sept. 27 at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.

From Our Partners