Saturday, August 17, 2013

The American Scene

My collection of The Red Barn plates by Dale Nichols for the department store B. Altman's was gathered over years and years. After the set was complete and all twelve were hanging on my dining room walls, surprisingly, I came across another series of plates from B. Altman's — this time by the artist Adolf Dehn.  Here's a description from a book on Syracuse China:

"In 1952, B. Altman & Company of New York commissioned the American artist Adolph Dehn to create a limited edition set of twelve decorative service plates reproducing, in overglaze decalcomania, a group of his original watercolor paintings called "The American Scene"."

The plates are beautiful.  Each depicting a snapshot of American life — the urban landscape of towering Chicago and the smokestacks of Pittsburgh contrasted by the gentleness of Central Park in New York City and the undeveloped beaches of Florida — the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge versus the majestic Mount Rainier.

Central Park


Golden Gate Bridge
Mount Rainier

Lighthouse, Maine

New England Winter

A sleepy New England village blanketed by snow contrasted by the ocean crashing against the rocky coastline of Maine.

And the sprawling ranch of the west versus the iconic American farm of the midwest both with their tall windmill weathervanes.
Western Ranch
Middle West Farm 

The plates were in a huge former supermarket-turned-antique mart about an hour from our home.  The not-well-lit aisles were lined with flimsy cloth-partitioned booths set-up with table after table of vendors' goods — I could not believe I found another set of plates from B. Altman's!  But as much as I loved them, I quickly walked out of that booth (despite the protests of my husband and kids urging me to get them) because they were too much money.

Then, months later at Christmas, a huge box arrived with my name on it and there inside amidst all the paper packing and bubble-wrap were those twelve plates — a complete set ready to be hung.  It was a tremendous surprise from my sweet husband and soon they too were up on my walls.  Recently I've rehung them and now the image of the southern plantation mansion is juxtaposed with the hard-working, back-breaking cotton pickers in the fields.  

Adolf Dehn beautifully captured the American scene on these plates — but perhaps not all the pictures of American life in the 1940s were so very pretty.

Southern Cotton Fields
Southern Mansion

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