Copper in the Arts

August 2021

Modern Gothic: The Inventive Furniture of Kimbel and Cabus, 1863–82 Opens at Brooklyn Museum

By Paul David

Modern_Gothic_Kimbel_and_Cabus_SignatureImage_1991.126_GavinAshworth_Square_600_600.jpgKimbel and Cabus (New York, 1863–82). Cabinet-Secretary,
circa 1875. Painted cherry, gilding, copper, brass, leather,
earthenware, 60 × 35 × 14 in. (152.4 × 88.9 × 35.6 cm).
Brooklyn Museum; Bequest of DeLancey Thorn Grant in memory
of her mother, Louise Floyd-Jones Thorn, by exchange, 1991.126. 
Photograph by Gavin Ashworth.

Modern Gothic: The Inventive Furniture of Kimbel and Cabus, 1863–82, on view at the Brooklyn Museum though February 2022, is the first exhibition to explore the timeless American success story of Anton Kimbel and Joseph Cabus, two German immigrants who transformed the US furniture industry with their signature copper and brass craftsmanship. Featuring more than 60 pieces of art, the exhibition showcases this enterprising New York City design team who pioneered a new take on Modern Gothic furniture and defined a significant aesthetic in the post–Civil War United States. 

The exhibition showcases their remarkable nearly 20-year partnership, including more than 40 pieces of handcrafted furniture, plus digitized period photographs, books, a painting, and ephemera that illustrate their  inventive design and inspiration.  

On view through Feb. 13, 2022, the exhibition is curated by guest curator Barbara Veith in consultation with Medill H. Harvey, Ruth Bigelow Wriston Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts and Manager of the Henry R. Luce Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Shea Spiller, Curatorial Assistant, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum.  

The Brooklyn Museum retains the largest institutional holdings of furniture made by Kimbel and Cabus thanks to (the late) Dr. Barry R. Harwood and his keen eye for innovative 19th century furniture,” says Brooklyn Museum Guest Curator, Barbara Veith. “We honor his legacy with this long-planned exhibition.” “

Dr. Harwood joined the Brooklyn Museum in 1988 and dedicated the ensuing 30 years to developing the Museum's Decorative Arts holdings. At the time of his death, he was conducting research for a planned book on the work of Kimbel and Cabus.

Drawing on primary sources such as censuses, credit reports, city directories, newspapers, and photographs, the exhibition presents illuminating new research tracing Kimbel and Cabus’s business history, marketing practices, furniture forms, clientele, and commissions. The insights gleaned from these sources have informed the Brooklyn Museum’s efforts in mounting the exhibition, such as the re-creation of a period appropriate textile, with which conservators reupholstered the Museum’s corner chair. 

“Thanks to the enthusiastic support of institutional and private lenders, we have assembled many of the finest examples of Kimbel and Cabus’s work, and present new research drawn from primary resources that enriches our understanding of the firm’s contributions to the history of design in the United States,” adds Veith. 

Kimbel and Cabus were early advocates of Modern Gothic’s design-reform ideals, including the brass and copper accents and gilded craftsmanship on display. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication co-authored by Barbara Veith, Guest Curator, Brooklyn Museum, and Medill H. Harvey, Ruth Bigelow Wriston Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts and Manager of the Henry R. Luce Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with additional contributions by Max Donnelly, Curator of Nineteenth-Century Furniture, Victoria and Albert Museum; Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Dr. Melitta Jonas, art historian, Berlin.


Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, (718) 501-6354 

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