Eric Anderson, current Baird Society resident scholar at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library in New York, received his Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University. His research interests encompass nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture and decorative arts in Europe and America. Current projects focus on the theory and design of the domestic interior in the late nineteenth century. His dissertation, “Historicism at Home: Jakob von Falke and the Viennese Interior” looks at an Austro-German decorative arts critic whose writings were central to the emergence of a new discourse on the domestic interior in the 1870s and 1880s. Other recent work has included an exhibition on New York City housing at the Queens Museum of Art and contributions to a forthcoming book on modern architecture on Long Island. He has taught at Columbia University and the Cooper-Hewitt / Parsons MA Program in the History of the Decorative Arts.
His research for the fellowship involves a collection of late nineteenth-century German architecture and decorative arts books held in the Cooper-Hewitt library’s Bradley Room. These are pattern books (collections of ornamental motifs, embroidery and carpet patterns, mural painting, metalwork, furniture, interiors, building facades) that were collected by Arthur Brown, proprietor of an supply store in New York City. Brown’s store served artisans in the decorative trades (masonry, wood-working, upholstery, decorative painting, etc.) and he apparently offered these books as resources for his clients. The books now provide insight into the stylistic tendencies of the German decorative arts of the period, as well into the influence of German trends in the United States. A considerable amount of scholarship exists on German immigrants who became successful furniture designers in late-nineteenth-century America (Christian Herter, Wilhelm Kimbel, George Hunzinger), but less is known about the broader impact of German historicism on American decorative arts. The Brown Collection provides a snapshot of the kinds of sources to which American decorators were turning in the late-nineteenth-century.—Elizabeth Broman and Stephen Van Dyk