Monthly Archives: January 2017

Color Harmony in the Home: American Paint Publications from 1870-1950

Color Harmony in the Home: American Paint Publications from 1870-1950

Guest curator: Judy Jacob
January 17 – April 25, 2017
Monday – Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Avery Classics Reading Room, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Paint is practical. Paint is beautiful. Paint hides flaws. Paint reflects taste and status. The brochures and samples presented in this exhibition offer an insight to painting practice and color history, and give hints—both subtle and direct—on changing trends in style and advertising.

Avery Library’s collection of trade publications, of which paint catalogs are a substantial subset, features over 4,000 individual items. Never intended for library holdings, these items represent the marketing acumen of paint manufacturers and the decorating aspirations of American homeowners from the 1870s to the 1950s. Avery’s collection was started by Herbert Mitchell (1924-2008), former Curator of Avery Classics, who saw research potential in brochures found on flea-market tables.

Following the Civil War, advances in manufacturing had an enormous impact on the paint industry, as well as on marketing. Publications such as those displayed here arose from the new convenience of ready-mixed paints, provided in cans with re-sealable lids, a major advancement in paint storage. Ready-mixed paints enabled the do-it-yourself painters; homeowners could now easily paint their own homes and furnishings. One could purchase paint, pick-up a free how-to manual, head home to don old clothes and transform one’s surroundings through color.

This exhibition is presented to coincide with the 6th International Architectural Paint Research Conference, hosted by Columbia University in New York City from March 15 to 17, 2017.