Decorative Arts of Northeastern Tennessee 1780-1940


Image of the installation, “Tennessee Fantasy: Decorative Arts of Northeastern Tennessee 1780-1940,” on display until October 31 at the William King Museum of Art.

ABINGDON, Virginia. – The William King Museum of Art presents “Tennessee Fantasy: Decorative Arts of Northeast Tennessee 1780-1940”. This exhibit examines what made the decorative arts of Tennessee unique and how the style flourished across the state line. Known for a short time as Franklin State, the northeastern counties of Tennessee produced artists who created bold designs, cobalt and manganese glazes on pottery from Haun, Decker and Cain, with heavily patterned woods and “rope and tassel” inlays from Greene County cabinet makers. The area’s woven blankets and pieced quilts have geometric patterns inspired by the traditions of those who travel along the Great Route to build a new home on the border, and itinerant artists have come to the area to paint portraits. for the settlers, educating a new generation of painters in Tennessee. Although many of these painters remain unknown, William Harrison Scarborough and Samuel Shaver enjoyed successful careers creating portraits in Sullivan and Hawkins counties.

The traditions and heritage of Tennessee’s early settlers began to develop into a unique decorative style as the Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton cabinet styles spread along the Great Road, and German, English immigrants , Scots and Irish pushed west after the American Revolution. Throughout the 19th century, the Tennessee style was cultivated by waves of settlers and pioneers extending further west. They stimulated the market by seeking to fill their homes with functional rooms that also reflected their new found prosperity and permanence. By the mid-19th century, Tennessee had developed a style of its own, sometimes remarkably decorative, sometimes strangely curious, but always… chic.

“Tennessee Fancy: Decorative Arts of Northeastern Tennessee,” sponsored by the Bank of Tennessee with additional support from Rea Charitable Trust and the Massengill-DeFriece Foundation, will be on display until October 31, 2021 at the William King Museum of Art’s Cultural Heritage Gallery. Masks and social distancing mandatory in the building.

For more information or to schedule a visit, call 276-628 5005 ext. 113 or visit

The museum is open seven days a week: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance to the museum is free.

The William King Art Museum is located at 415 Academy Drive, off West Main Street or Russell Road. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the William King Museum of Art is a partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a member of the Virginia Association of Museums, and is funded in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for les arts.


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