Notebook October 2016
Afghan artisanship reborn
On the Turquoise Mountain Institute and the revival of classical craftsmanship in Afghanistan.
No American embraced South Asian woodwork more than Lockwood de Forest. Born in 1850, de Forest was from a prominent New York family, which brought him into the orbits of such nineteenth-century cultural luminaries as Frederic Church. It was at Church’s Olana that de Forest browsed the books that inspired his love of exotic ornament. On his two-year honeymoon he became fascinated by the elaborate woodwork in Indian architecture. This vision fit perfectly into the American Aesthetic–movement style of exotic, complex patterns, rich colors, and handwork. Seeing an opportunity to make the wood components for both his projects and a broader market, he and a local partner established the Ahmadabad Woodcarving Company. A display of the company’s work at the World’s Columbian Exposition proved popular. Commissions in New York included interiors in Andrew Carnegie’s mansion on Fifth Avenue (now...
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