WINTERTHUR, Del. – Henry Francis du Pont became famous for amassing one of the most important collections of American decorative arts in the world, but his passion for collecting began in boyhood with things such as birds’ nests and seashells. The recently opened exhibition Outside In: Nature-inspired Design at Winterthur reveals in exciting new ways the evolution of du Pont’s interests and the principles that informed his aesthetic. As Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library celebrates its 70th anniversary, this partnership with the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) unites selections from the DMNH collection of natural specimens with objects from Winterthur’s museum and library holdings to demonstrate the powerful connection between nature and the decorative arts. Outside In will remain on display for an indefinite period.
The visually eclectic and immersive Outside In exhibit considers how du Pont’s interiors looked to the outside and brought it inside in an aesthetic that has inspired designers ever since. As a child, H. F. du Pont collected birds’ eggs, plants, and other natural objects from the gardens and woods of his home at Winterthur and beyond. The same drive to gather and create beauty with objects was translated on a grand scale into his world-class garden and remarkable collections of decorative art objects.
The enduring theme of nature in design is seen in objects with naturalistic elements and objects such as shells and minerals. Visitors will see motifs such as flowers and leaves in wallpapers, draperies, and other textiles, inlaid furniture, ceramics, and more. They will also discover how du Pont refined their arrangements according to principles that created a foundation still used by designers today. The exhibition considers his use of color, arrangement, floral design, and spaces that merge the inside with the outside.
Organic objects, such as ladles made from coconut shells and boxes made from tortoiseshell, are included in the exhibition, inspiring visitors to consider current discussions about preservation and conservation of the natural world. Outside In also includes a full schedule of lectures, workshops, conferences, and gallery walks. This exhibition will capture the imagination of visitors of all ages with objects ranging from a hornet’s nest to shells, minerals, and fossils, to exquisite cabinetry and shellwork grottos.
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