Today I received a copy of the catalogue put out by The Anderson Galleries of New York City in 1924 for the exhibition and sale of the Anna M. Laise Phillips Collection. I had so hoped that the catalogue would be heavily illustrated with photos of all the rugs. Alas, my hopes are dashed. The catalogue is 28 pages with one beautiful photo of a specimen which was reproduced from The Bulletin for the Art Center of New York (pictured here via a scan: more on this rug below).
What an exhibition this must have been! Phillips had on display and sale 183 pieces: the vast majority rugs, not all hooked, and a few quilts. Some were antique rugs and some were rugs her workers had made for the show. She writes:
"I have the pleasure in offering this collection from our Hearthstone Studios, the quaint old-fashioned homes of the descendants of our earlier American rug makers. The Antique rugs have been in the families of our workers for several generations, some of them for a longer time, carefully guarded and kept clean; but softened to harmonious tones by time, which blots out vivid colorings in art as well as nature...Rug making is an hereditary art that for a period slumbered, but did not die; because scattered throughout America, tucked away in little villages and country communities are women who to-day are bending over their rug frames, fashioning with painstaking fingers rugs in the same way that their grandmothers constructed floor coverings. The offerings here shown are made primarily to perpetuate the art of rug and quilt making, and to encourage our workers by CREATING A MARKET FOR THE EXPRESSION OF THEIR INHERITED IDEAS OF DESIGN, COLOR AND TEXTURE" (from Foreword; capital format: original to Phillip's text).The rugs in the catalogue were collected by Phillips from the homes of her workers from "the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River" and "the Southern States too" (from Foreword).
The catalogue offers a full description of each piece in the exhibit - almost as good as a picture but not quite! Here are a few just so you can see the variety of subjects and materials used:
"STRIPED HEARTHSTONE HOOK RUG. Evenly and closely hooked. Ashes of rose and reseda-green stripes alternating with those of dull gold of equal width. An unusual rug. Size, 5 feet 6 inches x 2 feet 9 inches."I have become enthralled with Phillips. I am finding her name pop up in books from the period authored by others. Kent, in fact, drops a line in his book that one of her Hearthstone rugs sold for a four-digit price.
"RARE OLD FLEUR-DE-LIS HOOK RUG. Early American. Original design, closely hooked. A quartet of fleur-de-lis in soft old red in centre surrounded by faint lavender flowers and pearl-gray foliage. Size, 5 feet 4 inches x 3 feet 11 inches."
"CANARY BIRD HEARTHSTONE HOOK RUG. Very fine close hooking of hand-spun lamb's wool. Field in natural gray (uncolored, made by carding together the wool from a white lamb and a black one). Original design. Sprays of flowers and foliage with canary birds. Scroll border in tans, yellows, maroon and black. Size, 5 feet 3 inches x 1 foot 9 inches."
"MARINE HEARTHSTONE RUG. Deep, close, fine hooking of homespun lamb's-wool. Lighthouse rising from the sea on small island with misty purple-tinted sky in the background, sea gulls hovering near; mixed brown and fawn-colored border. Size, 4 feet 2 inches x 2 feet 5 inches."
So I started digging around The Bulletin for the Art Center of New York, volume 1 no. 9 (April 1923). I found a mention of Phillips and a (second!) exhibit that she had put on for the Art Center and a fuller description of the rug pictured above:
“Mrs. Anna M. Laise Phillips held her second annual exhibition of American hand-made rugs at the Art Center from March 12-31. She displayed a number of antique and modern rugs from the Hearthstone Studios, the rural home of her rug makers. In the collection was a large carpet eleven by twelve feet, hooked in a basket-weave design, copied from an old rug, also shown. This rug, which is seamless, required the efforts of fifteen workers for seven months, but the result is a rug which stands out as a masterpiece of the handcraft. It is made for a seashore home, to be placed in the dining-room opening towards the sea. The colors are soft dregs of wine, a ‘hit-or-miss’ arrangement giving a purplish rose effect. A reproduction of it is shown on the cover of this issue of the BULLETIN” (p. 171).