In 1903, Madeline Yale Wynne (1847-1918), a leader in the American Arts and Crafts movement, constructed an oak bride’s chest ornamented with hammered copper panels, wrought iron hinges, and semi-precious stones. Known as the Garden of Hearts for its carved and painted scene of three inverted heart-shaped trees standing alongside a winding river, the chest is a tour-de-force of Arts and Crafts design—which favored handcraftsmanship over mechanized production—and showcases Wynne’s many talents as a painter, metalsmith, and woodworker. Inspired by 18th-century Connecticut Valley chests, Wynne considered it her greatest artistic accomplishment, reflecting later that this chest was “perhaps better than anything she had done.” This exhibition celebrates the return of Wynne’s masterpiece, which was lost for much of the 20th century, from England to the United States.
Wynne’s Garden of Hearts chest is exhibited for the first time alongside important examples of her metalwork such as hand-hammered bowls, jewelry, and belt buckles, and other handcrafted baskets, textiles, and ironwork produced in Deerfield. Wynne, who shared her time between Deerfield and Chicago, founded the Deerfield Society of Arts and Crafts in 1901 and served as its president throughout her life. Her charismatic leadership, prolific writing, and advocacy for Arts and Crafts ideology resulted in Deerfield becoming highly regarded as one of the nation’s earliest craft communities.
The Garden of Hearts will be exhibited with some 35 examples of work by Wynne and other Deerfield crafters from the collections of Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association. Photographs of never-before-seen jewelry and woodwork by Wynne will supplement the exhibit. Together, these items tell a story of Wynne’s remarkably diverse artistic talents and her pioneering and progressive spirit.