Tri-Fold Screen

Decorative Arts 1890 to the Present Collection

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses one of the most significant public collections of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco, spanning the years 1890-1935, in the United States. The Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts at the museum is the largest public assemblage of Fabergé imperial Easter eggs in the United States. The full Pratt collection is comprised of approximately 170 creations from the Fabergé workshops. The museum’s collection was formed between 1933 and 1946 by Lillian Thomas Pratt of Fredericksburg, Va., the wife of General Motors Executive John Lee Pratt. In 1947 she bequeathed more than 400 pieces of Russian decorative arts to VMFA and many were from the Fabergé workshops. Other highlights include one of the largest and finest collections of lamps by Tiffany Studios in a U.S. museum; one of the largest collections of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany on view in a U.S. museum; a fine group of British Arts and Crafts material, including one of the largest groups of works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in a U.S. museum; the finest collection of American and European Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau belt buckles and accessories – dating from about 1890 to 1910 – in a U.S. museum; a very fine group of American Arts and Crafts objects by artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Greene and Greene Brothers, Gustav Stickley and Roycroft in an American museum. In addition, the museum has one of the most distinguished public collections outside of Paris of decorative arts in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. These styles radiated from Paris to the rest of Europe and America. The collection is rich in both its scope and its depth, featuring masterpieces by key designers, including the largest group of objects by the French Art Nouveau architect-designer Hector Guimard in an American museum. The VMFA has the largest group of objects by the Art Deco (and Modernist) architect-designer working in Paris, Eileen Gray, in a U.S. museum.

Sydney and Frances Lewis of Richmond, the founders of Best Products Company, amassed the majority of their collection for their personal use between about 1970 and 1985. During this period, the museum acquired major Art Nouveau objects with funds donated by the Lewises in 1971-72, and the collection was enlarged through funds and gifts from other benefactors. The Lewises gave their collection and that of the Lewis Foundation to the museum in 1985. Prior to their gift, their paintings, sculptures and decorative arts were housed in the Lewis’s house on Monument Avenue. The house was designed by the well-known architect William Bottomley and was built in 1926. The entire house was furnished in the finest examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects and with important works by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Kline, Close and other major artists of the period from the mid 1960s to 1985.

Barry Shifman
Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Decorative Arts 1890 to the Present