9 June 2020
Visitor Assistant Andrew Smith takes a closer look at some of the furniture in the Kettle’s Yard House.
“Yes of course you can sit; it’s more comfortable than it looks!”
Even though we tell everyone that they are allowed to sit in our chairs, visitors are often nervous. It’s not something that you normally do in a museum or gallery. But Kettle’s Yard is not a conventional gallery. And this is not a conventional chair. It’s a traditional Norwegian chair, a kubbestol, hand-made from an upside-down tree-trunk. Hollowed out, so it’s light enough to be moved easily. A unique piece, no two can ever be identical.
It looks like an ancient throne from some dark fairy tale. It has a cylindrical base decorated with an incised pattern of arches, and it has a round back, which gives the occupant a sense of security. On the seat there’s a cushion that is nothing more than a rush mat covered in animal hide. Is it reindeer? Perhaps; we don’t know for sure.
“Oh wow! Can you take a photograph of me sitting in it?”
“Yes of course!”
This old chair is showing its age. The original dark varnish has largely worn away, which emphasises the carved pattern. The carving continues, unseen, on the back in the form of restrained swirls.
Modern Norwegian kubbestols are often decorated with extravagant carving or painting, sometimes both. On our chair the economy of decoration suggests antiquity.
When we are open, sit down in it and appreciate the Dancer Room with its arched window and view to the old houses on Northampton Street. Watch the traffic passing by; almost silent. See how the shape and colour of the back echo the shadow of the church in the adjacent William Congdon painting.
“Go ahead, sit down; make yourself at home!”