In this pioneering study, historian Scott T. Swank reveals the links between the daily life of the Shakers in their planned religious communities and their art and architecture.
As the Director of Canterbury Shaker Village, the author has had unlimited access to the Village's archives, resources, and grounds, examining papers and artifacts, exploring the 25 remaining buildings, and experiencing the seasons. He has literally been able to walk in the footpaths of the Canterbury Shakers, whose community remained prominent for 200 years. It is one of the oldest, most typical, and most completely preserved of all the Shaker villages, the only community with an intact first-generation meetinghouse and first dwelling house on their original sites. The result of the author's painstaking research and close observation is this perceptive book, filled with discoveries, presenting the full sweep of Shaker art and architecture in the context of a specific Shaker community in Canterbury, New Hampshire.
Two centuries ago, the Shakers established America's most successful communal societies. They lived in isolated, rural villages, pursuing work and worship in communities where religion, social behavior, and environmental design were constructed as a harmonious whole. These utopian communities were regulated by "gospel order" which assured their members that their disciplined lives were in harmony with God's will. In these spiritual havens, they endeavored to accomplish their founder's twin mandates, "Hands to work, hearts to God."Shaker designs have endured long after the communities that created them have passed from the American scene. Shaker style, encompassing all elements of art and architecture, has been greatly esteemed for its craftsmanship, sense of proportion, simplicity, and practicality. The author's well researched text, detailed captions, and excerpts from diaries and letters bring life to the legacy of Shaker objects as well as to the architecture. He also provides a time line, a bibliography, and notes.
Accompanying the text are 250 illustrations including 150 in color principally by Bill Finney, who has been photographing Canterbury for over twenty years. There are also historical pictures and maps and newly created plans and diagrams.This insightful book should especially interest collectors, historians, interior designers, and architects, giving readers a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Shakers' artistic legacy.