To the patriots of the American Revolution, Thomas Affleck (1745-1795) was seen as a traitor. His loyalist sympathies may have ended up in this Pennsylvanian being banished to Virginia in 1777, but that did not end his artistic development as a maker of fine furniture.
His furniture followed the Chippendale style. Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was a London based cabinet-maker and furniture designer. He employed Georgian, English Rococo and Neoclassical styles into his work.
Chippendale was one of the well-known furniture makers during the Industrial Revolution, but his upholstered high quality items could be afforded only by the wealthy. Affleck’s work was similar. His furniture was sought out by dignitaries like Pennsylvania Governor John Penn, who commissioned tables, chairs, case furniture and more.
Affleck journeyed to America in 1763 from Aberdeen, Scotland. His forcible trip to Virginia did not last long. He was able to return to Pennsylvania in seven months, and his banishment did not affect his work orders.
Affleck’s furniture might not be found in a modern furniture store in Miami or a contemporary furniture store in Los Angeles, but it is seen at museums in Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Boston and New York.
The LACMA (museum in Los Angeles) has a chair attributed to him from about 1770. This piece shows the diverse tastes of the colonists, as it employs British, Chinese and French elements. The gothic carving of the chair’s legs is a historically British design; yet, the straight, rather than curved shape of the legs, is French. Meanwhile, there are Asian accents.
His work in his time was reminiscent of something that was much harder to come by – craftsmanship. The Industrial Revolution certainly made products production quicker and cheaper, but working in dingy factories day in and day out did not make for an inspiring environment. The cookie-cutter mold bred conformity, not originality; practicality, not style. Furniture could be slapped together and ready for the home quicker than before, but the quality was not there. That is why artists like Affleck are still remembered.
However, reproductions of antique furniture reminiscent of Affleck certainly could add an extra je nais se quoi to a modern home and complement other pieces of modern living room furniture.