The Art of Theorem Painting: A History and Complete Instruction Manual

The Art of Theorem Painting: A History and Complete Instruction Manual


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With the decline of embroidery as “an essential skill for young ladies,” velvet painting came into fashion during the period between 1810 and 1840. The fashion most likely came here from England, as it was taught there as early as 1800. Matthew D. Finn’s Book (1830) appears to be the first to use the word “Theorem” in reference to “a mechanical method of painting a picture by applying paint through a series of stencils or ‘theorems.'” This art form is enjoying resurgence in its popularity today for many of the same reasons that it was popular in the 1800s. Original theorems are somewhat scarce and expensive to buy, so why not make your own? The chief purpose of this book, say the authors, is to provide a collection of authentic patterns for theorem painting on velvet and on paper, together with instructions on how to execute them.

The first part of the book intersperses text material with full color pictures of original theorems owned by various individuals and museums. Following that is the collection of patterns for theorems, along with color pictures of each finished project, as well as information about the contributor and a list of the colors used. All of these patterns and examples were contributed by members of HSEAD, the Historical Society of Early American Decoration. A two-page bibliography lists books on the subject from the early 1800s to the present.