Collector’s Auction Features Incredible Miniature Rooms by Frederick B. Hicks
“The charm of reality” is the phrase used by artist Frederick B. Hicks to describe his work in miniatures. Though the charm captures the viewer instantly, Hicks’ rooms contain more reality than can ever be accurately demonstrated to visitors. The details which make up his work are so plentiful in their microscopic dichotomy, that the viewers eye can not possibly, truly, take in everything they are seeing in one single observation. Each room is painstakingly created to represent a point in time as seen in a living space. Nearly 90% of the components and details were created by Hicks, as well as all of the rooms themselves. This is in stark contrast to his inspiration, the work of the artist Narcissa Niblack Thorne.
Hicks was quoted in 1979 that he saw the miniature rooms made under the direction of Ms. Thorne in Chicago and was inspired to try building his own. It is not known at which display of her works he attended. Thorne’s collection of 68 miniature rooms went on to be displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1942. Prior to this, 30 of the works were on display at the Chicago Historical Society in 1932 and again at the Chicago Worlds Fair the following year. Unlike the artistry behind the work of Hicks, Thorne did not create the rooms herself. Instead she did the historical research and described to others exactly how she wanted her art to be created.
“All the work I did was prior to 1942, as I then opened up a plant in Cambridge and engaged in war work. After the close of the war, I continued in the manufacturing business.” Hicks explained in his correspondence with the Long Island Museum, the home of his 15 miniature rooms from the years 1974 to 2014. The rooms were, in fact, created between 1936 and 1942. Creating each room provided the artist with great satisfaction, yet some are not completely accurate from a historical perspective. Hicks put in much research and attention to detail, yet as presented by LIM to the public the “rooms reflect the state of decorative arts scholarships between 1938 and 1942, not the results of current research. This, in itself, makes Hicks’ rooms historically interesting.” When aspects of rooms were thought to be inaccurate according to present scholarship, this was noted in the explanation of the displays at LIM.
19th C. Dining Room. This represents the early 19th Century with hand painted scenic wallpaper, Chippendale and Hepplewhite period furniture, Persian rug, silver, mirrors, urns and other decorative accessories. The back features a staircase with newel post. As with all of Hicks work, the room was framed and recessed into a wall for display.
Colonial Bedroom. This room represents the middle of the 18th Century. The room has paneled walls, two closet doors, and a fireplace. The room is furnished with Chippendale furniture, two Persian rugs, and scenic wallpaper along with other accessories.
Colonial Parlor. This room depicts the middle of the 18th Century. The room includes paneled walls and two niche cupboards with furniture including a shield back settee and a Lady’s secretary, a cello and violin, curtains, artwork, chandelier, urns, a pillar and scroll clock over a carved fireplace mantle and other accessories.
Georgian Library. This room represents a 1930’s Georgian Revival room with a dentil molded cornice with pine paneling and four bookcase niches. The room consists of a Persian rug, period furniture, pleated drapes, flat valance, and accessories. Also included is a fireplace with overmantle molding and a framed centerpiece.
Georgian Living Room. This room depicts an early 20th Century English or American living room. The architecture of the room consists of a carved and molded cornice, a fireplace with an ornate carved mantle and overmantle, and two arched open corner display cupboards. Other highlights of the room contain Chinese Chippendale furniture and a desk set.
Georgian Parlor. This room represents the Palladian architecture of the first half of the 18th Century. The room contains furniture, a fox hunt painting, tapestry curtains, books and accessories.
Antique Shop. This room represents a 1930’s antique shop along with a variety of sought-after Colonial antiques. These include furniture, Staffordshire porcelain, glassware, hook rugs, embroidery, artwork, and more.
Chinese Dining Room. This room represents an early 20th Century Western Setting with a large bay window, Chinoiserie and lacquered furniture, Chinese wallpaper, jade vases, Chine carpet, and export porcelain. The room also features two Bonsai trees.
“The rooms are made to a scale of one inch to one foot. To illustrate, tabletop, life size, would be about thirty inches from the floor but in the scale of the rooms, would be two and a half inches high. Keeping to this scale consistently is what gives the charm of reality.” Explained the artist. The work was conducted on such a minute scale that Hicks had to come up with his own means of carrying out the creation of the art he envisioned, as most tools that would typically be used to do the work, proved much to large. “I could not find anyone who would work to such detail, so I had to fall back on my own efforts…for instance, small wing cutters used on a sharper to make the molding on windows, doors and paneling moldings were not available, and so I had to grind them to the correct shape myself. The carvings as on the Elizabethan rooms were done with a small high-speed grinder, at times using very small dentists’ burrs. Many operations had to be improved…”
Representatives from the Long Island Museum contacted Alderfer Auction to help them in the deaccession process for their 15 miniature rooms. “The Long Island Museum is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages with an understanding and enjoyment of American art, history and carriages as expressed through the heritage of Long Island and its diverse communities.” In keeping with this, the LIM has decided to sell the collection through Alderfer Auction. Alderfer Auction has successfully helped with the deaccession process for museums and historical societies all over the country. Requests for collection evaluations can be sent to Blake MacLean at 267-638-1054 or firstname.lastname@example.org