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The Studio Craft Tradition

The Powell Door

Permanent Exhibition · Paton | Smith | Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries

The Michener Art Museum acquired Powell’s elaborately carved and painted pine door through a Rago Auction in 2009, with funds provided by Sharon B. and Sydney F. Martin. The door has become one of the permanent entrances to the museum’s Martin Wing, and the Paton | Smith | Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries.

In 1966, Philadelphia-born designer, sculptor and craftsperson Phillip Powell began to travel extensively to Spain, Portugal, England, Sicily, and Morocco, where he was inspired by carvings and decorative elements. Powell loved the intricately carved doors in Morocco.

These travels were just some of the inspirations that led Powell to create this work, one of the earliest doors for one of his residences located on Route 202 right outside New Hope.

Inspiration comes at very strange times. Out of the blue.
—Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919-2008)

At the time of the Michener Art Museum’s purchase of the door in 2009, Powell’s deep chip-carving technique was evident in the work’s multilayered bands of geometric carvings, but layers of blue and green latex overpainting had compromised its original crisp carving. A hint of a bright reddish-orange underlayer of paint was visible in several areas where the surface paint had abraded. Former workshop employees, New Hope residents, and Powell family members remembered the door on Powell’s house as being originally painted in shades of red and reddish orange, with carvings in different colors.

Furniture conservator Behrooz Salimnejad worked with a cross-sectional microscopic analysis of the door’s paint layers. Taking paint samples from different areas of the door, Salimnejad analyzed them under a microscope with visible and UV lights. The microscopy revealed that the original finish consisted of five shades of vermilion, bright red, reddish orange, orange, and warm yellow in distinct carved areas of the door. Salimnejad carefully removed the top layers of latex paint to reveal the door’s original paint colors and crisp carvings.

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