Clinton Howell learned his original craft as a restorer at the London College of Furniture, where he looked closely at how pieces were made and the raw materials from which they were constructed.
“My interest was less about style and more about timbers and wood and how to conserve a piece of antique furniture, as opposed to stripping it and starting again,” he says.
From Restoration to Dealing
This fascination with craftsmanship drove Clinton to open his antique furniture shop in New York at the end of the 1970s; he has now been in the business as a dealer for 42 years.
“It’s a way of life, and you get hooked on finding things. And when you find something really great, it’s so exciting.”
Clinton’s first choice is always high-end English antique furniture. “For me, it has the most interest, the most history. It’s got the greatest story.”
Quality, Mystery and the Art of Discovery
One of his most fascinating recent finds is a swivel chair dating to around 1750-55. “It’s a very strange piece of furniture,” says Clinton, clearly entranced. “It looks like an English reading chair… for anyone collecting c.1755; it’s a home run.”
A keen blogger and generous with his expertise, Clinton likes to share his knowledge and experiences through storytelling. He blends tales from his past with antiques that have passed through his hands, setting them all in a historical and social context. His writing makes the past come alive, whether dwelling on something as simple as the concept of the cabriole leg, recalling the overwhelming odor of glue at the London college where he trained as a restorer or considering the more complex issue of aesthetics.
His many gifted essays, available on his website, create a vivid picture of a specialist’s life.
“What’s the most fun about dealing is discovering something that everybody else is overlooking, and that happens for dealers all the time,” he reveals.
Public Service and Private Client Service Go Hand in Hand
As President of both the Art & Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA) and the International Federation of Art and Antique Dealer Associations (CINOA) – the world’s largest art market trade federation representing more than 5,000 dealers – Clinton’s focus on quality and service is not restricted to his own business; setting and upholding standards for the entire industry is of equal importance to him.
Find out more about Clinton in the short video below.