Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood De Forest, Frederic Church

silver cake saw with engraving of palm tree landscape on the blade of the saw.

About Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood De Forest, Frederic Church

Designer and painter Lockwood de Forest (1850–1932), America’s leading Aesthetic Movement champion of Indian design, created the room in which this exhibition is housed.

Located on the second floor, the Teak Room as it is known informally, is the former Carnegie family library. The room displays de Forest’s decorative arts objects, designed and collected, as they reflect the Aesthetic Movement’s passion for the “exotic,” and defines his role in creating an Indian style of interior decoration in late–19th-century America.

During this time, collectors and painters flocked to the Middle and Far East for examples of extraordinary craftsmanship, inspiration for interior decoration, and unusual settings to paint. Among them were de Forest and landscape painter Frederic E. Church (1826–1900), de Forest’s painting teacher and mentor in collecting decorative arts objects from exotic locales, including the Holy Land, Syria, and Egypt.

During his year-long honeymoon in 1881 to India, de Forest established a studio guided by Muggunbhai Hutheesing in the city of Ahmedabad, where he employed master craftsmen to create decorative teak wood and brass panels that he imported to the United States.

Here, the Indian influence is evident in the library’s patterned wall stenciling; lacquered in yellow, it creates a golden light that is reminiscent of Indian latticed screens. Although the walls and ceilings were painted on canvas on site, the carved teak came from de Forest’s studio in India, using primarily native designs that he adapted.

The exhibition includes works from the museum’s acclaimed Frederic Church collection as well as deForest’s own paintings. It provides an opportunity to experience, in a deForest created room, the range of his achievements. The room represents the most complete existing de Forest architectural interior in America still situated in the its original site.


Explore all the objects in the exhibition through our online collection interface.


Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church is made possible in part by the American Express Foundation.

Restoration of the Teak Room is supported in part by the American Express Historic Preservation Fund.