An Artist’s Perspective: Dolores Furnari Breathes New Life Into Early American Art Form

Dolores Furnari, a traditional artisan and Early American artist.

Dolores Furnari, a traditional artisan and Early American artist.

We are proud to introduce a new blog feature titled”An Artist’s Perspective.” Every week, we will present a profile of one our artists and a sampling of their work so that you may get to know our members better. And who better to start with than our Guild president Dolores Funari?

Dolores has two major artistic passions: theorem painting and ornamental art. Both are Early American art forms. Traditionally, theorem painting is done on cotton velveteen using handmade stencils before doing detail work by hand. The art form was popular in schools for girls and women during the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States and, along with embroidery, was a part of a woman’s cultural development education. The process involves applying paint through stencil openings with small, stiff brushes. For her ornamental work, Dolores engages in projects such as decorating Hitchcock chairs, boxes, and metal trays.

In her work and as an instructor, Dolores adds her own unique touch to theorem painting. Originally, watercolor was often used, but she prefers to use mostly oil paints to make the style uniquely hers.


Theorem painting by Dolores Furnari.

Originally a native of Massachusettes, Dolores-the-student got her certificate in Decorative Art from Fitchburg State College. But, when it comes to her passion for theorem painting, her start came after she moved to New Hampshire. A friend asked her to try out a stencil-cutting class for the purpose of creating a theorem painting. The 10-week class was at the YMCA. By the end of the course, her instructor had announced that she was no longer teaching the class at the Y anymore, but by then, Dolores was hooked. When she discovered that the same teacher would be offering classes at her home, Dolores signed up immediately, and never looked back.

After 17 years of tutelage, the student became the master. In 1973, Dolores decided it was time to take her extensive theorem education and experience and get her teaching feet wet. She taught in New Hampshire until May of 1986 when she moved to Brandon, Vt., to be with family, where she began teaching and continues to do so right up to this day.

Along the way, Dolores became a member, former trustee and past president of the Historical Society of Early American Decoration and, of course, a member and president of the Brandon Artists Guild. Dolores joined the Guild some 13 years ago, and has been president for the last four years. She has found the experience incredibly rewarding.

Her path took her to her first formal art opening, just last year with an attendance nearing 100!

Now, Dolores sees her role as artist and educator, bringing Early American Art forms to contemporary audiences and students alike — and the students keep lining up to learn about how to create stenciling on metal trays, reverse paintings on glass, gold leaf on glass, stenciling on wood, county painted trays, portrait painting, theorems, and more.

Her enthusiasm for art hasn’t waned one iota. In fact, it’s what inspires her students to attempt designs that they might never have otherwise and when they do, they get hooked just like Dolores did during her first course. That’s why Dolores loves to teach even after doing it for so long: she loves it when her students feel inspired by her to create artwork for themselves or as gifts.