Robert Morrissey is an appraiser and owner of Robert Morrissey Antiques and Fine Art, the oldest – and certainly one of the finest – antique galleries in St. Louis. Until last year, the business was known as Clark Graves Antiques, which opened in 1948 on Meramec Avenue in Clayton. Morrissey has been a part of the business since 1982, when founder and owner Clark Graves hired the young college grad as a clerk. After Graves passed away in 1993, Morrissey took over the shop and has been at the helm ever since. He changed the name of the business to Robert Morrissey Antiques and Fine Art in 2014.
What drew you to this field initially?
I’ve been interested in collecting objects since I was a young boy, so it’s natural I became an antiques dealer. I’m ever grateful to have found a career that suits me so well – 33 years and counting!
What period does the shop specialize in?
Historically, this shop has specialized in 18th and 19th-century European furniture and objects, so that’s the material I know best. Just over a year ago, I changed the name from Clark Graves Antiques to Robert Morrissey Antiques and Fine Art. With that, I’ve expanded the brand. While I still handle traditional European antiques, I also handle modern and mid-century furniture and art. Learning about it has been an interesting process, and mixing period antiques with modern design makes for a very personal and eclectic look. I love it!
How do you go about procuring the antiques and vintage items that you sell?
Being the oldest antiques gallery in St. Louis and having worked here for so long, I have a network of contacts here in St. Louis and around the country. Things are constantly coming and going.
What’s the most interesting piece you've ever handled?
Tough question! I’ve handled a lot of material through the years, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one object. Right now, I’m working on an elevator grill designed in 1893 by Louis Sullivan for the Chicago Stock Exchange building. Sullivan, of course, designed the Wainwright Building, one of the most important buildings in St. Louis. He is one of the founders of modernism and modern architecture, and he mentored Frank Lloyd Wright. Not only is this grill a gorgeous artifact, it’s an important piece of architectural and design history.
What are some pieces of note that you have on hand now?
I have an eclectic mix of things on hand these days: a beautiful walnut pedestal desk, c. 1800; a set of four Italian mid-century cast metal chairs; an abstract oil on canvas by Roger Desrosier, who was dean of the art school at Washington University from 1977-1988 and a superb neoclassical commode made in Milan, c. 1795.
How do you define your own aesthetic taste?
I gravitate toward the neoclassical styles – Empire, Biedermeier, Regency. I like the formal, architectural qualities and admire their balance and proportion. Interestingly, some of the best modern designs are informed by neoclassicism, so mixing the two together can make for a fantastic look.