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Detail of Purple Floral Humidor; Rookwood Pottery [Albert B. Humphreys], 1883

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American Arts and Crafts Ceramics

Paul F. Betz Reading Room
April 24, 2019
October 24, 2019

The Arts and Crafts movement in America would not have come into being without its British predecessor. A pushback against the massive surge of industry in mid nineteenth-century England, the British Arts and Crafts movement was based on the principles of beauty, décor, and personal craftsmanship in an attempt to move away from increasingly common mechanization and industrialization.

The concept of beautiful craftsmanship carried to the United States through newspapers and periodicals, and inspired the formation of Arts and Crafts Societies in cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago in the late nineteenth-century. There were also Arts and Crafts training programs for young women specifically, as the concepts of beauty, simplicity, and interior décor were thought to be inherently feminine. These training programs produced many skilled artists who went on to establish well-known pottery companies, such as Newcomb Pottery.

The first Arts and Crafts exhibition in America was held in Boston, and showcased over 1000 works created by 160 artisans. The Society of Arts and Crafts was established in 1897 after the extremely favorable reception of the Arts and Crafts exhibition. The Society’s stated purpose was to “develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts.” The overarching goal of the American Arts and Crafts Movement was to stimulate American craftsmanship in the decorative arts, which included artisans of jewelry, furniture, and ceramics.

Inspired by the socialist philosophies behind the British Arts and Crafts movement, craftsmen in the American movement established several “utopian” communities around the United States. The most famous of these communities was the Roycroft community in upstate New York, established by author Elbert Hubbard. The Roycrofters’ goal was to rebuff the generalized machination of society by personally crafting beautiful works themselves in their own cloistered community.

The American Arts and Crafts movement ended by the 1920s, as industry and mechanization moved into the forefront of the American national identity. However, the artists left us with a legacy of distinctive objects from a period when beautiful craftsmanship was not only valued, but highly sought-after.

 

Steuben Glass

Steuben Glass Works was formed in 1903 through the merger of New York-based glass engravers T.G. Hawkes and Company and English art nouveau glassmaker Frederick Carder. Thus, Steuben represents an aesthetic synthesis of the American and English Arts and Crafts traditions in the production of a renowned line of glassware of the finest artistic quality. Indicative of its elevated status in the art world, four works of Steuben glass were first accessioned into New York’s Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection in 1938.

President Truman and his First Lady, Bess, gave a Steuben glass bowl and plates to Queen Elizabeth as a wedding gift in 1947, establishing a long-held tradition of gifts of state by subsequent U.S. presidents.

Blue Aurene Vase

Blue Aurene Vase
Steuben Glass
ca. 1905
16.9 cm x 5.7 cm

Blue to purple glass vase with fluted mouth
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.5

Loetz Glass

The culmination of a Bohemian glass company founded in 1836, Loetz Glass expanded its client base and talent under the direction of Susanne Gerstner, widow of famed glassmaker Johann Loetz. She passed the company on to her grandson in 1879, who hired more artists and modernized the company and its glass-making processes. Loetz Glass received awards at the 1889 and 1900 World Expositions in Paris, and was known for its glass that mimicked expensive stones and jewels.

Blue and Green Oil Spot Vessel

Blue and Green Oil Spot Vessel
Loetz Glass
7.1 cm x 10.4 cm

Short vase that shifts blue, purple, to green with oil spot decoration
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2016.30.1

Green Iridescent Pinch Vase

Green Iridescent Pinch Vase
Loetz Glass Style
1900-1925
12.1 cm x 8.9 cm

Iridescent bright green glass vase with four divots ("pinches") just below the neck
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.7

Oil Spot Fluted Vase

Oil Spot Fluted Vase
Loetz Glass
ca. 1895-1900
8.6 cm x 10.2 cm

Short glass vase with rippled fluted mouth. Gold to blue to purple shifting oil spot coloration
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2014.19.4

Rookwood Pottery

Cincinnati artist Maria Longworth Nichols established Rookwood Pottery in 1880, at the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement in America. Inspired by artistic currents in England, this aesthetic movement focused on decorative works like pottery and glass, and Rookwood became famous for the craft. In 1889 and 1900, Rookwood Pottery won medals at back-to-back Expositions Universelles in Paris, which elevated the American Arts and Crafts movement and Rookwood Pottery itself to the international stage.

Rookwood has also been involved in ceramic tile production, creating decorative architectural tiles for the New York City subway system and the Monroe Building in Chicago. Rookwood remains in business today.

Blue Vase with Daffodils

Blue Vase with Daffodils
Rookwood Pottery, Caroline Steinle
1910
17.8 cm x 9.7 cm

Vase with gray to blue glaze and pale yellow daffodils
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.2

Low Bowl with Pansies

Low Bowl with Pansies
Rookwood Pottery, Grace Hall
1910
5.7 cm x 15.2 cm

Shallow bowl with burnt orange and brown glaze with yellow and orange painted pansies
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.1

Purple Floral Humidor

Purple Floral Humidor
Rookwood Pottery, Albert B. Humphreys
1883
12.7 cm x 12.7 cm

Off-white ceramic humidor with purple flowers, green leaves, and four "pinched" divots
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.3

A Quiet Stream Plaque

A Quiet Stream Plaque
Rookwood Pottery, Lorinda Epply
1913
26 cm x 31.1 cm

Wood-framed ceramic plaque of idyllic trees around a quiet stream
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2007.17.1

Brown Vase with Large Yellow Flowers

Standard Glaze Vase
Rookwood Pottery, Sadie Markland
17.8 cm x 7.6 cm

Brown and burnt orange glazed vase with large painted yellow flowers
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2014.19.1

Large Blue Vase with Pink Flowers and Spiky Leaves

Black Iris Glaze Vase
Rookwood Pottery
1904
24. 8 cm x 11.4 cm

Large vase with deep brown to light blue glaze, with pink flowers and spiky leaves
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2014.19.5

Brown Ewer with Yellow Flowers

Louwelsa Ewer
Weller Pottery
1896-1899
13.3 cm x 14 cm

Brown glazed small ceramic pitcher (ewer) with bright painted yellow flowers and a fluted spout
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.6

Bluish-gray Vase with Pink and White Flowers

Iris Glaze Vase
Rookwood Pottery
1904
17.1 cm x 8.3 cm

Vase with grayish-blue glaze and white and pink flowers
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2016.30.4

Fulper Pottery

An exponent of the American Arts and Crafts movement, Fulper Pottery began producing ornamental vases in 1909. In its early years, Fulper produced only practical objects like cookware and water filters. Director William H. Fulper was inspired by Chinese earthenware aesthetics and led the company into the decorative arts arena. Elements of Asian artistic influence may be seen in the shapes and glazes of Fulper vases.

Bulb-bottom vase, blue on the bottom with a brown skinny neck

Brown and Blue Bulb Vase
Fulper Pottery
1916-1922
20.3 cm x 11.4 cm

Bulb-bottom vase with skinny neck, and a brown shiny to blue matte glaze
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2014.19.2

Moss to Rose Glaze vase with Three Small handles

Three-Handle Vase with Moss to Rose Glaze
Fulper Pottery
17.1 cm x 11.4 cm

Moss to rose glazed vase with three small handles
Gift of James and Janet Sale
2013.19.4

Acknowledgments: 

Frances Williams, University Art Collection Curatorial Intern and Graduate Student in Art and Museum Studies (Spring 2019)