Multicolored glazed terracotta
Gift of William P. Curry, Class of 1957; C.986.78
Typical of Grueby’s finest wares, this vase boasts weighty proportions and a tactile matte glaze with silvery veining. Grueby vases were usually handthrown by men and then decorated by women who had graduated from Boston art schools. The applied ornamentation on this vase was the work of Annie V. Lingley, who attended the Massachusetts Normal Art School in the 1890s and later exhibited china painting with the Newark Society of Keramic Arts. She would have ornamented this vessel according to specifications from the firm’s chief designer, George Kendrick, employed by Grueby from 1897 to 1902. The inspiration for the shapes and decoration of Grueby’s wares was as eclectic as American turn-of-the century taste. This vase, with its imposing proportions and “eared” handles at the shoulder, vaguely recalls ancient Egyptian vessels. Adding an echo of Japanese (and contemporary art nouveau) aesthetics, an upright iris plant appears on each side, one in yellow, the other purple. Its blossom extends up to the line formed by the handles and shoulder, providing an integration of decoration and form that was central to the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. Like many craftsmen associated with the movement, Grueby’s artisans aimed for an intentionally “handmade” look that made each piece unique. This iris vase is one of the firm’s rarer forms and is also distinguished by the slipping of its glaze and the expressive veining radiating out from the iris. The end effect is at once tactile and painterly. Other art potteries attempted to create their own green glazes in imitation of Grueby. Although none succeeded in matching Grueby’s sophisticated surface effects, their cheaper, often mass-manufactured wares cut in to Grueby’s profits and contributed to the firm’s closing in 1910.
Last Updated: 5/6/09