Susan S. G. Frackelton American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 707

The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 was a critical catalyst for the development of the American Art Pottery movement. In celebration of the country's hundred-year history, the enormous fair--for which preparations began in 1871--was designed to demonstrate America's technological and artistic progress in the years since gaining its independence. Ceramics played a critical role at the fair, providing an anthology of world ceramics, the repercussions of which were felt for decades. In addition to showcasing the achievements of American potteries, the Philadelphia Centennial exposed visitors to European and Asian accomplishments in often lavish presentations. Many American ceramists and connoisseurs particularly admired the presentation mounted by the Royal Doulton Company, from Lambeth, just outside of London. Their impressive showing was said to have included six to seven hundred unique work. One of their lines revived fifteenth- to seventeenth-century Continental salt-glazed stoneware.

Susan Frackelton, one of the aspiring American ceramists who viewed Doulton's display of stoneware, was stimulated to try her hand at the medium. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Frackelton started her artistic career as a painter and then as a china painter in a studio she set up for herself in Milwaukee. This is one of Frackelton's first work in stoneware. Dated 1879, it is the earliest known ceramic executed by her, although the "No. 2" inscribed on the underside suggests that it may have been the second in a series. Its overall style recalls the stoneware produced by Doulton as well as the Rhenish and Flemish stoneware of earlier centuries. Having no practical training, Frackelton worked rather roughly; the vase is deeply, even somewhat crudely carved. A Latin inscription around the rim, "CUM. GRANO. SALIS, A.D.1879" (with a grain of salt A. D. 1879) refers to both the traditional maxim and the use of salt in the stoneware glaze. Despite this early foray with stoneware, Frackelton soon returned to the less demanding medium of china painting.

This vase is from the Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of American art pottery donated to the Metropolitan Museum in 2017 and 2018. The works in the collection date from the mid-1870s through the 1950s. Together they comprise one of the most comprehensive and important assemblages of this material known.

Vase, Susan S. G. Frackelton (1848–1932), Stoneware, American

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