Cup with beetles

Adelaide Alsop Robineau American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

Adelaide Alsop Robineau was a consummate craftsman and a brilliant designer, who, working on her own, tackled the challenging medium of porcelain in an era when the medium was the domain of large-scale commercial factories. Like many talented women of her era, she began her career as a china painter and teacher, and with her husband, Samuel Robineau, founded the extraordinarily influential periodical Keramic Studio (later Design). She was a pioneer in the field of ceramics, and challenged traditional gender roles in her trail-blazing career, throwing the clay herself, decorating, and glazing her vessels. Her artistic porcelains are today acknowledged to surpass the work of any other American studio potter.
This is one of the very first works in porcelain that the artist ever executed. Robineau’s husband, Samuel Robineau, referenced this little pot, in discussing his wife’s early years as a potter: “In 1901 one day she went to visit her friend Chas. Volkmar in his little pottery in New Jersey [sic—referring to Volkmar’s studio in New York], and there she took a little clay and made by hand a shapeless little cup, then decorated it with three carved beetles on the edge. Volkmar baked it and later in her own pottery Mrs. R. marked the date 1901, her initials A. R. and glazed the cup in blue and beetles in white. I have the piece yet, it is very interesting not only because of the date, the first piece of pottery she made, but because in that decoration of beetles she instinctively and unknowingly showed the kind of carved decoration in relief which she was going to use so much later on.” [From an undated letter (ca. 1935) from S. E. Robineau to Carlton Atherton, who was writing an essay on Robineau, in Weiss, Peg, ed. Adelaide Alsop Robineau: Glory in Porcelain (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1981), p. 205, fn. 16.]
Through her exceptional work which was exhibited widely both throughout the United States and abroad and both her editorial voice and articles in Keramic Studio, Robineau left an indelible print on the history of American ceramic, and was significant in paving the way for American studio potters that follow in the decades after her death.

Cup with beetles, Adelaide Alsop Robineau (American, Middletown, Connecticut, 1865–1929 Syracuse, New York), Porcelain, American

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