Gifts from the Fire: American Ceramics, 1880–1950

Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney and Martin Eidelberg (2021)

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Gifts from the Fire: American Ceramics from the Collection of Martin Eidelberg
October 22, 2021–October 16, 2022

Following the nation’s Centennial in 1876, American ceramics, often inspired by Europe, China, and Japan, quickly developed into an art form that demonstrated the nation’s own artistic originality. This exhibition of over 150 works dating from the early 1880s to the early 1950s, features a selection from the recent gift to The Met by scholar Martin Eidelberg. This collection includes works of extraordinary diversity—with stylized decoration, often jewel-like glazes, and even displays of whimsy. Together, they illuminate the impressive accomplishments of American potteries and ceramists from cities across the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Emphasized throughout the exhibition are the creations of women artists, who had newly moved into professional pottery during this time, including works with exquisite carved decoration by such pioneering artists as Adelaide Alsop Robineau, who worked in porcelain and developed lustrous crystalline glazes. Other artists include Louis C. Tiffany and his nature-inspired vessels; the eccentric potter George E. Ohr, from Biloxi, Mississippi; and Artus Van Briggle and his wife Anna Van Briggle, with their Art Nouveau and Symbolist-inspired work in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Between the wars, talented émigré ceramists adapted prevailing styles from their countries and produced work often in a modernist vein. A multiplicity of voices characterizes this era of American ceramics with new styles, new materials, and new techniques all on display.