main image
The Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of European Art Pottery
Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection, Gift of Robert A. Ellison Jr., 2013; and Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; 2011 Benefit Fund; and The Isaacson-Draper Foundation Gift, 2013
Episode 6 / 2014
Featured Work

...they regarded themselves
as artists choosing to work
in the medium of clay...

A new type of ceramic emerged in Europe in the closing decades of the nineteenth century that is now known as Art Pottery. This term derives from the ambitions of the potters of the period to produce vessels as works of art rather than as simply utilitarian objects, and they regarded themselves as artists choosing to work in the medium of clay. Many of these potters were reacting against the historicizing styles so popular at this time, and they also favored a return to handcrafted objects and traditional techniques. In their reaction against mass production, the artist-potters sought to work in small studios, expressing their own creative vision. Inspired by Asian ceramics, many of the potters elected to work in stoneware rather than in the more refined medium of porcelain, and they experimented with high-fire glazes that often served as the primary decoration.

In the 1970s, Robert A. Ellison Jr. began collecting the works of the most celebrated European artist-potters, favoring large-scale works with stunning glazes. The Museum recently acquired 76 works from the Ellison Collection that represent some of the best examples of Art Pottery produced in Europe between 1880 and 1930. The works by potters such as Ernest Chaplet, Auguste Delaherche, and Adrien Dalpayrat reflect the intense interest at this time in re-creating the famous but technically challenging deep red glazes of Chinese ceramics. One of the highlights of the Ellison Collection is a rare ceramic work by Paul Gauguin, whose interest was in the sculptural possibilities of clay rather than in glaze effects. This vessel is the first ceramic work by Gauguin to enter the Museum's collection.

Bob Ellison made a spectacular promised gift of more than 300 American ceramics to the Museum in 2009, and the acquisition of his European works, made jointly by the departments of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and Modern and Contemporary, makes the Met one of the great repositories of Art Pottery in the world.

Jeff Munger
Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
Elizabeth Sullivan
Research Associate
Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
When does a pot become art?

Robert A. Ellison, Jr on his collection of European Art Pottery.

Made possible by Bloomberg

The Metropolitan Museum of Art LogoEmail

Type the CAPTCHA word: