Newark Museum official – 100 Masterpieces of Art Pottery, 1880-1930

September 23, 2009 through January 10, 2010 Artistic ceramics is not a new idea. After all, the finest decorated pottery in ancienct Greece was both functional and artistic. The potteries in Renaissance Italy produced brilliant painterly vessels that were appreciated as art. Likewise, it is hard to dismiss the brilliant enamel painting on European porcelains in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as only “decoration.” However, something did happen in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Part of it was the rise of an anti-industrial reaction to “soulless” factory production; part of it was a growing awareness in the West of revered ceramic traditions from Asia. All of this came together, in the United States at least, at the national Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. That moment was a cultural watershed for America, a moment that unleashed something of an aesthetic awakening. It was in the aftermath of the Centennial that Americans began to see the potential for transforming ceramics from merely ornaments into art objects. In shape, in glaze, in surface treatment, pots could be more than just pots.

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