Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

10.11.2013

Newcomb Less Known

[Newcomb Pottery vase circa 1899 decorated by Emilie de Hoa LeBlanc and thrown Joseph Fortune Meyer. MFA, Boston.] 

Moonlight through moss-draped branches: maybe the image most associated with Newcomb Pottery. While no two Newcomb vases were ever exactly alike, variations of the quintessentially Southern 'Moon and Moss' theme were very much in demand. To the point that the women painting the ceramics often tired of the popular motif, notes curator Sally Main in The Arts & Crafts of Newcomb Pottery. I'm midway through this beautifully produced exhibition catalogue, and later we'll look at more iconic blue-and-green moss-covered Newcomb, but today here's a peek at another side of the New Orleans-made wares.

[Left: pinkish-beige glaze on double-gourd form, potter unidentified. Right: two-handled vase with green glaze over exposed clay, thought to be by Selina Elizabeth Bres. Both circa 1898, from Newcomb Pottery and in the MFA, Boston. The Arts & Crafts of Newcomb Pottery.]

In his contribution to the catalogue, Martin Eidelberg discusses unornamented Japanese-inspired pieces that came out of the studio around 1900. Controversial at the time, these vases with drippy, irregular glazes were appreciated by House Beautiful and the MFA, Boston (the museum acquired two examples shortly after they were created). Eidelberg sees the influence of Newcomb's gifted professional potter, Joseph Meyer, here, and speculates that some student decorators such as Selina Elizabeth Bres learned from Meyer to glaze and perhaps throw their own pots. This would be a big deal because Newcomb strictly divided duties by gender: men threw; women did surface design.

Another example of Newcomb Pottery Orientalism highlighted by Eidelberg is Emilie de Hoa LeBlanc's vase shown at top. Also in the MFA's permanent collection, this white eathenware piece has a blue and green underglaze, a distinctly Eastern form, and wonderfully stylized oak leaf surface ornamentation -- the leaves being a nod to Louisiana. 


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