NEW YORK, NY.-
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
has accepted the promised gift of 250 exceptional examples of American art pottery from the collector Robert A. Ellison Jr., it was announced at a meeting of the Museum's Board of Trustees today. The collectionwhich spans the years 1876 through 1956 and represents all regions of the nationranks among the foremost of its kind, and will be unveiled on the mezzanine level of the Museum's Charles Engelhard Court when the second phase of the newly renovated American Wing opens on May 19, 2009.
Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented: "I am delighted to announce Robert Ellison's generous promised gift of American ceramics. To be shown publicly for the first time this spring in an exhibition space dedicated to the material, these superb works reveal the 80-year history of the artistic pottery movement in the United States, from its start around the time of the nation's centennial to the mid-1950s, when the contemporary pottery movement began. Individually, each is a wonderful object; shown together, they delight the eye and will surely stimulate new interest in American ceramics among the general public and specialists. It gives me particular pleasure to note that the inaugural presentation of this important new acquisitiona truly transformative addition to our collection of American decorative artswill be part of the celebration surrounding the re-opening of much of The American Wing."
Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, continued: "Amassed over the course of four-and-a-half decades, Bob Ellison's collection of American ceramics is unparalleled in quality and depth. These varied and noteworthy works represent his abiding curiosity about an art form thatat the timewas both overlooked and underappreciated. At the Met, where the collection will be prominently displayed and seen by thousands of visitors each year, it will serve as an important and accessible resource."
Outstanding works from every major American pottery and many lesser-known but historically significant potteries are featured in the collection. The objects range in size from miniature vessels a few inches tall to plaques, lamps, and large-scale vases measuring more than two feet in height. Among the highlights are 16 extraordinary vessels by the renowned Biloxi, Mississippi, potter George E. Ohr (1857-1918), whose eccentric wheel-thrown vessels presaged abstracted forms by nearly half a century. Noted works from quintessential Arts and Crafts potteries, like Newcomb, Grueby, Rookwood, Marblehead, and Saturday Evening Girls are represented in depth. The holdings of refined and unusual glazed pieces of Chelsea Keramic Art Works are without peer. The collection also encompasses singular examples by such distinguished 20th-century artists working in ceramics as Henry Varnum Poor (1888-1970), Hunt Diederich (1884-1953), and Peter Voulkos (1924-2002).
The primary catalyst in the development of the American art pottery movement was the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, which introduced the American public to ceramics of the highest quality from Europe and Asia. This influence continued until 1956, when the California potter Peter Voulkos altered traditional wheel-thrown vessels into sculpture-like shapes, ushering in the era of contemporary ceramics.
The May 2009 opening of The Charles Engelhard Court, balcony galleries, and early American period rooms marks the completion of the second part (begun in May 2007) of a project to reconfigure, renovate, or upgrade nearly every section of The American Wing by 2011. The third and final phase will involve a total renovation of the American paintings and sculpture galleries and the addition of eight completely new galleries for the display of the Museum's superb collection of this material.