Early Wedgwood Ceramics
February 21 - May 16, 2004
Featuring approximately 30 examples from the late eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century, this exhibition highlights the techniques and forms of Wedgwood in the century after its foundation and points to the flexibility, experimental artistry, and technological advances of its earliest makers. The Wedgwood ceramics showcased include a surprising group of plates, bowls, molds, vases, trays, tureens, medallions, kettles, and mortars and pestles in a variety of designs and finishes.
The youngest of 12 children of an English potter from the area of Stoke-on-Trent in northwest England, Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) is credited with revolutionizing the production and forms of pottery during the Industrial Age in Europe. Keen patrons in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, Continental Europe, and eventually America, demanded Wedgwood for its exceptionally high quality and the range of its new and fashionable finishes and patterns. While the Wedgwood trade name usually evokes images of so-called jasperware, (Josiah's classic blue stoneware pottery decorated with white classical low relief designs), he and his son, Josiah Wedgwood II, produced a staggering range of ceramic products. These included creamware (also called "Queen's ware," which overtook Delftware in popularity by the late 1760s), black basalte (later called basalte), drabware, mortarware (stoneware produced for top scientists of the day for its durability and hardness), and others. These vessels were often further adorned with a range of eastern and western designs, including neoclassical, baroque, and so-called "Etruscan," and Egyptian decorations.
Highlighting the spectrum of what Josiah the Elder termed "useful" and "ornamental" types, this exhibition points to early Wedgwood's enormous success in producing pottery on a mass, varied scale, and in satisfying a range of functions and tastes throughout England, Europe and early America.