Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mary Louise McLaughlin, American cerramist

America held their first World’s Fair, the “International Exposition of 1876” commonly known as the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.  The Civil War was over.  People wanted to move on, to show the world our best.  And we invited the world to stand beside us, show us their best. 

American women were especially motivated by this watershed event.  For many it began with china painting, the first true ‘ceramic-art’ movement in the US.  Two presidential wives and many future leaders in the movement began as china painters.  But any list of Art Pottery leaders must begin with Mary Louise McLaughlin and Maria Longworth Nichols.

Mary Louise McLaughlin’s Centennial experience motivated her to spearhead in 1879 the Queen City OH Pottery Club, aka The Cincinatti Pottery Club, America’s first all-women’s pottery organization.  Her efforts set the stage for Rookwood and the blossoming of Art Pottery in Cincinnati.  Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols, another Centennial convert.  No other pottery matched Rookwood’s uniquely American style.

Mary Louise McLaughlin

But there were many others; Newcomb Pottery in New Orleans founded specifically to instruct young women; Mary Chase Stratton’s Pewabic Pottery in Detroit; Linna Irelan’s Art Pottery in San Francisco, CA, which exclusively used native Californian clays.  These and many more set the stage for Adelaide Alsop Robineau’s porcelain work beginning in 1904 and culminating in her magisterial Scarab Vase.  The stage was set for America’s Arts and Crafts revolution.
(source: thisdayinpotteryhistory.)


She wrote a best selling self-help book on china painting in two weeks. 
At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia,  Mary Louise McLaughlin examined the art pottery of France's Havilland & Co. where the decorations were painted under the glaze, not over the glaze. This technical advancement was important to ceramic decorators and McLaughlin desired to develop this technique.  It took a year before the materials arrived from France, and in 1877 she began experimenting and in three months discovered the secrets to underglaze painting. 
Mary Louise McLaughlin, Losanti Vase, 1892

 In 1895, she patented a technique for inlay decoration in pottery. In 1898 she built a kiln in her back yard and became the first American to work in studio porcelain, the most difficult of all clays. This phenomenal woman came out of early Americana, but gave methodology to future studio potters.

(source: Jayne Shatz)

The Ali Baba vase, M.L. McLaughlin, 1880
Her biography, by Anita Ellis, "The Ceramic Career of M. Louise McLaughlin" is the first definitive study dedicated to her accomplishments.

Anita Ellis depicts the many challenges McLaughlin encountered in pursuit of her ultimately successful career. Not the least of these was her rivalry with the formidable Maria Longworth Nichols, fellow Cincinnatian and founder of the Rookwood Pottery Company. Another was that of being a woman in the arts: her primary goal had been to paint portraits on canvas, but Victorian society did not afford opportunities in what was considered a male sphere.
Background on the book: Deputy director of curatorial affairs at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Anita J. Ellis is the author of "Rookwood Pottery: The Glorious Gamble", which won the Florence Roberts Head Book of the Year Award, and "Rookwood Pottery: The Glaze Lines."

(See tomorrow's blog focusing on Maria Longworth Nichols of the Rookwood Pottery)

And for today's quote from a woman artist:

"The mountains are never still.
Over her skin, the power is moving,
the dragon traveling, timeless, shining.

Annelinde Metzner, April 12, 2010 

"In Love with the Rooted Earth"

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