The popularity of hand-decorated ceramic art grew out of the china painting trend of the late nineteenth century, when thousands of women around the country took up the art of painting on porcelain. While simply a hobby for many women, others turned porcelain decorating into a professional artistic venture.
One of the leaders of the china painting trend was Susan Frackelton of Milwaukee. In addition to painting and selling her own work, Frackelton patented a portable gas kiln, developed her own line of glazes, published an instruction manual (“Tried By Fire”, 1885), and established a nationwide organization of china painters known as the National League of Mineral Painters.
Another Midwestern china painter, Maria Longworth Nichols of Cincinnati, Ohio, was a major influence on the Pauline Pottery. In 1882, Pauline Jacobus took courses in ceramic design and production at Nichols’s newly established art pottery, the Rookwood Pottery. When Jacobus returned to Chicago to establish her own pottery she brought along two Rookwood employees—designer Laura Fry and kiln builder John Sargent. Jacobus also adopted the system of production in use at Rookwood.
This story was edited and adapted from EKP’s original Curators’ Favorites article.
Brandimarte, Cynthia A. “Somebody’s Aunt and Nobody’s Mother: The American China Painter and Her Work, 1870-1920” (“Winterthur Portfolio” 23:4, 1988, pp. 203-224).
Owen, Nancy E. “Rookwood and the Industry of Art: Women, Culture, and Commerce, 1880-1913” (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2001).
Montgomery, Maurice. “Edgerton’s History in Clay: Pauline Pottery to Pickard China” (2001).
Pagel, Ori-Anne. “Pauline Pottery: A Pictorial Supplement to Edgerton’s History in Clay” (Edgerton, WI: Arts Council of Edgerton, 2003).
Wisconsin Pottery Association, “Significant Wisconsin Pottery Companies” available online at www.wisconsinpottery.org/wis-hist.htm.