Milwaukee Art Museum Features Rare Arts and Crafts Pottery, 10/25/07-2/10/08

Posted on September 5th, 2007

Milwaukee, WI, September 6, 2007–Colorful, iconic examples of American Arts and Crafts pottery tell the compelling story of one of America’s most successful reform-minded workshops in Art and Reform: Sara Galner, the Saturday Evening Girls, and the Paul Revere Pottery. ┬áThis comprehensive exhibition of turn-of-the-century household wares is on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum October 25, 2007-February 10, 2008.

Art and Reform presents over 100 plates, cups, bowls, vases, and other useful items hand-decorated by young Italian and Jewish immigrant girls at the Paul Revere Pottery in Boston from 1908 to 1942. The spectral assortment of cozy housewares is installed in the Museum’s lower-level Decorative Arts Gallery. Pieces are displayed amidst historical photographs and texts outlining the popular forms and philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States.

Donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by the son of one of the Paul Revere Pottery’s most prolific artists, Sara Galner, the ceramics in the exhibition make up an impressive display of Galner’s work. Valued today as excellent illustrations of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States, the works displayed are functional, moralistic icons decorated with simple mottos, abstract patterns, and stylized imagery of nature and barnyard animals. A collection of this size and scope is rare. Steady attrition has depleted many original sets of Paul Revere Pottery, as these youth-oriented domestic wares were originally marketed and sold for everyday use.

Developed by the philanthropic community that sprung up to address the problems of explosive growth in Boston’s North End at the peak of industrialization, the Paul Revere Pottery educated and assimilated immigrant girls while addressing the economic imperatives of the young women’s families. At its core, the Pottery was not just a workshop but a surrogate home that championed the potential of middle-class domesticity. It offered its young workers a healthy and safe wage-earning environment amongst their peers that was both off the streets and outside the factories.

A Jewish immigrant of Austro-Hungarian descent, Sara Galner immediately stood out as a talented decorator from the start of her involvement in the Pottery, in 1911. Her signature appears on outstanding examples throughout more than ten of the organization’s thirty-four years in history. Galner decorated works well into her twenties, even managing an outpost of the Pottery in Washington, D.C. before leaving to start her own family.

This exhibition is organized by Nonie Gadsden, Carolyn and Peter Lynch assistant curator of decorative arts and sculpture, art of the Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with the generous support of Dr. David L. Bloom and family. It is coordinated at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Sarah Fayen, assistant curator at the Chipstone Foundation and adjunct assistant curator of decorative arts at the Museum.

Published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a full-color catalogue accompanies Art and Reform, available for $24.95 in the Museum Store ($22.46 for Members) and online at www.mam.org/store. Art and Reform offers a clearly written, handsomely illustrated introduction to this important episode in Boston’s cultural history, discussing the role of the Saturday Evening Girls club in the life of the city’s immigrant community and its ties to education reform and the Arts and Crafts movement. The book presents some 50 examples of the ceramics.

December 1-2, the Museum Store will also host a trunk show of ceramic works by Door Pottery of Madison, Wisconsin. A small fine-art pottery founded by Arts and Crafts potter and collector Scott Draves, the pottery is known throughout North America for its creations in the Paul Revere style. Draves will demonstrate throwing techniques and talk with visitors during the show.

Thursday, October 25, 6.30 p.m.
Lubar Auditorium
Free with general admission
Attend this lecture for an introduction to Art and Reform, given by organizing curator Nonie Gadsden. Ms. Gadsden is the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of the Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Sponsored by the American Heritage Society

Friday, October 26, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, December 4, 1:30 p.m.
Free with general admission
Join exhibition curator Nonie Gadsden from Boston in October, and coordinating curator Sarah Fayen in December, for informal, informative discussions of Art and Reform that examine the exhibition’s content and themes in entertaining detail.

The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Thursdays when the Museum stays open until 8 p.m. (supported by Greater Milwaukee Foundation). For more information, visit www.mam.org.

Digital images available upon request