J. Palin Thorley: Modern and Traditional Design in Twentieth-Century Ceramics

June 5–August 17, 2008
Decorative Arts Gallery

J. Palin Thorley (1892–1987) was a third-generation potter who trained as a decorative painter and designer with England’s most prestigious companies including Wedgwood. He brought his talents to America’s large industrial potteries and then to Colonial Williamsburg where he supplied the newly-established Craft House museum shop with reproductions of eighteenth-century antiques from their collections. A master of variety, Thorley created avant garde moderne serving sets as well as more traditional Colonial Revival-style table wares. Over 150 examples of Thorley’s work, accompanied by magazine advertisements that span his career from the 1920s through the 1970s, offer a lively and personal story about the twentieth-century dining room table in America.

J. Palin Thorley, Three Plates
J. Palin Thorley, Plate
J. Palin Thorley, Teapot

This exhibition is guest curated by John C. Austin, Curator Emeritus of Ceramics and Glass at Colonial Williamsburg, with assistance from Robert Hunter, Editor of Ceramics in America. Organized at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Sarah Fayen, Curator at the Chipstone Foundation.
  • J. Palin Thorley, Cartoon for Shop Sign, 1950s. Opaque paint on paper, 34 x 40 framed. Courtesy of John C. Austin
  • J. Palin Thorley, Three Plates, 1933–1950. English Abbey pattern, Taylor, Smith & Taylor, Chester, West Virginia, Whiteware, D. 9 1/4" each. Courtesy of John C. Austin
  • J. Palin Thorley, Plate, 1930, Nouvelle shape, "Top o' the Hill" pattern, Knowles, Taylor, and Knowles, American Chinaware Corporation, East Liverpool, Ohio area, Whiteware. Courtesy of John C. Austin
  • J. Palin Thorley, Teapot, 1945–1960, Plume shape, Tea Rose glaze, Hall China, East Liverpool, Ohio, Whiteware, H. 5". Courtesy of John C. Austin