Classic Black Resources

When Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries opened at The Mint Museum on February 8, 2020, its galleries included books from the museum’s library that related to the exhibition’s themes and individual works of art. They were provided as resources for visitors who wished to learn more about those subjects.  

As a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, the museum has removed the books from the galleries, but offers instead the following list of relevant publications. The list is broken into several broad categories that are themes explored in the exhibition 

The titles under each category provide a link to either a copy of the title available free online, or the online catalog of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library from which, pending the title’s availability, it can be borrowed and picked up via the Library’s curbside service. If you don’t already have a CM Library card, get one hereThe list also includes links to the Mintwiki page for Classic Black. Please take advantage of these additional resources as well and enjoy learning more about the exhibition’s themes and objects! 

Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries has been extended to January 3, 2021. The exhibition catalogue is available for purchase in the museum stores at both Mint Museum Randolph and Mint Museum Uptown.

Josiah Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, as the twelfth and youngest child of Thomas Wedgwood, a potter of limited artistic ambition, and his wife Mary. Josiah’s formal education ended when he was nine years old, following the death of his father and the family’s need for Josiah to begin apprenticing in the pottery. From this inauspicious start, Josiah became one of the most influential figures in western ceramic history.

To learn more about Josiah Wedgwood and his ceramic wares, see the following: 


Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition and available in the Mint Museum Stores. Brian Gallagher, et al.  


Josiah Wedgwood and His Pottery

An early 20th century biography by a former chemist for the Wedgwood factory at Etruria. William Burton.


Wedgwood: The First Tycoon

Noted as a “first-rate biography” by Publisher’s Weekly, it focuses on his business acumen and innovation. Brian Dolan.


A Catalogue of a Collection of Plaques, Medallions, Vases, Figure, etc. in Coloured Jasper and Basalte Produced by Josiah Wedgwood, F.R.S. at Etruria, in the County of Stafford, England, 1760-1795

An important collection published by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1912. Frank W. Gunsaulus.


Mintwiki link 

collection of online resources gathered for the exhibition. 


Wedgwood: a Collector’s Guide

A recommended survey of the impressive array of offerings from the Wedgwood factories over the centuries. Peter Williams.

The Grand Tour

Privileged young men in eighteenth-century England typically went on a Grand Tour, an extended trip through Europe, especially Italy. The tour gave them the opportunity to visit the historical and cultural sites they studied in their classical education and to view outstanding examples of Western art and architecture from previous centuries. Various basalt objects in Classic Black were inspired by works of art that a Grand Tourist could have seen on their travels. 

Here are some sources that discuss the Grand Tour:


The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century

Travel for education, a social and educational rite of passage. William Edward Mead.


Mintwiki link

collection of online resources gathered for the exhibition  


The Grand Tour of Italy

Google Arts & Culture 


The voyage of Italy, or, A compleat journey through Italy:

In two parts, with the characters of the people, and the description of the chief towns, churches, monasteries, tombs, libraries, palaces, villas, gardens, pictures, statues, and antiquities : as also of the interest, government, riches, force, &c. of all the princes, with instructions concerning travel – The late 17th century travel guide that may have been carried by those young men (and women) on the Grand Tour. Richard Lassel. 

Neoclassical Style and its Proponents

In late eighteenth-century England, the predominant style for fashionable interiors was “the antique taste,” or neoclassicism as it is called today. Advanced by prominent architects—Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, James “Athenian” Stuart—who studied in Italy, the neoclassical style was a clever reinterpretation of Greek and Roman ornament for architecture and design.

Find out more about these talented figures by checking out:


The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam

Touted as “one of the most influential books in architectural history.” Robert Adam.


The English Country House: A Grand Tour

A well-illustrated guide to the architects and the types of interiors over several centuries. Gervase Jackson-Stops.


Mintwiki link

collection of online resources gathered for the exhibition.

Classical Art

The art of ancient Greece and Rome had a tremendous influence on eighteenth-century British art, including ceramics. Many of the objects in Classic Black were copied ultimately from antique design sources. These included sculptures of historical figures, such as Homer, Cleopatra, and DemosthenesPompeiian wall paintings of centaurs and other mythological creatures; and a wide variety of ancient vases.

For a better understanding of these classical works of art, see the following: 


Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

A beloved introduction to Greek mythology for children. Ingri D’Aulaire.


Greek Sculpture

A chronological overview of sculpture in the ancient Greek world. Mark D. Fullerton. 


Ancient Greek and Roman Art

A humorous, but educational overview video. By the Khan Academy. 


The Oxford History of Classical Art

A broad and scholarly overview. John Boardman, et al. 

The Enlightenment

Three of the so-called “Illustrious Moderns”—Voltaire, Sir Isaac Newton, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau—represented in Classic Black were leading figures of the Enlightenment, the European philosophical movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that emphasized reason and the rights of the individual over the age-old traditions of class systems, monarchies, and the all-powerful Roman Catholic Church.

To learn more about the Enlightenment and its proponents, see: 



The 18th century bestselling satirical novel still popular today. Voltaire.


The Enlightenment: A Revolution in Reason

Geared for 4th-5th grades, this thorough but accessible title includes a related activity at the end. Patrice Sherman. 


The Enlightenment: Reason, Tolerance, and Humanity

Modern Scholar course available as an audiobook. James Schmidt. 


Voltaire and Rousseau

A deeper dive, in audio form, with narration by Lynn Redgrave. Charles Sherover. 


The Life of Sir Isaac Newton

A 19th century biography of the man considered one of the most influential scientists of all time. Sir David Brewster.

Famous Britons

When Wedgwood first started producing library busts in black basalt, he concentrated on important figures from the ancient world, such as Socrates and Alexander the Great. It was not long, however, before he introduced “Illustrious Moderns” into his bust production. To cater to his English clientele, he made sure to add busts of William Shakespeare, John Dryden, Prime Minister William Pitt, and other famous Britons. He also added such British notables to his line of portrait medallions.

To learn more about some of these individuals, check out these sources:


David Garrick

This renowned actor, theater manager, and dramatist dominated the English stage during the second half of the eighteenth century and is credited for revitalizing interest in the plays of William Shakespeare. By Joseph Knight.


Memoirs of the Life of Sir William Pitt

A supporter of the American colonies, Pitt is commemorated in the names of many places in the United States, including North Carolina. George Tomline. 


Sir William Hamilton

Collectordiplomat, and friend of Wedgwood whose published collection of antiquities provided a wealth of designs for Wedgwood’s pottery.


Mintwiki link

A collection of online resources gathered for the exhibition.

England During the Reign of George III

Virtually all the objects on view in Classic Black were produced during the reign of George III. During his sixty-year rule (1760–1820) as England’s monarch, the country enjoyed a period of extraordinary advancement in the arts, sciences, and manufacturing. Yet George III’s record as an influential patron, connoisseur of music and architecture, and champion of agricultural advancements was ultimately overshadowed by his image as “the mad king” who lost the American colonies.

To understand what life was like in England during his reign, see the following: 


The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century

A highly regarded, well-researched examination of the evolution of the arts in 18th century England. John Brewer. 


English Society in the Eighteenth Century

A portrait of society from high to low. Ray Porter.


Classical Sculpture and the Culture of Collecting in Britain Since 1760

Collectors, collecting and the global politics involved. Viccy Coltman. 


George III: A Personal History

The author looks beyond the “madness,” to depict the monarch so pivotal to British and American histories. Christopher Hibbert. 


A History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

An 18thcentury bestseller, and still popular, though perhaps even better known today as the film Tom Jones. Henry Fielding. 

Watch our virtual tours led by Curator Brian Gallagher

Mint Museum Classic Black Sculpture Hall 1

Sculpture Hall

Mint Museum Classic Black Library


Take a virtual tour of the Mint's "Classic Black: The Basalt Sculptures of Josiah Wedgwood and His Contemporaries" for an art break.

Drawing Room