Classically Inspired: European Ceramics Circa 1800 and American Ceramics, 1825-1875 celebrate the Mint’s internationally-renowned permanent collection
The Mint Museum has recently opened two new exhibitions at Mint Museum Randolph that celebrate one of the Mint’s largest and most well-known collections: Classically Inspired: European Ceramics Circa 1800 and American Ceramics, 1825-1875. They will remain on view on an ongoing basis until the Mint moves forward with plans to re-envision Mint Museum Randolph in the coming years.
“These installations are comprised solely of works from The Mint Museum’s historic ceramics collection, illustrating its tremendous depth and the museum’s ongoing commitment to present that collection in compelling ways to our public,” said Brian Gallagher, the Mint’s curator of decorative arts.
As announced in April 2012, the Mint’s Board of Trustees approved a sweeping five-year plan that charts an ambitious course for 2016 and places renewed emphasis on Mint Museum Randolph, the Mint’s original location dating to 1936, following the 2010 opening of Mint Museum Uptown. The plan calls for completing a feasibility study of the re-envisioning of Mint Museum Randolph, to include such factors as a North Carolina Pottery Research Center, classroom space, studios, a children’s center, and increased public access to the museum’s library.
These exhibitions join two others celebrating the Mint’s decorative arts collection: A Thriving Tradition: 75 Years of Collecting North Carolina Pottery and Sophisticated Surfaces: The Pottery of Herb Cohen, both on view at Mint Museum Randolph through January 6, 2013.
Classical art – the art of ancient Greece and Rome – had a tremendous influence on the art of Western Europe from at least the fifteenth century through the late nineteenth. During the 1400s and 1500s, the period of the Italian Renaissance, artists and designers regularly emulated aspects of the antique, although in general they attempted to surpass, rather than simply copy, the art of antiquity. In contrast, their counterparts in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries often endeavored to create more precise imitations of classical prototypes, especially in regard to objects for the fashionable domestic interior.
These later artists were aided considerably in their quest for historical accuracy by the discovery of two archaeological sites in southern Italy: Herculaneum, where excavations began in 1738, and Pompeii, where they commenced ten years later. As reports and illustrations of the artifacts and architectural interiors from these digs were disseminated, European artists, designers, and architects utilized them as important sources for inspiration. Artists were similarly inspired by catalogues of prestigious antiquities collections that were published in the eighteenth century, most notably that of Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), who amassed a large collection of classical vases while serving as British envoy to Naples.
On view in this exhibition are examples of European ceramics and other works of art from The Mint Museum’s permanent collection that were inspired by classical antiquity. Not all of the works are faithful copies of antique prototypes, but they do all reflect the great interest in the classical world in the decades surrounding 1800.
The mid-nineteenth century was a time of evolution, expansion, and innovation in American ceramics. While utilitarian forms in earthenware and stoneware continued to be made throughout the century, their numbers slowly decreased as a growing urban population had less need for large storage jars, churns, and other objects designed for an agrarian economy. Many potters adjusted to this lower demand by creating wares that were more aesthetically appealing – objects that consumers would want to live with in their homes.
Numerous factories from Vermont to Ohio to South Carolina produced “fancy” wares: objects that might still have practical functions — such as pitchers, vases, or flasks — but were notable primarily for their attractive shapes. Porcelain factories also began to proliferate during this period, producing high-quality wares that catered to the tastes of more affluent consumers.
On view in this exhibition are works of art from The Mint Museum’s permanent collection, selected to illustrate the variety of American wares produced in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century. The objects range from the unadorned to the ornamented and include examples from prominent manufacturers and craftsmen active during this time period.
High-resolution images from both exhibitions are available on request. Please see more information at the following links: