Newcomb Pottery was founded in the late nineteenth century at Newcomb College,1 a school for women in New Orleans, to offer women training as designers. Orange Berry Vase, designed by Harriet Joor, is an early example of works produced at the pottery.
Joor graduated in 1895 from Newcomb College and continued on there to work under the direction of brothers William and Ellsworth Woodward 2 in initiating a program for women to study pottery and crafts. She was enrolled as a special art student from 1896 to 1900 and as graduate student from 1900 to 1901.3 In 1900, Joor also attended the influential Dow Summer School, founded by Arthur Wesley Dow4 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. In the same year, she was awarded a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where she was an American representative in the ceramics section of the exhibition.
Completed after her graduation, Orange Berry Vase exhibits a simplified decorative scheme, which owes a debt to earlier Asian ceramic examples. The design elements are also strikingly similar to those found in Dow’s publication Compositions.5 Newcomb College probably owned this publication, and Joor would have known this material after attending the Dow Summer School. The vase’s base is double marked with Joor’s initials and NC, for Newcomb College.
Joor’s career as an educator is also of note; she held positions at the University of Chicago and Southwestern Louisiana Institute. She wrote several articles on art-related subjects, including “New Orleans, the City of Iron Lace,” on the famous ironwork of New Orleans in 1905. Newcomb Pottery continued as a for-profit endeavor for the college and survived the Depression, yet struggled considerably. Shortly after the death of Ellsworth Woodward in 1939, the profit endeavor ceased, and only the college department of pottery remained. Michael E. Crane
Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1–2 (2007): 34–35.
1. Newcomb College was founded in 1886 by Josephine Louise Newcomb in honor of her deceased daughter H. Sophie Newcomb.
2. Ellsworth Woodward was Newcomb College’s first dean as well as Newcomb Pottery studio’s founder. His younger brother William was a professor at Newcomb College and Tulane University, teaching architecture, drawing, and painting.
3. J. Poesch, Newcomb Pottery: An Enterprise for Southern Women, 1895–1940 (Exton, Penn., 1984), 100.
4. In Marilee Boyd Meyer’s essay “Arthur Wesley Dow and His Influence on Arts and Crafts,” in Arthur Wesley Dow (1857–1922): His Art and His Influence (Spanierman Gallery, New York, exh. cat., 1999), she cites an early manual entitled The Use of the Plant in Decorative Designs, written in 1919 by Maude Lawrence and Caroline Sheldon, and then elaborates the following, “The significance of this book [manual] . . . may be found in its acknowledgment of Arthur Wesley Dow as well as Hugo Froehlich, Ralph Johnnot, Forest Emerson Mann, and Mary Langtry, all of whom Dow had trained and were in his inner circle. Indeed, by the turn of the century, Dow's ideas were disseminated by countless thousands of artists, teachers, amateurs, and professionals throughout America.”
5. Compositions was first published in 1899. For more information, see Poesch 1984, 26–27.