The Grueby Faience Company in Boston employed young women as modelers, who worked on surface decorations prior to an object’s firing. This vase was designed and its decorations were modeled, or applied, by Wilhemina Post, who began at Grueby before 1904. Little is known about Post’s background, and there is no record of her studying at Massachusetts Normal Art School or the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.1 Most women who worked at Grueby are thought to have been graduates of the Boston School of Design. The Grueby Faience Company flourished and gained a solid reputation both nationally and internationally with their hand thrown vessels, applied decorative elements, and matte glazes.
The shape of this ware was probably inspired by the American bird’s-foot trefoil of the Lotus family, the most common species in the United States. Distinguished by its long stem (stalk), leaf configuration, and tree leaflets, the trefoil’s flower typically varies from lemon-yellow, as is the case with those on the vase, to orange. The flared neck, long shaft, bulbous base lined by large, notched (arched) leaves, and the matte green glaze, known as “Grueby Green,”2 suggest the organic nature of the plant .
In regard to Grueby’s floral design elements, Ellen Paul Danker and Bert Randall Danker note that “the decorations are based on real plants, identifiable though rendered abstractly.”3 Many decorative elements similar to the Trefoil Vase are found on other Grueby vessels. Colored applied flowers, for example, are present on multiple vessels, ranging from daffodils, tulips, and pond lilies, to single and multiple petaled flowers. Michael E. Crane
Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1–2 (2007): 38–39.
1. The term “modeler” appears in a 1903 letter from William Graves, an initial partner of Grueby. For more information, see S. Montgomery, The Ceramics of William H. Grueby: The Spirit of the New Idea in Artistic Handicraft (Lambertville, N.J., 1993), 74–77, 112–13.
2. “Grueby Green” is an often-used term to describe the green glaze first put forth by the Grueby Faience Company. This popular glaze was often imitated.
3. See W. Kaplan and E. Boris, “The Art that is Life”: The American Crafts Movement in America, 1875–1920 (Boston, 1987), 258.