The Georgia Museum of Art will feature the exhibition Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise May 17 to Aug. 31.
Organized by the Newcomb Art Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibition features more than 130 objects. It is the largest presentation of Newcomb arts and crafts in more than 25 years. Objects include iconic pieces of highly sought-after Newcomb pottery as well as metalwork, bookbinding and textiles crafted by women connected with Newcomb College in New Orleans.
Produced by one of the most significant American art potteries of the 20th century, Newcomb works are a graceful union of form and decoration inspired by the flora and fauna of the Gulf South. Each piece is identified, marked and one of a kind; they collectively create a distinctive Southern art form. Works from various periods examine the role that the enterprise played in promoting art for the betterment of women and, in turn, New Orleans’ business and cultural communities still struggling from the effects of the Civil War.
“The interplay of Southern identity, female education, arts and crafts aesthetics and the fusion of place and art make this exhibition a very rich one,” said Dale Couch, in-house curator of the exhibition and curator of decorative arts at the museum. “Without question, this studio produced some of the most significant Southern aesthetic works from the centuries of that culture’s evolution.”
Newcomb Pottery was established in New Orleans in 1895 by the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, Tulane University’s women’s coordinate college. It was created as an artistic and social experiment to teach Southern women self-reliance through education and financial independence through the sale of their wares. The art school faculty incorporated the anti-industrial philosophies and tenets of the English arts and crafts movement into their curriculum. The pottery thrived until 1940.
“The exhibition can be appreciated intellectually from many different angles. Yet it is the serene beauty of the objects that provides a sense of comfort that most impresses,” Couch said.
The exhibition offers new insights into the Newcomb community-the philosophy, the friendships, the craftsmanship and the women who made an enduring mark on American art and industry.
Associated events scheduled include a Teen Studio May 22 at 5:30 p.m. and a Family Day June 14 at 10 a.m., both of which are open free to the public; the museum’s quarterly reception, 90 Carlton: Summer, June 13 at 6 p.m. (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art; $5 nonmembers); and Art Adventures, the museum’s free summer program offered in June and July for day camps, day cares and community centers.