Antiques Column: Ceramics line is finest example of ‘art pottery’

Rookwood pottery - 'Birds and Wild Grass' Teacup and Saucer
Rookwood pottery - 'Birds and Wild Grass' Teacup and Saucer

Arts and Crafts pottery became big business in America after inspiration from the European wares on show at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and Rookwood Potteries was where the finest examples of Art Pottery were produced.

Rookwood was established in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1880 and from the very beginning focused on making high quality art pottery by employing the best designers and potters available.

Artists such as Matt Daly, Grace Young and the Japanese ceramicist Kataro Shirayamadani worked for Rookwood as did Laura Fry who developed and patented the now famous ‘Standard’ clear glossy glaze and William P McDonald and Matthew A Daly who painted the highly collectable American Indian portraits.

It was the designs and quality of the decoration that secured Rookwood’s reputation of brilliance ahead of other American potteries such as Roseville, Weller and Lonhuda. Rookwood designs were largely inspired by the natural world, and flowers in particular, although portraits were also used as decoration mainly the aforementioned Native Indians and the Old Masters. Rookwood was known for its subtlety of tone, richness of colour and exquisite painting – reasons why it is so highly desirable today. ‘Standard Brown’ ware was the first major line but huge success hit in 1894 with the release of Ariel Blue, Iris and Sea Green. Most Rookwood pottery is signed by the artist with a date and shape number. From 1886 an RP flame mark monogram was used and each year from 1887 a flame was added to this monogram until by 1900 it had 14. Roman numerals were used from 1901.