Pottery Exhibit Highlights Milestone In Women's History

Jun 12, 2015

"Bowl, c. 1925-26." Low relief, stylized cotyledon design. Corinne M. Chalaron, decorator. Joseph Meyer, potter.
Credit Courtesy Newcomb Art Collection / Wolfsonian-FIU

A major collection in the history of pottery -- and women's rights -- has come to South Florida.

The exhibit, called “Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise,” opens Friday at the Wolfsonian museum in Miami Beach. The works tell the story of women who attended Newcomb College, Tulane University’s former women’s college in New Orleans.

Newcomb was a decorative arts enterprise that ran from 1895 to 1940. Students learned to become financially independent by selling art made in the program.

The exhibit includes about 180 pieces of pottery, embroidery, jewelry and Christmas cards.

Whitney Richardson, curatorial and exhibitions assistant at the Wolfsonian, says Newcomb is special because most of the pieces depict plants and animals native to New Orleans.

“It’s very particular to that area and time,” she says.

Richardson adds that the collection marks a milestone in the women’s rights movement.

“This is the same time that women were trying to get the right to vote," she says.

With the Newcomb exhibit, the museum launches its first audio tour. It will follow the work of Sadie Irvine, who graduated from Newcomb in 1906 and taught there from 1929 to 1959.  

"Vase, 1897. Daffodil design." Underglaze painting with glossy glaze. Unknown decorator. Joseph Meyer, potter.
Credit On loan to the Newcomb Art Gallery from Ruth Weinstein Lebovitz. / Wolfsonian-FIU

The Wolfsonian specializes in decorative arts exhibits. It houses one of the largest public collections of objects from the arts and crafts movement outside of the United Kingdom. This movement fought against the Industrial Revolution when mass production began to replace craftspeople’s designs.

The Newcomb exhibit debuted at Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery and has made stops at the Georgia Museum of Art, Stark Museum of Art in Texas, and Gardiner Museum in Toronto.

The Wolfsonian’s exhibit “Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise” will be on view from June 12 to Aug. 30. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit wolfsonian.org.