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The Storm, based on the 1880 oil painting, The Storm, by Pierre-Auguste Cot (French, 1837-1883), unknown maker, unmarked, circa 1880, unglazed porcelain, 10 ¾ inches. Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University of Richmond Museums, Gift of Dr. LeRoy Smith, R 1990.01.01.
Apr 21, 2006
throughMay 27, 2007

Parian Porcelain: A Nineteenth-Century Passion

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On April 21, 2006, University of Richmond Museums will open Parian Porcelain: a Nineteenth-Century Passion. On view in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature will be more than sixty parian porcelains made in the nineteenth century in America, Britain, and Europe and selected from the museum's permanent collection as well as several private collections. From the busts of American presidents and figures from the Enlightenment to decorative pitchers, the exhibition will examine the development of parian statuary and wares, its impact on popular culture and decorative arts in America, and themes of Victorianism and nationalism with specific emphasis on the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.
About the exhibition
Developed at the Staffordshire pottery of Copeland and Garret in 1842, parian ceramics were the first mass-produced porcelains in England. Parian is a hard paste porcelain marked by its smooth, white, often unglazed surface. Wares are produced by casting molds from a creamy slip, which are then assembled into the original shape. Although works shrink when fired, parian has the ability to maintain its form and therefore retains delicate decorative details throughout the firing process. Though Copeland and Garret referred to the new material as "statuary porcelain," the term "parian" was coined by Minton and Company to emphasize the material's resemblance to marble from the Greek island of Paros.

Parian was popularized in England with the help of art unions such as Summerly Art Manufacturers, which attempted to bring art and industry together. The introduction of parian coincided with a Victorian penchant to overcrowd home interiors with decorative novelties. Parian was prominently displayed, with the aim of encouraging elevated discourse and promoting an enlightened atmosphere. By the time of the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, parian had become popular in Britain and the United States. Prominent themes ranged from depictions of religious, allegorical, mythological, and Enlightenment figures to decorative pitchers and vases.

While there had been potteries producing porcelain in America since 1738, the influx of British ceramicists in the nineteenth century increased production in the United States. Potteries were established from the Carolinas to Vermont to produce parian ware using British manufacturing techniques. Americans, who often imitated British cultural trends, embraced parian for its affordability and associations with the aristocracy and upper classes.   

American-themed works were produced simultaneously in Britain and the United States to appeal to an increasingly patriotic market. The 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia exhibited works made by several American potteries, including Union Porcelain Works (Brooklyn, New York) and Ott & Brewer (Trenton, New Jersey). These potteries in particular emphasized a nationalistic spirit in their subject matter, producing works such as The Baseball Pitcher , modeled by Isaac Broome for Ott & Brewer's exhibit at the Centennial. The Baseball Pitcher, on view in the exhibition, represents a distinctly American pastime and the emergence of a sense of cultural identity.

Also on view is John Rogers' Wounded to the Rear, One More Shot, modeled circa 1864, which depicts two wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War. Rogers created a number of works that portrayed contemporary events and society, and the figural groups were produced in bronze (the most expensive), parian, and plaster (the least expensive).

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was curated by Laura Murphy, '06, art history major, University of Richmond. Ms. Murphy's research on parian porcelain in America and for the exhibition was made possible with a generous grant from the American Ceramic Circle.
Past programming
Lecture and Preview Reception
Thursday, April 20, 2006
7:00 p.m., "Parian and Public Taste in Victorian America"
Lecture by Laura Murphy, '06, art history major, University of Richmond , and curator of the exhibition
8:00-9:00 p.m., Opening reception and viewing of the exhibition
Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University Museums