Published: July 11, 2006
George Ohr, Art Potter: The Apostle of Individuality, by Robert A. Ellison Jr, Scala Publishers Limited, distributed by Antique Collector’s Club Limited, 116 Pleasant Street, Suite 60 B, Easthampton MA 01027; 2006, 176 pages, $65 hardcover.
Just as a great deal of the “art pottery” produced prior to and just after the turn of the Twentieth Century can easily be considered merely “pottery,” the unique pots produced by George Ohr during this same period must truly be considered “art.” And just as Jim Carpenter did in 1972 when he bought the lifetime collection of Ohr pottery from the heirs and brought it to the attention of the collecting world, Ellison, through his efforts with this recent book, brings the potter’s artistic achievements into clear view.
Accomplished in typical form, Ellison has pleasingly set forth in this tome more than three decades worth of his thorough research and wonderful photography.
The author has organized more than a dozen chapters in a chronological format beginning with “The Early Years” and ending with “A Last Word.” Other chapters deal with the symmetry of the pots, the devastating fire that burned Ohr’s pottery and the effects it had on him, the amazing colors, glazes and surfaces that the potter achieved, handles as art, the potter’s marks and, appropriately, “The Pot as Sculpture.”
Recognizing the importance of Ohr as a master sculptor, whom Ellison claims was “approximately 64 years ahead of his time,” and the Modernist movement that would seemingly follow the potter’s lead, is secured in this book not only through the informative text, but also via the author’s exquisite photography. Tracing his forms through numerous periods and the experimentation with glazes and surfaces, the images document many of the potter’s most important works. Throughout the book are also a large number of period photographs of the potter, not only the ones commonly seen of the “Mad Potter from Biloxi” hamming it up in front of the camera, but also important documentary images of a serious businessman and his wares.
“I am making pottery for art sake, the future generation and… for my own satisfaction,” proclaimed Ohr in an article in the pages of The China, Glass and Pottery Review, “but when I’m gone… my work will be prized, honored and cherished.” What Ohr prophesized has come true; Ellison’s efforts respectfully pay homage.
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