Teapot with replaced spout
China and Europe (probably the Netherlands)
Porcelain, silver, 1675-1700
Gift of Herman A. E. and Paul C. Jaehne, 1941 41.1200a,b
Tea kettle on stand
Clignancourt Porcelain Works, France
Porcelain, enamel, brass, wood, 1775-90
Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1947 47.280a-d
Creamware with colored glazes, ca. 1750
Gift of the Estate of John B. Morris, 1957 57.207a,b
A white-bodied earthenware called creamware was developed by the mid-1700s in England and was widely used for making teapots and other kinds of dishes. Inventive designs could be produced in molds, and enhanced with colored glazes.
on view until 2013
The teapot, that simple serving vessel for one of the world’s most popular beverages, has a glorious past that has historically combined functionality and art. Nowhere is that fact made more obvious than in the latest Newark Museum decorative arts exhibition The Teapot which opened last week and will remain on view through 2013.
Sixty-six teapots in ceramics and silver, dating from around 1700 to the present day, have been selected from amongst the hundreds of teapots in the Museum’s permanent collection by Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator and Curator of the Decorative Arts Collection. “These teapots embrace several hundred years of Western cultural history and demonstrate the endless design possibilities that this complex functionalform has offered to inspire designers and craftspeople over the centuries,” Dietz said.
“The Teapot is a unique exhibition of decorative art that chronicles history and excites the creative interest in all of us,” said Mary Sue Sweeney Price, Museum Director and CEO. “It also provides visitors with a prime example of the scope of the diverse collections cared for by the Newark Museum for future generations.”
According to Dietz, the teapot originated along with tea drinking, which started in China hundreds of years ago. However, the Chinese did not start using teapots until the early part of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The European fashion for drinking tea began in the middle of the 1600s, at the end of China’s Ming Dynasty. The teapot was, until the end of the 1800s, always functional, however ornamental it may have also been. As the idea of “the object as art” emerged with the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 1800s teapots appeared that were as much works of art as they were usable vessels for serving tea. In the second half of the twentieth century, non-functional teapots emerged as sculptural objects, presenting their creators with the potential for design and content that left utility behind.
The earliest teapot in the Newark Museum collection is a hybrid, Dietz said. It was made of porcelain in China, but decorated for the European (probably Dutch) market. By this period (late 1600s), tea drinking had become fashionable among Europeans, but it was still a very expensive pastime. At some point in its history, the original spout on this teapot was broken off, and was replaced by a silver one. The use of precious metal to replace a porcelain spout suggests both the importance of the teapot itself, and also the elite nature of tea drinking.
By the end of the 1700s, tea drinking in the West had evolved its own complex ritual, very different from the Chinese tea ceremony. Large arrays of tea-related goods accompanied teapots in the parlors of the affluent. A French teakettle displayed in the exhibition from the years preceding the French Revolution demonstrates both the elegance of such tea equipment, and the ability of the French to manufacture porcelain in their own factories. At the same time, tea drinking had become an entrenched custom, even among the middle class in England andAmerica, and English potteries developed an enormous range ofearthenware teapots to satisfy this growing market.
Silver teapots were the most luxurious manifestation of tea drinking in American homes, and as the nation grew wealthier during the 1800s, teapots got larger and more elaborate. In the late 1700s, Abraham Carlisle of Philadelphia produced an urn-shaped teapot that would have been the height of fashion for his affluent urban clientele. However, by the 1850s, his elegantly simple teapot would have been woefully out offashion, replaced by the lushly decorated tea services of America’s romantic era. At the same time, because tea drinking was an everyday occurrence in most American homes, American potteries were producing inexpensive teapots for the expanding population. The major English potteries continued to court the middle-class market with stylish teapots that reflected modern design trends.
New Jersey potteries developed their own line of luxury tea wares in the 1880s. Elaborately molded and painted teapots began to appear in upscale American retailers after the great Centennial Exhibition inPhiladelphia in 1876 – the world’s fair that put American manufacturers on the map. Willets Manufacturing was one of the most important porcelain makers in Trenton, and their shimmering teapot, covered in tiny hand-painted blossoms and gold, on view in the Newark Museum exhibition, exemplifies the quality of New Jersey porcelain.
Many of the pots in the exhibition tell fascinating historical stories, Dietz pointed out. For example, in 1885, a business man from South Orange, New Jersey, was given a large sterling silver tea and coffee service made by the firm of Dominick & Haff. The hand-decorated teakettle was inscribed, as were all of the pieces in the service. The recipient, William F. Allen, was presented with this service because it was his idea to develop the four American time zones that we all take for granted today. His invention made it possible to coordinate schedulesfor transcontinental railroad traffic.
In the twentieth century, broad design changes continued to appear in teapots as they did in all aspects of the American home. Among the best known designers was Russel Wright, who produced a famous line ofinexpensive pottery tableware called “American Modern” in 1939. Produced into the 1950s, Wright’s colorful teapots became iconic ofAmerica’s gradual embrace of contemporary design, particularly after World War II.
The most modern examples in the exhibition come from the Museum’s nationally-recognized collection of studio ceramics. These teapots are not intended to be used, but have become sculptural and painterly expressions of their creators’ artistic visions like Behind Quiet Veils of the Blue Willow, by Red Weldon Sandlin, a painted white earthenware, on a faux-painted wooden book, circa 2000.
For more information please visit: www.newarkmuseum.com.