In the aftermath of London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, the prevailing critical assessment was that British design and standards of taste did not compare favorably with those of France. One notable exception was the triumphal display of majolica, a highly-modeled, colorful, lead-glazed earthenware by the leading Staffordshire manufacturer Minton & Co.—a firm that, only two years before, had engaged a French artistic director trained at the state-supported porcelain manufactory, Sèvres. The ensuing decades would see a steady migration of French painters, sculptors, and designers into England, helping to shape the artistic output of many manufacturing firms, particularly those engaged in the production of ceramics. So pervasive was the French influence that by the time of the London International Exhibition of 1862, a newspaper editorial remarked ironically “that nearly all the merit of the principal English departments is due to the Frenchmen employed.”

This symposium, organized in conjunction with the opening of Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915, on view at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery (September 24, 2021–January 2, 2022), expands the geographic scope of the exhibition by exploring the cultural, aesthetic, and commercial implications of the interdependence between English majolica manufacturers and French artisans. Scholars will present papers that elucidate aspects of this Anglo-French alliance including an examination of the community of French artists that emerged in Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, the principal ceramic manufacturing center in Britain; the short-lived production of majolica at Sèvres; the Choisy-le-Roi manufactory’s Vase des Titans, a collaborative ceramic work of sculptors Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) and Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824–1876) following the latter’s tenure at Minton; the majolica painted by the artist Émile-Aubert Lessore (1805–1876); as well as a scientific analysis of glaze colors employed in the Staffordshire potteries.

9 am

9:10–9:50 am
Miranda F. Goodby
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
“The French Connection: The French Community in Stoke-on-Trent”

9:50–10:30 am
Susan Weber
Bard Graduate Center
“Sèvres Majolica under the Second Empire”

10:30–11:10 am
Jennifer A. Thompson
Philadelphia Museum of Art
“The Vase of the Titans: Decorative Ware or Ornamental Sculpture?”

11:10–11:20 am

11:20 am–12:00 pm
Laura Microulis
Bard Graduate Center
“‘The freedom of the artist’s brush’: Exploring the Painted Ceramics of Émile-Aubert Lessore, 1805–1876”

12:00–12:40 pm
Jennifer L. Mass
Bard Graduate Center
“Color, Complexity, and Chemistry: The Science Behind Majolica Glazes”

12:40 pm

Majolica: The French Connection is generously supported by the Lee B. Anderson Memorial Foundation, the Joan Stacke Graham Majolica Lecture Fund at Bard Graduate Center and other generous donors.

Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915 is made possible by Deborah and Philip English, the Bernard Malberg Charitable Trust, the Abra and Jim Wilkin Fund, and the Gary Vikan Exhibition Fund, with generous support of Marilyn and Edward Flower, Amy Cole Griffin, Darci and Randy Iola, James and Carol Harkess, Maryanne H. Leckie, the Lee B. Anderson Memorial Foundation, the Thomas B. and Elizabeth M. Sheridan Foundation, Inc., the Robert Lehman Foundation, and the Women’s Committee of the Walters Art Museum, with additional support by Carolyn and Mark Brownawell, the Hilde Voss Eliasberg Fund for Exhibitions, Joseph Piropato, Ann Pyne, Lynn and Phil Rauch, George and Jennifer Reynolds, the Sherrill Foundation, Carol and George E. Warner, Michael and Karen Strawser / Strawser Auction Group, Laurie Wirth-Melliand and Richard Melliand, the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation, Drs. Elke C. and William G. Durden, Joan Stacke Graham, Wanda and Duane Matthes / Antiques from Trilogy, Robin and Andrew Schirrmeister, Karen and Mike Smith, William Blair and Co., and other generous donors to the Bard Graduate Center and the Walters Art Museum.

Special thanks to the Majolica International Society.

Support for the Majolica Mania website has been generously provided by Joseph Piropato and The Lee B. Anderson Memorial Foundation with special thanks to Ann Pyne and the Sherrill Foundation.