Archive for April, 2019

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part III: The Industrial, Applied, and Decorative Arts

Aureen Group

Gold Aurene vases, Steuben Glass Works, Corning, New York, c.1905-1918. The Thomas N. Armstrong III Collection, Gift of the Thomas N. Armstrong III Family, 2018 2018.20.6, .64, .66. A new exhibition, Unexpected Color: A Journey through Glass, will open on May 1.

American art, or the art of the contemporary as, John Cotton Dana might have put it, did not encompass just the fine arts (paintings, drawings and sculpture). In fact, his major interest was the industrial, applied, and decorative arts, objects from daily life with an emphasis on contemporary design, and he did not limit his interest to the United States of America only. Over the two decades that he led the Newark Museum, he mounted several exhibitions, which established a tradition of looking at mass-produced objects of high quality that were readily available to the discerning consumer: Modern German Applied Arts (1912 and 1922), New Jersey Clay Products (1915), New Jersey Textiles (1916), Nothing Takes the Place of Leather (1926), American Design in Metal (1929), and Jewelry Made in Newark (1929). The first Modern German Applied Arts, organized in association with German and Austrian museums, was the first of its kind to focus on contemporary applied arts, and it travelled to Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. “Beauty has no relations to price, rarity or age,” Dana claimed, and he illustrated this concept in two other exhibitions entitled “Inexpensive Objects of Good Design” in 1928 and 1929.

1912 MGAA 23

Modern German Applied Art, 1912.

“Study your teacups,” Dana declared early in his career. “The drinking vessel of everyday use is an object on which those endowed with the creative art faculty have spent time, care, labor, and high skill for many thousands of years. It has taken a million forms and has been adorned in a million ways.” This theme has remained the focus of the decorative arts department to this day. With galleries devoted to everyday objects of good design, including Lenox porcelain, English ceramics, Jensen silver, Orrefors glass, Jelliff furniture, and Tiffany jewelry, the decorative arts department comprise a vast array of household items from the United States and Europe, ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day.

1926 Leather 2979

Nothing Takes the Place of Leather, 1926.

Of particular importance are its holdings of 19th-century American furniture, American silver and gold, from colonial times to the present day, and masterpieces of art pottery and studio pottery. The latter collection is supplemented by a strong collection of European ceramics from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century and an extensive collection of New Jersey ceramics—both earthenwares and porcelain—reflecting the state’s historic role in this industry over the past three centuries. The Lore Ross Jewelry Gallery is one of the few galleries in the nation devoted exclusively to jewelry, and it is particularly strong in jewelry made in Newark, reflecting the city’s role as the center of the jewelry industry in America from the 1850s to the 1950s.

99.10.8 Gerald Gulotta Block Germany

Teacups and dishes, Chromatics by Gerald Gulotta for Block China Corporation, New York, New York, porcelain made in Germany, 1972, Gift of Gerald Gulotta, 1999  99.10.10-34.

The Ballantine House, an 1885 National Historic Landmark, remains the centerpiece of the collection and represent a “case study” of what the “ideal home” meant in America over a century ago. This rare example of a late-19th century Gilded Age urban mansion offers a chance to experience the Decorative Arts collections, as well as objects from the Asian, African, Native American, and Science collections, in their historic settings. Eight period rooms and five galleries provide a glimpse into the life of the Ballantine household as well as exhibitions which study the collections and their historic context in depth.

BH 1977 Window 17669

Stained-glass window, Ballantine House stair landing, 1885, Purchase 1937 37.646.11.19.

The exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library from January 15 until August 31, 2019, highlights this tradition of exhibiting and collecting the industrial, applied, and decorative arts, along with the Newark Museum’s other historic traditions over the past 110 years.

-William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist


1905-1910. Purchase 1993 The Millicent Fenwick Fund  93.76.


April 1, 2019 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

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