"Keeping the Fire Alive"

China Painting in America from Cincinnati to Chicago

Lecture: October 15th, 2009, 6-8pm in the Jane Hartsook Gallery

"The art of painting on china with metallic oxides was dominated by men during the 18 and 19th centuries working in commercial potteries in Europe and America. But beginning with a small group of art amateurs in Cincinnati in the 1870s women learned the art and mystery of applying and fixing colors on porcelain blanks.  Some of these women went on to develop as clay artists (or potters or ceramicists) at the turn of the twentieth century.  We will look at the lives of these early women china-painters-turned-clay-artists, chronicle their achievements, and explore what happened to them in the twentieth century, ending with their influence on Judy Chicago in the 1970s."

ELLEN PAUL DENKER is a museum consultant and independent scholar based in North Carolina. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Grinnell College and an MA from the University of Delaware, where she was a Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. She has written extensively on American ceramics, the Arts & Crafts movement, and American home furnishings. As director of the NC Furniture Heritage Project she prepared a major exhibition on twentieth-century Piedmont factory-made furniture and spearheaded a movement to create a permanent Furniture Heritage Center in High Point.

Recent publications include Faces & Flowers: Painting on Lenox China, From Tabletop to TV Tray: China and Glass in America, 1880-1980 and Byrdcliffe: An American Arts & Crafts Colony, which was awarded the 2007 Henry Allen Moe Prize from the New York State Historical Association.

She has lectured extensively for art and historical organizations across the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Museums of Fine Arts in Boston and Houston, Saint Louis Art Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago.  She is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City and has been an instructor in the graduate programs at Winterthur and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and for the art department of the State University of New York at New Paltz.

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