Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Pitcher in the Cleat Pattern

  • Artist:

    New England Glass Company, manufacturer

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1818–1888

  • Date:

    about 1860

  • Medium:

    Blown and pressed glass

  • Dimensions:

    8 x 5 x 7 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Elizabeth and Laura Smith

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

This strikingly handsome New England glass pitcher in cleat design marks one of the Wichita Art Museum’s early acquisitions of decorative art and emphasized the museum’s commitment to the democratic vision of its founder, Louise Caldwell Murdock, to collect the work of American artists in fine craft as well as in the traditional fine arts categories of painting, sculpture, and graphics. This pitcher was one of several gifts to the museum from two spinster sisters who lived just a few blocks from the museum located then as now in a lovely center city neighborhood of trees and bungalow housing adjacent to city parks and the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. One of these women, Laura Smith, was a retired teacher of Latin and Mathematics at Wichita High School North, a building located not far from the museum and one of Wichita’s earliest high schools. For the Wichita community a collection item such as this embodies the intertwining of local history, national social and economic history, and pure aesthetic interest in the material presence of an art object.

One of the indicators that a functional object may also lay claim to the category of fine craft is the possession of a personality. The Pitcher in the Cleat Pattern asserts itself as a commanding presence. It appears aggressive, the high relief and relatively large dimension of the decorative cleats giving it an air of flexing its muscles. All vessels are sculptural objects, but this one flaunts its three-dimensionality, boasts of its invasion of space beyond the necessary accommodation of its body. The distinctive cleats further dramatize all the qualities that define glass as beautiful: the union of strength with malleability, clarity without flaw, and the dazzling refraction of light from multiple angles.

The makers of the Pitcher in the Cleat Pattern may have considered its sculptural character as especially appropriate to masculine settings and/or to objects that imply reliable function. Jane Shadel Spillman, curator of American glass, at the Corning Museum of Glass, explains that the cleat pattern is known only to have been applied to pitchers and bar bottles, with one exception. There is a kerosene fixture with a glass shade made in the cleat pattern in the Winterthur collection.