Poor, Henry Varnum
11 3/4 in.
Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
Of the 168 objects in the Murdock Collection, only three are ceramic. All three are by Henry Varnum Poor. Elizabeth Navas, who selected the art for the Murdock Collection, would have been attracted to Poor’s ceramics as he was a Kansan and he was an artist-potter who divided his creative time between pottery and painting. Poor believed that the twin failings of modern applied art (the decorative and industrial arts) were technical perfection at the expense of inventive statement and self-conscious attempts at originality. Poor shared with William Morris the belief that the union of hand, mind and soul should always be apparent in the work of art.
The Murdock Collection’s A Wedding Plate demonstrates the degree of spontaneity and inventiveness that a potter can attain when unfettered by a drive for technical control. The plate is thrown from the common red clay often used for bricks that was found around his home in the Hudson River Valley. The plate is low fired with a slip decoration of an outer band of mottled browns and greens and a central double portrait of a young man and woman—thus the title. The linear design was executed with both ends of the brush, the bristle end for the painted line and the wood end for the incised lines (sgraffito.) Poor allowed large drips of excess glaze to form irregular glaze knuckles around the rim of the plate.