The Styles of Frederick Hurten Rhead and More at Rago’s
by Kate Nixon
Ahead of the Early 20th Century Design auction at Rago Arts and Auction Center on January 20th, interested American art pottery collectors may notice a variety of vases by the British-born Frederick H. Rhead of Avon, Weller, Roseville and notably a stay at University City. While the vases vary in color and in shape, two exceptional examples of note from Rhead’s extensive catalog of work bear similar artwork of the medieval warrior pikesman in full armor. Influenced by myths of his native English culture, Rhead designed these English combat-themed vases within two different time frames: one at Roseville pottery as part of their Della Robbia line and five years later at University City.
In a highlighted essay hosted on Rago’s website by ceramicist expert Dr. Martin Eidelberg about the Pikesman Vase, the progress of style with Rhead’s Pikesman warrior is explored. In less than a decade, the influence of Taxile Doat and Adelaide Alsop Robineau at University City is seen as Rhead’s style would see an important change from the intricate influence of green glossed nature to the delicate pierced carving out of space and a straighter form added to the ovoid.
“One of the most striking aspects of the University City vase is its overall piercing. Whereas the Della Robbia version is a solid form, the upper half of the University City vase is entirely pierced,” writes Eidelberg in his special essay Frederick Hurten Rhead: The Pikesman Vase. “The thin, interwoven branches of the trees form the delicate walls of the vessel. This was made possible because it was a unique work, carved and glazed by Rhead himself, and was the product of intensive labor. In contrast to the Della Robbia vase, which was only one of a series of the same design, in which the cast form was carved in shallow intaglio relief, the University City vase was a thrown form that has been carved away.“
While the Della Robbia line is represented well in Thursday’s auction with its bright and colorful glazes showing an admiration of forests, birds, and medieval figures (his eight examples are from his Roseville days as Art Director), Rhead’s University City’s Pikesman vase will be auctioned off alongside his jardinere and pedestal set for Avon Pottery. The glazed earthenware example shows a nature scene with a yellow, gold and reddish hue with a bubble design on the top and was created prior to his days at Roseville Pottery.
Other items of note include works from a by ex-Tiffany Studios employee Thomas Calvert, George Ohr pottery from the Estate of Martin and Estelle Shack, and vases by Rhead’s contemporary Adelaide Alsop Robineau.
Here’s what we are keeping our eyes on this Thursday:
George E. Ohr Exceptional vase
3¾ h × 7½ w × 4½ d in (10 × 19 × 11 cm)
George E. Ohr Rare and Early pitcher
molded and glazed earthenware
11 h × 8 w × 6½ d in (28 × 20 × 17 cm)
Gustav Stickley Rare and Early book shelves
USA, c. 1902-03
made of oak
56 h × 73½ w × 12½ d in (142 × 187 × 32 cm)
Gustav Stickley Early sideboard, model 961
oak, patinated iron