Many competent critics regard this ware as the highest achievement of the potter’s art in this country. It has a distinct individuality in character and tone… It is simple and chaste, relying for its effect in a perfectly legitimate way on the superb finish of its surface, on the subdued richness of its colors, and on the ideas embodied in its designs. In this regard it is practically unique among American fictile products.
Excerpt from Latter-Day Developments in American Pottery, Brush and Pencil, January 1902
Grueby Faience Company
Grueby is a name synonymous with the American Arts & Crafts Movement and a marker of exceptional quality. Grueby Faience Company was established in 1894 by William Henry Grueby. A great admirer of the matte glazes of French pottery and the refined simplicity of Japanese ceramics, Grueby founded his company with the intent of creating works of ceramic art that folded these two influences into a singular design philosophy that was wholly American. The bulk of Grueby’s creations were works of art pottery though the company also produced architectural tiles.
Innovative in design, delightful in form, and steeped in history, Grueby pottery and tiles are true American treasures.
The aesthetic of Grueby pottery has been described as ‘organic naturalism’ and can be identified by two defining characteristics: form and glaze. Most Grueby pottery features vegetal forms, often bulbous and gourd-like, adorned with stylized foliate designs that were either placed above or carved into the vessel’s surface. They were designed by important artists such as George Prentiss Kendrick and Addison LeBoutillier, and the majority were glazed in a matte cucumber green that would come to be the company’s hallmark. Other Grueby glazes exist, including light blue, soft yellow and a handful of other earthen hues, though none of these are as quintessentially “Grueby” as the deep woods green seen on most of the manufacturer’s pieces.
Grueby pottery and tiles enjoyed great popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century and were sold in fine design shops from Paris to New York. Grueby even landed a partnership with Tiffany Studios, producing lamp bases for the renowned lighting and glass manufacturer. Before long, Grueby became a victim of its own success, inciting mass-market competition that led the company to declare bankruptcy in 1909. Grueby emerged from bankruptcy but shut down shortly after due to a fire in their manufacturing wing. Grueby was able to rebuild, but the weight of tragedy had begun to take its toll. The company closed its doors for the last time in 1920.
In the modern secondary art market, pottery and architectural tiles by Grueby are highly collectible and sought after. Innovative in design, delightful in form, and steeped in history, Grueby pottery and tiles are true American treasures.