Frogs have been frequent subjects for bookends since early times, probably because they are grotesque and interesting creatures. These pottery frogs are not very remarkable, but they are big so we will call them bullfrogs.
Tag Archives: Art Pottery
This attractive pair of elderly monks reading and dozing caught our eye. We have never seen these bookends before. Usually, when we see a new pair we can make an educated guess regarding the foundry or the age or the country of origin. However, we have no experience with porcelains. This pair seems unusual, although the subject material is a favorite for Arts and Crafts style.
We do not know any other bookends which resemble these. The bookends were probably slip cast, but there is no expected hole in the bottom. Two molds were necessary for this pair because the monks are different, so the bookends were fashioned with care. Both bookends are signed (impressed) but only the first three letters – “Bar”- are legible. On the side of the dozing monk there is an impressed mark, probably a shop mark, a conjoined “AR.”
Perhaps some of our viewers can give us some information regarding these bookends.
Presentations of monks are associated with objects made in the Arts and Crafts style, including bookends. The monk is usually identified by his cowl. Here is a pair of ceramic bookends with each bookend showing a monk sprawling on a huge book. One apparently intoxicated monk is facing us with a silly look on his face. There is a chalice in his right hand with liquid draining from it. The liquid is presumably wine and the silly expression indicates the monk has had too much of the tipple. The other monk is leaning sideways with a distressed look on his face. His look suggests concern for his supply of wine.
During the middle ages thousands of monasteries in Europe produced wine from their own vineyards for ceremonies, consumption, and sale. Pairs of bookends showing monks like these, one facing forward and holding an empty cup and the other leaning to the side were popular early in the twentieth century. Such bookends were issued by leading California potteries, including the Catalina Clay Products Co. and the Malibu Potteries, plus independent potters. Click here to view the post and photo of the Malibu Potteries version from Oct. 7, 2013. All of these inebriated monk bookends are highly collectible today.
The pair shown here was issued by Gladding, McBean & Co in their “Semi-Porcelain” line and called “Monk Book Ends” in the 1932 company catalog. The spine of the book reads “Gladding McBean & Co., S.F. Cal”. A quick search did not yield information about an artist named Theo. Tracy, whose name is inscribed on the back of the bookends.
There are many pottery bookends available from famous artists or foundries, and these sell for high prices because of demand from pottery collectors. These bookends are generally in low or high relief or entirely figural. Instead of these common techniques, pottery bookends using tiles are sometimes prepared by cuenca or cuerda seca, terms which describe modifications of the surfaces to be glazed. Much less common are pottery bookends that are painted with glaze and then fired with no modifications of the flat pottery surface. These bookends present as paintings on smooth surfaces.
Here are bookends painted with glaze on a smooth tile surface by Benjamin Kimberly Prins (1902-1980), a listed artist and illustrator, According to the Saturday Evening Post website, Prins completed over 33 Cover and Inside illustrations for this magazine.
This is a pair of bookends produced by the noted California artist and ceramicist Howard Pierce (1912 – 1994). Most of Pierce’s sculptures are familiar as brown and tan birds and mammals. His raccoons and quail are highly collected. These midcentury modern bookends show Pierce’s whimsical side which is usually seen only in private collections. An exotic human face colored dark chocolate is topped by a brown speckled tan asymmetric bobbed hair style.
Howard Pierce is remembered by the Joshua Tree, California community where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Click here to read an article from the Twenty-Nine Palms Historical Society on Howard Pierce.
Bookends by Horace E. Potter of Ohio with tile manufactured by Ernest A. Batchelder in California.
Each of this pair of bookends is a figure ceramic tile by Batchelder in a bronze frame by Potter.
Horace E. Potter (1873-1948) was a distinguished metal worker and jeweler, and is listed in Davenport’s and other listings for artists. Potter lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and his home became a center for artists and craftsmen in 1908. It was later called Potter Studio. He and his fellow craftsmen sometimes incorporated other craftspeople’s objects into their own work. Potter admired Batchelder’s tiles and made bookend sets utilizing Batchelder tiles. Potter fashioned spare but elegant close-fitting bronze frames for the Batchelder tiles, and the tiles are held in place by some sort of adhesive.The frames are marked Potter Studio with, in this case, a serial number.
Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957) is very well known as a pioneer in the American Arts and Crafts movement. He was a renowned maker of ceramic art tiles and teacher of the pottery craft. He began making tiles for sale from his backyard kiln in 1910 and by 1912 he moved to a business location in Pasadena California. These bookend tiles are handmade, fired pottery in the early Arts and Crafts style. The image is that of an an abstract oak tree bearing two (enlarged) acorns, with birds in the tree shown at each of the four corners. Acorns, oak trees, and oak leaves became familiar naturalistic images used by artists of this genre. This particular tile is pictured in the 1912 catalogue for the Batchelder Tile Company of Pasadena, and is identified only as number 67.
The above reprint of the 1912 Batchelder catalog of Plain and Figure Tiles can be obtained from Mr. Brian Kaiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This pair of ceramic monkey bookends is relatively small, but it comes from the respected Rookwood Pottery Company. Each bookend bears the Rookwood trademark on the base with the painted date of 1986. The bookends are slip cast so the details are not sharp, but each figure is strengthened and weighted by factory plaster filled through the circular hole in the base.
The Rookwood Pottery Company was founded in 1880 in Cincinnati, and quickly became a premier maker of ceramic items in America and renowned for artistry. This early prestige attaches to all Rookwood pottery today and makes their pottery relatively expensive. The company passed though several owners in the succeeding decades. From 1982 to 1986 it was run by the Townley family, when these monkeys were produced. The monkeys are a reissue from a sculpture by Kataro Shirayamadani. The monkeys, produced during the Townley era, are known as “The monkey that saved Rookwood”. Their popularity and sale as bookends and paperweights kept the company viable.
Kitaro Shirayamadani (1865-1948), a Japanese artist and potter was hired in 1887 to take advantage of the popular interest in Japanese culture and artwork at that time. His artistry is largely credited for Rookwood earning a gold metal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. Shirayamadani was working for Rookwood at the time of his death in 1948.
The Rookwood trademark is easily recognized. The impressed trademark is a reversed R back-to-back with a P for Rookwood Pottery surrounded by 14 flames. Rookwood added 1 flame per year of production from 1896 until 1900. After 1900 the original factory used impressed Roman numerals at the base of the trademark to indicate the year of production. As this pair is from the 1980s, the date is painted. Check out this Kovel video that describes Rookwood Pottery dating system.