Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries

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Brian Gallagher, Guest Lecturer

Free for ICAA Members
$20 General Public

Registration will close 1 hour prior to the event.

Among the ceramic bodies produced in great numbers in Staffordshire, England, in the late 18th century was black basalt. Josiah Wedgwood perfected this dark, fine-grained stoneware in 1768, and it was soon produced by other Staffordshire potters as well. This talk will demonstrate that black basalt was perfectly suited for sculptural works, particularly those reflecting the neoclassical taste so prevalent in late Georgian England. Wedgwood utilized many antique works of art—portrait busts of Homer, Socrates, and Alexander the Great; statues of Hercules and Mercury; Pompeiian wall paintings of centaurs and maenads, to name a few—as design sources for his basalt wares. He and other potters also found ample inspiration in design antecedents “after the antique” from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries—all to satisfy the ever-growing demand from their fashionable patrons.

Brian Gallagher is the Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at The Mint Museum, where he has been on staff since 2007. He organized the international loan exhibition, Classic Black: The Basalt Sculpture of Wedgwood and His Contemporaries, which was on view at the Mint from February 9, 2020 to January 3, 2021. He was also the principal author and editor of the exhibition’s catalogue, published by D Giles Limited. His other recent projects include the publication, British Ceramics 1675–1825: The Mint Museum, which highlights over 225 examples from the Mint’s renowned British ceramics collection, and the reinstallation of that collection in a long-term display called Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675–1825. Gallagher began his curatorial career at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where he was Assistant Curator in the Department of European Art from 2000 to 2007. He has an M. Phil. and an M.A. from Bard Graduate Center, New York.

This program will be presented on Zoom. The link will be sent 24 hours prior to the event.

Image: Wedgwood. Bust of Junius Brutus, circa 1775–80, stoneware (black basalt). Museum Purchase: Delhom Collection. 1965.48.106. Collection of The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC

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