Vase, c. 1880–82
Glazed white clay T.J. Wheatley & Company, Cincinnati, 1880–82 H. 11 3/4 in. (PO-090-94)

This unusual glazed white clay vase by T.J. Wheatley & Company of Cincinnati embodies the diversity and originality that characterized ceramic production in the United States from the 1870s through about 1914. Its creator, Thomas J. Wheatley (1853–1917), was a prominent artist of the American Art Pottery movement that took root in Cincinnati. He was celebrated for his masterful work in the style of French barbotine pottery. His production and that of his colleagues and rivals using the barbotine underglaze technique became known as Cincinnati Limoges. Wheatley’s subject matter was ambitious. Dripping with lifelike clay shells, crustaceans, and seaweed, this vase suggests an artifact washed up on an ocean shore. French barbotine pottery was often decorated with applied three-dimensional clay forms. Wheatley was one of the few American ceramic artists to revive the relief pottery associated with French potter Bernard Palissy (c. 1509–90).