At the height of the Arts and Crafts movement, from the late 19th century until World War I, American handcrafted art pottery challenged industrially produced wares. The Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of American Art Pottery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, encompassing some 300 examples, provides an extraordinary representation of this chapter in the history of the decorative arts.
The collection, a recent gift to the Met, is celebrated in a new book coauthored by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen along with Martin Eidelberg and Adrienne Spinozzi. Frelinghuysen, the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Met, was the principle curator in charge of the publication.
In her lecture, Frelinghuysen will highlight pivotal achievements of the American Art Pottery movement and share some of the important new research gleaned over the course of the project. The efforts of such acclaimed ceramists as George E. Ohr, Hugh C. Robertson, Mary Louise McLaughlin, and Frederick H. Rhead, as well as prize-winning art potteries, including Grueby and Rookwood, resulted in an astonishing range of dynamic forms and innovative glazes. At times fiercely competitive, many art potters strove to discover and create new styles and aesthetics while others pursued more utopian aims, establishing artist communities that promoted education and handwork as therapy. Frelinghuysen will place these works in the context of art, design, and social history at the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, she will shed light on the visionary collector Robert A. Ellison Jr., his motives and perspectives, who formed the extraordinary collection.
In 1995, Frelinghuysen curated American Art Pottery—Selections from The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art at the Orlando Museum of Art.
She was the curator of the major Metropolitan exhibition Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall—An Artist’s Country Estate (November 21, 2006–May 20, 2007), organized in collaboration with the Morse Museum, and editor of the accompanying catalogue. From that publication, Frelinghuysen received the Robert C. Smith Award of the Decorative Arts Society for “most distinguished decorative arts article of 2006” for “The Most Artistic House in New York City: The Tiffany House at Seventy-Second Street and Madison Avenue.”
Frelinghuysen has published widely on American ceramics and glass, with a special focus on the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Her scholarship includes: “‘A Glitter of Colored Light’: Tiffany Domestic and Ecclesiastic Windows,” Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Art, 2009); coauthor, Louis Comfort Tiffany: Inspired by Nature (Shelburne, Vermont: Shelburne Museum, June 2009); “Nature Studies: The Art Jewelry of Louis Comfort Tiffany,” Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837–1987, edited by Clare Phillips (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); and “Louis C. Tiffany and the Dawning of a New Era for Mosaics,” The Tiffany Chapel at the Morse Museum (Winter Park, Florida: The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, 2002).
A staff member at the Metropolitan since 1980, Frelinghuysen earned her master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and holds a bachelor’s degree in art and archaeology from Princeton University.