I mentioned my Midwest connection was coming with pottery, and in the tub of goodies were Van Briggle pieces. Interestingly, the pottery managed to survive for nearly 111 years until the economy forced its closure in 2012. I say economy, but I am going to call it as I see it...lack of consumers who understand quality and shop for cheap. I have heard people in the shop say, "Oh, I can't have good things-the kids will break them." Now, I do keep my mouth shut, but I guess dollar store trinkets are good enough for the kids, and so begins their love with the dollar store and you-know-what-mart. But, let us consider when artists were revered.
Artus Van Briggle started the company in 1899 in Colorado Springs with his wife Anne Louise. According to the Van Briggle history, he was an American artist of Dutch descent, and he was established as a world class painter in Europe. Having been trained at the finest academies there, and with paintings accepted by the Paris Salon, he received the highest honors for a painter in his day. Yet his artistic passions would ultimately lead him away from his brush, canvas, and easel toward another artistic pursuit that would ultimately define his genius. From his years as a celebrated artist at the famed Rookwood Pottery in Ohio, he knew first-hand the extraordinary range of expression an artist could achieve with the potter’s materials. His pursuit was the creation of exquisite satin matte glazes, like those he’d seen on ancient Chinese masterworks, in a palette of glorious colors, never achieved by any artist in modern times.
Clay and glaze are indeed extravagant media, offering the artist a lifetime of challenges and rewards. Artus, however, didn’t have a lifetime - tragically, he had contracted tuberculosis and, though a relatively young man, his future was uncertain.
He succumbed to tuberculosis and within five years and died there in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, but not before receiving word that, when shown at Exhibitions here in the United States and in the Salons of Europe, his creations had won their highest awards.
I liked these lines from the Van Briggle collectors' web site:
"When you hold in your hand a piece of fine artistry and craftsmanship, a human creation with elegant lines and a sensual surface - something experienced by the eyes and hands and ultimately felt by the soul, you’ll know what Artus Van Briggle was seeking - and what he ultimately achieved."