Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise

May 17, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Boone and George-Ann Knox I, Rachel Cosby Conway, Alfred Heber Holbrook, Charles B. Presley Family and Lamar Dodd Galleries

Organized by the Newcomb Art Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, "Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise" is the largest presentation of Newcomb arts and crafts in more than 25 years. Works from various periods examine the role that the enterprise played in promoting art for the betterment of women, and in turn, New Orleans’ business and cultural communities, still struggling from the effects of the Civil War. The exhibition features significant examples of the iconic pottery, including a daffodil motif vase by Harriet Joor, as well as lesser known textiles, metalwork, jewelry, bookbinding and historical artifacts. The exhibition offers new insights into the Newcomb community—the philosophy, the friendships, the craftsmanship, and the women who made an enduring mark on American art and industry.

Produced by one of the most significant American art potteries of the 20th century, Newcomb works are a graceful union of form and decoration inspired by the flora and fauna of the Gulf South. Each piece is one of a kind—and collectively they create a distinctive southern art form. In 1895, the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, Tulane University’s women’s coordinate college, established the Newcomb Pottery in New Orleans, and conceived it as part artist collective, part social experiment and part business enterprise initiative under the auspices of an educational program. The art school faculty incorporated the philosophies and tenets of the English Arts and Crafts movement into their curriculum to teach southern women self-reliance by way of an education and gain financial independence through the sale of their wares. The Pottery thrived until 1940.

Today these remarkable, distinctive art objects continue to be critically acclaimed and highly sought-after, and the Newcomb program is a rich mine for academic research. "Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise" showcases a striking collection of Newcomb pottery, metalwork, bookbinding and textiles with text that draws from new scholarship to explore the history of the Pottery and its importance as a social and artistic experiment.

In-House Curator

Dale L. Couch, curator of decorative arts, and Annelies Mondi, deputy director


The Henry Luce Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works; Dr. and Mrs. George Rives Cary; Ceramic Circle of Atlanta, Inc.; the Piedmont Charitable Foundation; the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art