[Clayart] an old pot as a gift

Snail Scott claywork at flying-snail.com
Fri Sep 27 09:34:52 EDT 2019

> On Sep 21, 2019, at 12:31 PM, Robert Harris <robertgharris at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> ...Victoria and Albert Museum, the entirety of which is one of
> the biggest collections of pottery in the world... wonderful old pots ...also far too much awful, revolting
> Victorian stuff too!

Every generation gets the art they crave. it doesn’t invalidate the taste of previous (or future) ages, any more than hip-hop is better than ragtime, or flapper dresses better than bell-bottoms - they were right for their era, and for the people that created them. I find the appeal of Justin Beiber inexplicable, but that’s because his music isn’t made for me. I, too, find the florid excesses of Victorian pottery cringeworthy, but it’s not mine. It doesn’t fit my taste, but it surely fit someone’s, back when it was new.

Tastes change. Alma-Tadema was one of the most sought-after painters of that same Victorian era, with his lush, elegant spin on pre-Rapaelite style selling for $50,000 per painting, (not even adjusted for inflation). Fifty years later, you could hardly give those paintings away, and selling prices were a tenth of their original or less. It took a hundred years for his prices to rebound to their previous levels, but they’ve shot well past that point now. The high Renaissance in Italy, circa 1500 CE or so, is often held up as a pinnacle of artistic achievement, but a hundred years later, Mannerism’s deliberate distortions had taken over, even among artists such as Michelangelo who had once been pillars of the high Renaissance style. When Mannerism had run its course, it wasn’t to return to Renaissance models, but onward to florid Baroque drama. By the Victorian era, a few more styles had come and gone, and painters like Alma-Tadema heaped scorn on everything made since the Middle Ages. Their resurrection of those pre-Renaissance styles, though, could never be mistaken for medieval work. It was made for different eyes.

I may be a compulsive contrarian, but taste is less universal, I think, than we often like to believe. When we resurrect historical works of merit as models for emulation, we see things differently that the original audience did  - how could we not? Even nominally ‘universal' principals of design shift with their cultural context. Somewhere, someday, someone will adore those tortured, overadorned Victorian vases and set them as the archetype of a new era of good taste and style. (Duck and cover!)

Snail Scott
claywork at flying-snail.com

More information about the Clayart mailing list