George Ohr : sophisticate and rube by Ellen J. Lippert

By Ellen J. Lippert

The overdue nineteenth-century Biloxi potter, George Ohr, was once thought of an eccentric in his time yet has emerged as an incredible determine in American paintings because the discovery of millions of examples of his paintings within the Sixties. presently, Ohr is well known as a solitary genius who foreshadowed glossy artwork activities. whereas an fascinating narrative, this view bargains a slim realizing of the fellow and his paintings that has hindered critical consideration.

Ellen J. Lippert, in her expansive learn of Ohr and his Gilded Age context, counters this delusion. The tumultuous old second that Ohr inhabited used to be a formative strength in his lifestyles and paintings. utilizing fundamental documentation, Lippert identifies particular cultural alterations that had the main influence on Ohr. advancements in visible reveal and the altered function of artists, the southerner redefined within the wake of the Civil battle, curiosity in handicraft as a substitute to rampant mass creation, rising tenets of social suggestion looking to therapy employee exploitation, and new tests of morals and wonder because of collapsed beliefs all performed into the location Ohr purposefully designed for himself.

The moment a part of Lippert's examine applies those observations to Ohr's physique of labor, studying his stylistic originality to be expressions of the contradictions and oppositions specific to overdue nineteenth-century the US. Ohr threw his notion into being either the sophisticate and the "rube," the industrial huckster and the selfless artist, the socialist and the individualist, the "old-fashioned" craftsman and the "artist-genius." He created paintings pottery as either a salable commodity and a necessary production. His paintings should be gruesome and deformed (or even obscene) and lovely. Lippert finds that faraway from remoted, Ohr and his creations have been greatly items of his encouraged engagement with the overdue 19th century.

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Extra resources for George Ohr : sophisticate and rube

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Steeped in the phenomena of these celebrations, Ohr applied the lessons he learned to his livelihood. 22 OHR AT WORLD’S FAIRS AND EXPOSITIONS ◆ 23 DIVERSITY AND THE ANGLO-SAXON PROGRAM World’s fairs had tremendous cultural influence across all classes of society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Between 1876 and 1916, nearly 100 million people visited the international expositions held at Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Omaha, Buffalo, St. Louis, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.

At the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Ohr positioned himself on both the midway (plate 12) and in the machinery building (plate 13). The former post was geared toward entertaining the public and selling his wares, the latter was intended to garner serious critical appreciation of his artistry and technique. The midway was a standard feature of every major show: a sector set aside to provide visitors with carnival food, keepsakes, knickknacks, 26 ◆ OHR AT WORLD’S FAIRS AND EXPOSITIONS musical performances, exotic dancers, ethnic villages, and other amusements.

They included coin banks (plate 14), log cabins (plate 15), creamers with sculpted feces at the bottom (plate 16), puzzle mugs (plate 17), cardholders (plate 18), brothel coins (plate 19), and other fanciful items. Ohr considered much of his handiwork to be more valuable than gold and was often reluctant to let it leave his studio. He had no qualms about parting with these knickknacks, however. Unfortunately, we have no records of what Ohr sold, or to whom. But since thousands of his art pots remained in his possession at his death, we can assume that he did not sell such pieces very often.

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