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From the Archives: Arts and Crafts Show by Local Artists

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In December of 1925, the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts (today the Everson Museum) opened Arts and Crafts Show by Local Artists, an exhibition arranged by ceramists Adelaide Alsop Robineau and Carleton Atherton. In an article titled “Syracuse Art Masterpieces Put on Exhibit” published in the Syracuse Herald on December 6, 1925, journalist Robert W. Friedel described the exhibition as “the first show of the work of local craftsmen ever held in this city.” While the Museum had previously exhibited work by local artists, it often focused on painting and sculpture rather than work that, in the 1920s, many viewed as outside the realm of fine arts. For the first time in Syracuse, according to Friedel, this exhibition displayed paintings and sculpture alongside ceramics, jewelry, furniture, tapestries, and wall hangings. Robineau, today considered one of America’s preeminent studio potters, was a familiar collaborator with the Museum; she and her husband Samuel had moved to Syracuse in 1901, and the Museum purchased a number of her ceramics for its collection in 1916. In the 1920s, Robineau began teaching ceramics at Syracuse University, where Carleton Atherton was one of her students and eventually her studio assistant. In his article, Friedel extols Robineau’s porcelains as the highlight of the exhibition, writing,

“However, the work of Dr. Robineau herself, lifts the exhibition to the highest plane of importance. Her pottery alone would give any exhibition unrivaled distinction.”

He notes two jars, Urn of Dreams and The Chapel, as particular examples of her creative ability and skills. Urn of Dreams is visible in the center of the bottom shelf in the display case in the photograph below.

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Along with Robineau’s porcelains, the exhibition featured jewelry made by Atherton and his students. Friedel notes Atherton’s skills as a jewelry maker, writing, “There is nothing of the crudeness of form and finish in Mr. Atherton’s work, which is so often mistaken for art… Indeed the pleasure in his work is found in the fact that he carries finish to a point beyond the commercial standard, and combines with that finish a sense of the possibilities and limitations of precious metals in originality of design and economy of material in getting effect.” The exhibition also included work by Robineau’s Syracuse University ceramic students, a number of paintings by Syracuse University professor Margaret Boehner, and even a batik banner made by Robineau’s daughter Elizabeth. Elgin A. Simonds Company, a local furnishings store, loaned tapestries to decorate the walls.

-Steffi Chappell, Assistant Curator

Installation photograph of Arts and Crafts Show by Local Artists, Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, December 1925 – January 1926.