- China painting swept across America in the late nineteenth century as one of the most prevalent decorative pottery techniques, especially among young women. Considered a respectable form of work and creative outlet for women, china painting incorporated the element of hand craft that helped elevate standards of design during a period of mass production and industrialism. The technique of china painting could be done conveniently at home or in large pottery settings. Also known as “mineral painting,” after its materials, a china painter used enamels, low firing colors produced from various mineral-oxides, as a “painting” medium on pre-fired porcelain white porcelain, also known as blanks. These blank porcelain pieces were often imported from European countries, France and Germany in particular, and came in a variety of dinner ware forms and vases. The china painting technique of decorating porcelain was popularized in America by the highly influential Englishman, Edward Lycett. Trained as a potter in the English tradition at Spode pottery in Staffordshire, England, Lycett moved to America in 1861, where he almost immediately gained prestigious commissions for the White House and Tiffany & Co. His devotion to experimenting with materials and teaching pottery techniques across the country established Edward Lycett as the “pioneer of china painting in America” during his own lifetime. Ultimately, the creativity fostered by the china painting movement and the influence of Edward Lycett launched the American ceramic industry towards new and exciting avenues of decorative pottery.
- In 1890, at the age of 57, Edward Lycett left Faience Manufacturing when it was sold as an agent to a French porcelain company. This, however, was not a setback in Lycett’s ceramic venture. Although retired, Edward Lycett continued to follow his passion for new ceramic inventions. He soon moved to Atlanta, Georgia to work in his son’s studio where he and continued to experiment with clay and glaze materials as well as different firing techniques with William until he died in 1910 at the age of 77.
- In 1902 during his retirement in Atlanta, Georgia, Edward Lycett boasted, “I have amused myself by experiments [in this line] and have lately secured some fine results in metallic effects on porcelain, different to anything yet seen, and very beautiful.” Seemingly insignificant, these small pieces were the proud results of endless experimentation conducted by Edward Lycett. Rather than making flat test tiles, Lycett chose to make miniature forms to test his various metallic effects. Made in different sizes and shapes, such as cruets, vases, pitchers, and heart-shaped dishes, these test pieces display the similar red iridescence, mirrored and matte gilding, and bubbling glaze techniques.
- Currently not on view
- Object Name
- date made
- c. 1890-1909
- c. 1890
- place made
- United States: Georgia, Atlanta
- Physical Description
- polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
- ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
- overall: 7 in x 2 3/8 in; 17.78 cm x 6.0325 cm
- overall: 6 7/8 in x 2 7/16 in; 17.4625 cm x 6.19125 cm
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Credit Line
- Gift of William Lycett
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.