In Some Way Southern: The Newcomb College Pottery, William Lycett's Studio, and Design in the New South, 1883-1910.

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Gerstenecker, Elyse, History of Art and Architecture - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gerstenecker, Elyse, Arts & Sciences Graduate, University of Virginia

The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College and Pottery of New Orleans, Louisiana and William Lycett’s china painting studio in Atlanta, Georgia provided white, affluent consumers in the American South at the turn of the twentieth century with several ways of achieving cultural legitimacy. These institutions’ lessons in ceramics decoration offered students a means of attaining knowledge of design movements, as well as a potential source of respectable employment for women. As firms that produced artistic wares, Newcomb and Lycett’s demonstrated the viability of industry in the region, and the capability of southerners to produce and appreciate art. These activities correspond with a contemporary rise in rhetoric about a “New South,” one that proposed a reconciliation of the region with the remainder of the United States by abandoning large-scale monoculture in favor of industrial development and diversified agriculture. Despite its proponents’ vocal enthusiasm for this progressive prescription of modernity, many simultaneously worked to reinforce white supremacist hierarchies and romanticized conceptions of the region’s antebellum history, or the mythos of a “Lost Cause,” in their efforts to harness power. Emulating examples in the northeastern United States and beyond, Newcomb and Lycett’s design choices reflect these dualities, underscoring attunement to national and international expressions of modernity on one hand, while reinforcing fantasies about a premodern, plantation-based past on the other. The firms’ selections of models for emulation reveal the aspirations of a white business class in the region and the firm grip of mythologies about the South in the national imagination.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American South, art pottery, china painting, Newcomb Pottery, William Lycett
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