Stark Museum of Art
Edward Marshall Boehm (1913-1969): Ceramic Sculptures
On view at the Stark Museum of Art through August, 2001 is a newly installed display, Nestlings and Fledglings, featuring twenty-five hand-painted porcelain figures of birds by American sculptor Edward Marshall Boehm (1913-1969). Drawn from a large collection of decorative porcelains in the Stark collection, some of the pieces in the this show are exhibited for the first time. All are limited-edition figures representing birds native to Texas, in particular young birds in the nest and others out of the nest, but not fully feathered or capable of sustained flight.
Orphaned at an early age, Edward Marshall Boehm was reared and educated at the McDonogh School near Baltimore, Maryland, where he first developed an interest in the observation and sketching of animals and birds, At sixteen years of age, he left school to find work as a cattle manager, and while exhibiting prize stock at shows on Long Island, New York, after World War II, began modelling figures of dogs and horses in clay, Desiring to give his sculptures permanence and color, he undertook the study of ceramics, particularly the art of porcelain, in which production he came in time to greatly excel. At a studio established in Trenton, New Jersey, he produced most of the pieces for which he is best known today, his first subjects being farm animals, for which he found a popular market in the early 1950s. In 1954 Boehm's wife Helen, who acted as his commercial agent, presented a casting of one of his animal figures to Mamie Eisenhower at the White House, From this time, Boehm's fame was assured, and his output of decorated porcelains greatly increased. (left: Blue Jay, porcelain, hand painted, Collection of Stark Museum of Art, 41.2/27A)
Finest of all his works is a large series of colored figures of American birds, issued in limited editions, and now much sought after by collectors, All of these were designed at the Boehm studios, and decorated and fired by a staff of artists for the most part trained by Boehm himself. Many of his bird figures were derived from captured, live specimens at the Boehm aviary and gardens on the Delaware River, where Boehm died of a heart attack in January, 1969. Notable examples of his work have been in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Great Britain's royal family, and President and Mrs. Richard M, Nixon. Probably the largest single collection of his porcelain bird creations belongs to the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in Orange, Texas. In 1972 a life-size casting of a pair of mute swans, designated as "The Bird of Peace," was presented by Nixon to Mao Tse-Tung of the Peoples' Republic of China. See Frank J. Cosentino's Boehm's Birds (New York, 1960). (right: Flicker, porcelain, hand painted, Collection of Stark Museum of Art, 41.2/60)
Creating objects in porcelain involves many complex steps and specialized skills. Its ultimate success requires the careful coordination of all phases of the process, from the modeling of the clay figure ro the casting and firing of the finished piece at temperatures that may reach as high as 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. In the 1950's, American ceramicist Edward Marshall Boehm achieved notable results in this difficult medium. perfecting a technique whereby he produced large editions of decorared figures in a hard, translucent porcelain allowing for a remarkable detailing of individual pieces. (left: Wood Thrush, porcelain, hand painted, Collection of Stark Museum of Art, 41.2/39B)
Text and images courtesy of the Stark Museum of Art.
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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11
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