Adelaide Alsop Robineau (1865-1929) was a pioneering 19th-20th century pottery designer. She was one of the few women in art pottery to produce pots from clay to finish.
Alsop Robineau was an American painter, potter and ceramist.
Having become interested in pottery painting as a young woman, Alsop Robineau and her French husband Samuel worked together to produce “Keramic Studio” – a pioneering ceramics and design magazine, aimed at art potters and first produced in 1899.
Time spent researching and writing Keramic Studio, combined with her experience decorating pots, inspired Alsop Robineau to produce her own art pottery. Duly, she spent time under master potter Charles Binns at Alfred University, honing her craft and developing style and technique.
Alsop Robineau’s “Scarab Vase” (also known as “The Apotheosis of Toiler”) won her international acclaim in 1910. It is believed that Adelaide worked for over 1,000 hours on this single piece, which beat established potteries to the grand prize at 1910’s World Fair.
The title, “The Apotheosis of Toiler”, refers to all the unknown craftsmen who labour on their craft, just as Alsop Robineau had done on this piece. The Egyptian scarab motif was a popular design during the period, reflecting a contemporary desire for exotic adventure, as well as an interest in Egyptian culture following the discovery of several significant tombs. In combining these symbolic stands, Robineau made comment on those Egyptian workmen who carefully built and embellished the tombs of the rich - leaving behind no mention of themselves.
In some respects, the aim of the “Scarab Vase” can be understood as an attempt to elevate the craftsperson to her proper place – equal to the artist.
Between 1920 and 1929, Alsop Robineau worked at Syracuse University, teaching ceramics. She is considered an authority on art pottery among the establishment.
Alsop Robineau is notable for having formed, decorated, fired and glazed her own wares.
On July 5, 2000, a rare piece of ceramic sculpture was sold by the JMW Gallery of Boston, Massachusetts for the price of $162,000. The covered jar, sold from one private collection to another, established the record price for Adelaide Alsop Robineau's body of work to that date.
Robineau experimented with glazes and forms, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and its emphasis on quality materials, craftsmanship and simplicity of design. There are elements of Art Nouveau in the forms and stylized natural elements in her work as well. Rather than remain constrained by applying decoration to the blank forms made by others, she determined to create her own distinctly different porcelain forms.
Adelaide Robineau was an unusual woman for her day, having already established her national reputation as a china painter, publisher and artist by the time she began making her first ceramics in 1901. She was also the mother of three children, and taught on the staffs of both Syracuse University and the People's University of the American Woman's League. She is best known for The Scarab Vase, also known as the "Apotheosis of the Toiler".Robineau spent over 1000 hours carving this immense and stunning vase. The vase was created as part of a project to publicize the young People's University in 1910. The People's University in University City, near Jefferson, Missouri, had encouraged its staff to create "grand, public statements in clay". The Scarab Vase was Robineau's contribution to the program, and a year later it won the Grand Prize in pottery at the Turin International Exhibition.
When the vase came out of the kiln, there were several small cracks in the work.
Her teacher at that time, Taxile Doat, advised her to discard the work and begin again as it appeared irreparable. Instead, Robineau spent hours grinding bisque into a paste with powdered glaze, and filled the cracks. Then she reglazed and finished the piece. It emerged perfectly intact with no signs of the repairs.
Adelaide Robineau's influence on the American art pottery movement at the turn of the century was international in scope. She and her husband created a studio next to their home, called Four Winds, and she continued to teach on the staff of Syracuse University until her death in 1929. The home and studio that she built still stand on Robineau Road overlooking Onondaga Park and downtown Syracuse. The purchase of a large portion of her body of work in 1916 established the fledgling Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse as a leading exponent of modern ceramics as a fine art. Everson Museum
Art & Antiques Magazine in its March 2000 issue feature article, "Top Treasures of the Century," has designated Robineau's masterwork the most important piece of American ceramics of the last one-hundred years. By the time of her death in 1929, Robineau was widely recognized as the preeminent artist-potter in America, and the first to produce porcelain objects that rivaled those from European porcelain factories in both design and execution.
There are more collectors interested in these pieces than there are pieces - mint items therefore command large sums.
Adelaide signed her work, and often dated it too. Originals paper labels, and even fragments of original paper labels will positively impact upon the value of a work.
Hand-thrown, signed pieces can fetch substantial sums at auction.
An Adelaide Alsop Robineau vase, signed with a partial paper label, sold for $5,000 at Treadway Gallery in May 2008.
An Adelaide Alsop Robineau vase, signed and dated, sold for $3,250 at Treadway Gallery in May 2008.
A hand-thrown Adelaide Alsop Robineau vase sold for $9,000 at Treadway Gallery in May 2007.
An Adelaide Alsop Robineau klylx bowl-form sold for $1,400 at Craftsman Auctions in September 2007.
An Adelaide Alsop Robineau porcelain candle stick with cut out base sold for $1,200 at Rago Arts and Auction Centre in March 2006.