Grueby pottery is a type of American arts and crafts art pottery made by at the Grueby pottery in Boston until 1909. The Grueby pottery also produced tiles until 1919.
William Grueby (1867-1925) founded Grueby Pottery in Boston in 1897, although he had been producing pottery since 1894.
Until 1909, Grueby focussed its energies on producing art pottery and during this short yet productive period, Grueby arguably had more influence upon the American arts and crafts pottery movement than any other commercial manufacturer.
Grubey’s trademark style involved hand sculpted, naturally shaped forms combined with highly stylised designs, which were generally either carved or placed above the surface of the piece. Although most Grueby items were finished with their eye-catching matte-green glaze, Grueby also used other coloured glazes, including yellow, brown, mauve, grey and blue.
Examples of fine Grueby pottery are held in the permanent collections of many art pottery museums. It won a number of awards and honours, including two gold medals and a silver medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900.
Excellent examples of Grueby vases and tiles are considered affordable acquisitions for collectors.
Although the vases created later in his career have received the most critical acclaim, William Grueby was principally a tile maker. Grueby’s glazed tiles are colourful, durable and easily cleaned. Grueby had learned tile production while working for the J & J G Low Art Tile Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Art pottery caught Grueby’s attention in 1979, and he began to make pieces for interior decoration using experimental glazes. These hand-thrown items, which included vases, lamp bases and bowls, were adorned with organic, leaf-like patterns. Patterns were sometimes applied into the surface.
Grueby’s most famous and recognisable glaze was a velvety matte green, which echoes in its mossy hue the organic shapes of the pieces as well as decorations that adorned their surfaces. Grueby forms can be found glazed in a number of other colours, including pale oatmeal.
Art pottery production at Grueby ceased in 1909. (Tile production continued until 1919 – Grueby architectural terra-cotta tiles were installed in buildings across America until this date.)
Collectors should consider a number of factors when thinking about buying piece of Grueby pottery as a number of factors regulate the value of individual examples. The colour and quality of the glaze, as well as the design and complexity of the form should be given considerable consideration.
Collectors have been known to pay a premium for pieces displaying flowers or buds that have been highlighted in a lighter colour than the rest of the design.
Desirable examples exhibit applied tendril “handles” around the neck.
Grueby also produced lamp bases for Tiffany and the combination of exquisite art glass and sculpted base can push these items towards the five figure price range.
Factory marks on the bottom of each piece may include the mark of a decorator as well as the company's logo.
Barbara Streisand is a fan and collector of Grueby pottery. Christie’s New York sold elements of her collection in 1999. From this collection a Grueby vase with white-tipped blossoms brought $29,000, while a 15 inch, two colour vase brought $136,000 at Sotheby’s in 2004.
In spite of these daunting prices, collectors can be encouraged by the fact that Grueby also made simpler vases and tiles that can be picked up for less than $2,000.
A green arts and crafts oil jar, possibly Grueby, brought $200 at Kaminski Auctions in January 2013.
A Grueby vase, executed by Ruth Erickson, leaf design covered in a green matte glaze sold for $1,600 in December 2012.
A Grueby scarab paperweight covered with the matte blue glaze brought $350 at Humler & Nolan in December 2012.
A matte green glazed Grueby vase with a raised water lily design brought $1,900 at Marion Antique Auctions in November 2012.
A Tiffany Studios Apple Blossom table lamp with a Grueby pottery base brought $60,000 at Sotheby's in December 2004.