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Henry Varnum Poor and Wharton Esherick: Friends in Art and Craft

Penn State Great Valley

Thursday, April 24, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)

Malvern, PA

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Caroline M. Hannah, a design historian based in New York, discusses the  50-year friendship between Wharton Esherick and Henry Varnum Poor who were born the same year and died in the same year (1887-1970).  Each influenced and supported the other in their similar careers.  Both were trained as painters but in 1920 moved into the decorative arts to augment their incomes — Esherick into wood, Poor into ceramics. 

During the 1920s, Henry Varnum Poor turned towards craft and design, an unusual step also taken by his friend Wharton Esherick. Both academically trained painters, Poor and Esherick began designing and making things by hand and their ideas on art and life influenced each other. Poor designed and built a studio house (Crow House in New York State), for which he created furniture, and Esherick followed suit, building the studio that is now the Wharton Esherick Museum. Whereas Esherick gravitated toward sculpture and excelled in wood, Poor chose pottery, with clay as his canvas. Without ever giving up painting (later creating the Land-Grant Frescoes in Penn State’s Old Main), Poor first became famous as the preeminent studio potter in this country. Esherick, on the other hand, has been called the dean of American studio furniture. This talk examines the lives, work, and friendship of these two great American artists and craftsmen and their disparate legacies within American visual culture. 

Caroline M. Hannah is a design historian based in New York who has written on topics ranging from neoclassical decorative arts to craft in contemporary life. A PhD candidate at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, her dissertation focuses on the craft and design of Henry Varnum Poor, which includes his seminal ceramics among other areas of creative production. Dedicated to the preservation of Crow House, Poor’s hand-built home and studio of 50 years, she co-founded the Henry Varnum Poor Foundation (a k a Friends of Crow House). A recipient of fellowships and grants from the Bard Graduate Center; the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Smithsonian Institution; she previously held positions at the New-York Historical Society; Historical Design, Inc.; and the Yale University Art Gallery. She lectures regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has taught at Parsons, the New School for Design, and at Bard College.

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When & Where



The Conference Center at Penn State Great Valley
30 E Swedesford Rd
Malvern, PA 19355

Thursday, April 24, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)


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Penn State Great Valley

Penn State Great Valley strives to be a vibrant academic and social hub for the region by connecting people and ideas. The campus offers free artistic, musical and cultural events for the community to celebrate the diverse riches of the local area.

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