1957 Henry Varnum Poor Charger

Value (2009) | $2,500 Auction$4,000 Auction

GUEST:
It belonged to my parents. My father was an art collector, mostly paintings. But then later on, he became interested in ceramics, sculpture and other mediums. I think he met Henry Varnum Poor somewhere. Some of the artists he collected were friends of his. They may have introduced him. They have known him. They may have helped him make the connection.

APPRASIER: Poor was centered outside of Nyack, New York, in an artist colony that was America's answer to London's Bloomsbury Group. It was a closely knit fellowship of actors like Burgess Meredith and John Houseman. And there was a loose affiliation with Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre. So, how did you acquire it from your father?

GUEST:
Well, he gifted it to me, and he had three others that... both my brothers and my sister also received a plate. They were totally different. My sister's had a lot of browns in it. And, uh, it wasn't as pretty as this one. I really like mine the best.

APPRASIER: Henry Varnum Poor was born in Kansas in 1888. He fought in World War I. Built his house in 1920 with his own hands. It was part of the Arts & Crafts tradition from which he sprung, in 1920, and started potting about that time. And he potted until his death in 1970. This piece is signed and dated '57, which is sort of in the middle of his career. I've seen a fair amount of his work and I have never seen this color before, this technique. It's almost like enamel on a yellow background. The glazing technique, it's more of a faience type, where there's a lighter-colored background that offsets the artwork, which is loosely contained within incised lines on the surface of the plate. It does tend more towards the browns that you're talking about. This is unusually pretty and colorful. Poor tended to make utilitarian ware: cups, saucers, bowls and plates. He didn't make a lot of vases. Consequently, in terms of valuing things, utilitarian pieces for most potters, their works are devalued. But in Henry Varnum Poor's work, it doesn't really affect pricing all that much. Same thing with there's some flat chipping around the edges because it is low-fire ware. Just recently, three very important pieces of Poor's work were just donated and accepted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. So, he's getting quite a bit of recognition as potter, even though he was primarily known as a painter. But he was also an architect and a writer. I mean, he was a real Renaissance man. If I were to see it at auction today, I would expect to see an estimate of at least $2,500 to $3,500, and probably $3,000 to $4,000. (laughs) Even with... even with the damage.

GUEST:
Oh, my gosh. Well, I... I'm thrilled. I'm absolutely thrilled.

APPRAISER:
This is the first time in 14 years I've seen a piece of Henry Varnum Poor's work here.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRASIER: Yeah. So I'm delighted to see this.

GUEST:
Oh, well, thank you so much. I'm really happy I brought it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Rago Arts & Auction Center
Lambertville, NJ
Appraised value (2009)
$2,500 Auction$4,000 Auction
Event
Madison, WI (July 11, 2009)
Form
Plate
Material
Pottery

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