Texas Clay: 19th-Century Pottery from the Bayou Bend Collection focuses on the vibrant tradition of handmade, utilitarian pottery that flourished in mid- to late-19th-century Texas. The early Texas pottery on display is drawn from the collection of Bayou Bend, the house museum for American decorative arts and paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The exhibition showcases stoneware jugs, jars, butter churns, and pitchers that were turned on a potter’s wheel by professional potters, their family members, and African American slaves trained in the craft, some of whom went on to open their own operations after emancipation.
Bayou Bend’s unparalleled Texas collection, the largest of its kind, includes outstanding examples of vessels by master potters from the state's principal stoneware manufacturing regions. Among the highlights in Texas Clay are distinctively shaped and glazed vessels by John Leopard; jugs and jars from the Guadalupe Pottery; and works by celebrated potter Hiram Wilson, who established one of the first African American owned-and-operated enterprises in Texas.
The exhibition reflects Bayou Bend’s increasing interest in 19th-century Texas material culture. The resulting research has added significant information to the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive, which documents the lives, works, and products of artisans and artists working in Texas prior to 1900.