WPA-era ceramic figure is valuable


May 08, 1994|By Anne McCollam | Anne McCollam,Copley News Service

Q: This is a photo of a beautiful piece of pottery that has been in my collection for years, and I still can't find out much about it.

The figure stands 14 inches tall including the base. The colors and work are just incredible. Her gown is a peach color, her hair and the sheaf of wheat between her feet are a golden yellow. She is marked with the words "Edris Eckhardt -- No. 7 -- Midday Federal Art Project -- Cleveland, Ohio." Edris Eckhardt's signature is imprinted in the clay on the base.

Is this a good piece? And what can you tell me about its value?

A: "Midday," a ceramic sculpture by Edris Eckhardt, was exhibited at the May Show in the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1938. Your figure is one of the "Midday" pieces that she made in the late '30s. She usually produced multiples of her pieces, sometimes a dozen a day.

While she was still a student in art school, Guy Cowan asked her to join the Cowan Pottery Company, in Cleveland. This association proved to be a significant influence on her development as an artist. Because of her versatility and talent she was named supervisor for the Ceramic Division of the Federal Arts Project that was part of the Works Project Administration (WPA).

Sponsored by the WPA, she designed and produced her "Mother Goose" and "Alice in Wonderland" series. They found a permanent home in the Library of Congress in Washington. A life-size terra cotta figure of Huckleberry Finn was commissioned by Eleanor Roosevelt for a small reflecting pond in 1939.

Figures similar to yours can go as high as several thousand dollars. "Edris Eckhardt Cleveland Sculptor" by Ruth Dancyger, edited and published by Roger A. Welchans, part of the John Carroll University Cleveland Artist Series 1990, is an excellent source of information.

Letters with picture(s) are welcome and may be answered in the column. We cannot reply personally or return pictures. Address your letters to Anne McCollam, P.O. Box 490, Notre Dame, Ind. 46556.

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