American Art Tile 1876-1941

by Norman Karlson (Sep 15, 1998)

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John Bennett was born in England in 1840. He trained first at Staffordshire Potteries, and later worked for Henry Doulton. By the time Bennett arrived in the United States and opened a studio at 101 Lexington Avenue in New York, in 1876, he was already a very accomplished pottery decorator.

His high-priced pottery, called “Bennett Ware,” was sold at many fine stores across the country, including Tiffany & Co. Bennett Ware was characterized by simple, unencumbered shapes adorned with underglaze painting. The decorative subjects were usually boldly painted plants and flowers in strong colors, often outlined in black against brightly colored backgrounds.In addition to pottery, Bennett produced six-inch tiles using the same underglaze technique. His work could have been influenced by William DeMorgan and William Morris (and possibly Persian or Turkish painting). In 1878, Bennett taught classes in pottery decoration at the New York Society of Decorative Art (relinquishing the post a year later to Charles Volkmar).

In 1879, Bennett moved his studio to 412 E. 24th Street, where he remained until he retired to his farm in West Orange, New Jersey in 1883. The father of thirteen children, John Bennett died in1907 at the age of sixty-seven.

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The John Bennett art tiles above are similar to the tile below in that they have a loose, sketchy quality using values of a single color on a light background. He achieves most of his shading by changing the line thickness. The 4 tiles above are curious in that they have letters randomly placed in the backgrounds. My guess is they may spell the name or character trait of the subject matter.

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tile back with conjoined JB, 412 E 24 Street, NY

R & J Kelley Collection

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These are different than the painted tiles
which are more like wallpaper.

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tile detail with signature and year, 1872

R & J Kelley Collection

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John Bennett, art tile
R & J Kelley Collection

This book, along with other fine books by Norman Karlson can be found on the net.  I saw it available NEW and USED at amazon.com. If you’re interested click on the following link.

Another example of John Bennett’s tile work was exhibited in 1979 at The William Benton Museum of Art. An excerpt from the exhibition catalog can be seen below.

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I looked on the net and copies of this exhibition catalog are available in multiple places.

I also saw it at Amazon.com here.

I would like to thank Norman Karlson, author of American Art Tile 1876-1941
and encourage you to buy his books.

I would also like to thank the William Benton Museum of Art for exhibiting
the work of John Bennett and the production of the exhibition catalog. Everyone
should visit the William Benton Museum of Art.

245 Glenbrook Rd # 2140
Storrs Mansfield, CT 06269

(860) 486-4520

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I would especially like to thank my friend that sent me information and a copy of the 1979 exhibition catalog. Without him would have made this article impossible. As I have used content without permission, my friend will remain anonymous but is greatly appreciated.

I would like to apologize for the sad yellow frames I have on my art tiles. My grandmother put the tiles into those frames and I haven’t been able to bring myself to change them.

I will conclude by saying read, visit museums and share your John Bennett examples with others that love his work.

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