American Art Tile 1876-1941

by Norman Karlson (Sep 15, 1998)




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.


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.


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

R & J Kelley Collection



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


tile detail with signature and year, 1872

R & J Kelley Collection


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 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.




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

I also saw it at 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


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.



Object name: Vase
Date: 1876-1883
Artist/Maker: John Bennett
Medium: Earthenware
Dimensions: 6 3/8 x 4 1/4 in. ( 16.2 x 10.8 cm )

Molded white or ivory bodied vase with cylindrical opening on rounded shoulders of tapering form; hand-painted underglaze decoration with white blossoms, pink buds, and green leaves, lined in black on yellow ground with green rim and foot under transparent glaze.

Gift of Mrs. Clifford R. Dumble

Marks: painted: in green on base: “J BENNETT/NEW YORK, 1883

John Bennett emigrated from England where he was director of the faience department of the Lambeth pottery of Messrs. Doulton & Co. He came to New York in 1876 and soon built a kiln on Lexington Avenue and later others on East 24th Street. Edwin Atlee Barber credits Bennett with introducing his faience decorating method to the U.S. (See Barber, Pottery and Porcelain of the U.S., pp. 305-306).

To see the page on the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, click here.

For more information about the Historical visit here.


Bennett spotted on the streets of New York!


Special thanks  to Robert Tuggle and Paul Jeromack for sending me the
information about the Historical Society. and poster photo.

I received pictures of the Bennett vase that the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York has in their collection.

It’s beautiful! It’s covered in pale yellow dogwood on a blue ground. I saw it sometime back in a photo that appeared in a publication. I wasn’t able to determine the name of the publication but I downloaded the image. It took some time tonight going through my files to find that photo.

Here are the images sent to me of the John Bennett vase at the EMOA.

photo by Paul Jeromack

photo by Paul Jeromack

photo by Paul Jeromack


Below is a picture of the vase (along with another Bennett vase) that I had in my files. I didn’t know this was this vase at the Everson.



The smaller vase in the photo is in the collection of the Decorative Arts Society


Does the Everson vase look familiar? I think it looks like the sister to a vase purchased in late November by New York collector, Bruce Barnes, president and founder of the American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation See previous article here . The vase body looks the same and the backgrounds are similar. One difference is the flowers. Mr. Barnes’ vase is decorated with pink and white peonies instead of the pale yellow dogwood blossoms on the Everson piece.


photo by Bruce Barnes

To learn more about American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation, visit them online at


Special thanks to Paul Jeromack  for the pictures
of the Bennett vase at the Everson Museum of Art.

Also thanks to Bruce Barnes for the photo of his vase.

Last but not least, thank you Robert Tuggle for letting me
know of the existence of this beautiful vase
at the Everson Musem of Art.


Everson Museum of Art

401 Harrison Street
Syracuse, New York 13202
Tel (315) 474 6064
Fax (315) 474 6943


_Have you seen a John Bennett piece in a museum
or collection
that hasn’t been featured on this blog?

Shoot me a note and I will follow up with it in an article.


I can be emailed at

The Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum

200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052


Wednesday: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Sunday: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Though currently not on public view I came across a Bennett vase on the Brooklyn Museum’s website. I plan to contact someone at the museum to see if color images are available.

John Bennett (English, 1840-1907, active in America 1878-1883)

Vase, ca. 1880. Glazed earthenware, Height: 10 1/16 in. – diameter: 6 15/16 in. Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Emma and Jay Lewis and the H. Randolph Lever Fund.

Markings: hand-painted under glaze: “JBennett / 412 E 24 / N.Y.” on bottom of vase.


I imagine the colors are similar in color to the 2 vases in the Jay and Nancy McMann Collection, Herndon, Virginia.

These 2 vases were featured in a previous post on January 3, 2012 “Cherry Blossoms and Daylilies

Special thanks to the Brooklyn Museum! I hope to visit one day to see this vase in person.

Planning a visit to the Brooklyn Museum?


Get information here.

John Bennett

I just finished relinking all of the images in the Auctions and Galleries and Museums sections of this site to their respective owners. When museums and galleries update their sites the links break sometimes. I will check links more often to ensure we stay connected. The one site I can not relink to is Because of the sheer volume of their total sales, they do not keep a public database of sales once an auction has ended. It’s still a valuable resource to find new Bennett pieces and I check it weekly.

A great database of images can be seen at You can enter John Bennett in the search bar and click “Live Auctions” or “Past Auctions”. Hopefully we will see Bennett work(s) in Rago’s EARLY 20TH C. DESIGN AUCTION on Saturday, February 25 at noon (Catalogue online February 9). For more information visit



The Museum section has John Bennett pottery in  the finest museums in the country. When visiting these museums try to get a picture of a Bennett piece to share on this blog.

Also books and articles that mention John Bennett are welcomed information.

Bringing their count to 8, the Met has 2 more vases. Both of these are not on display – except for online.  The Met’s website improves every time I go there. They have great photographs of the works and tools that allow you to zoom in and out to examine the pottery. I see the other Bennett pieces in the group (except for the blue Ellison vase. For some reason it’s not grouped with the others. I will post the links to these 2 pieces and also link the photos to the Met page they’re from. The other 6 pieces can be seen the the Museums section of this site and at the Metropolitan website here.


John Bennett  (1840–1907)

White earthenware
6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Gift of Emma and Jay Lewis, 2011
(This artwork is not on display)

At the Metropolitan Museum website this vase can be viewed here.


John Bennett  (1840–1907)

Red earthenware
11 in. (27.9 cm)
Gift of Emma and Jay Lewis, 2011
This artwork is not on display

At the Metropolitan Museum website this vase can be viewed here.

I encourage everyone to visit and support the Metropolitan Museum.
It’s a great American treasure.

Special thanks to Emma and Jay Lewis for gifting these two Bennett vases
and allowing them to be shared with the world.

John Bennett, Charger, 1878

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