Ceramic, Art and Civilisation


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Prologue: A History in Shards CHAPTER 1. WHAT CERAMIC IS 1. Fundamentals 2. Stuff of the Earth 3. The Art of Heat 4. The Potter 5. Nomenclature and Culture 6. The Ceramic Continuum 7. Transformers: Classicism, Islam, China, and the Modern 8. The Discipline 9. Industry and the Levels of Production 10. Ubiquity: The Plastic of the Ancient World 11. Telling Stories 12. Civilisation, Power, and Domestic Life 13. Conclusion: Western Ceramic CHAPTER 2: THE VALUE OF THE GREEK POTTER 1. The World in Black and Red 2. Positioning the Pots 3. The Earlier Greek World 4. Reducing Iron and Oxygen 5. Who Were These People? 6. Secular Life 7. Anachronism, the Value, and the Price of Things 8. The Value and the Price of Things 9. Conclusion: The Spread of Red and Black CHAPTER 3: ROME AND THE ARRIVAL OF THE MEDIEVAL WORLD 1. The Feel of Roman Pots 2. Red Gloss 3. The Pots of Empire 4. Greece, Rome, and the Classical Idea 5. Standardisation 6. Dark, Light, an End and a Beginning 7. Europe: The Coarse and the Local 8. Revivalism and the Vernacular 9. Conclusion: The Classical Heritage CHAPTER 4: RENAISSANCES OF TIN 1. The Chemistry of Islam 2. Islam and Ceramic History 3. The Pottery Revolution 4. Islam in Europe 5. Renaissance Pots 6. Colour, Line and Life 7. Secular Life 8. Pottery and Painting 9. Quantity, Quality, and Status 10. The Arrival of the Meal 11. Sculptural Form 12. Italian Potters and Potteries 13. Renaissances 14. Conclusion: a European Ethos CHAPTER 5: THE ENLIGHTENED REIGN OF WHITE 1. Chinese Pots 2. Technology, Style, Confidence 3. Porcelain City 4. China in Europe 5. The Quest for a European Porcelain 6. The Porcelain Explosion 7. Blue, White, War, and Peace 8. Delftware 9. Frivolity and Melancholy: the Figurine Reinvented 10. The Rise of Staffordshire 11. Conclusion: Modern Whiteness CHAPTER 6: THE NATURAL AND THE INDIVIDUAL: LEAD, SLIP, STONE, SALT 1. History, the Collective, and the Individual 2. The Renaissance Man 3. The Palissystes 4. The Salt Renaissance 5. Prose and Poetry 6. The Nature of Slip 7. Configuring Life 8. The Arrival of America 9. Conclusion: The Ingredients of Modernity CHAPTER 7: THE ACCELERATION OF STYLE AND THE ARRIVAL OF THE MODERN 1. Decoration, Complication, and Anxiety 2. The Last Transformer: Another Modernity 3. Institutionalisation 4. Exhibitions 5. Ugliness and the Era 6. The Invention of Style 7. Design Reform and the Ingredients of Modern Design 8. The Meaning of Majolica 9. The Vortex of Large-scale Production 10. The Republic of Tile 11. Ceramic Hell 12. Gender 13. Exoticism 14. The Designer 15. The Art Nouveau style 16. Conclusion: High Eclecticism to Art Nouveau CHAPTER 8: THE STUDIO ARRIVES 1. A Modern Place 2. Art Pottery 3. Defining Art 4. The Invention of Craft 5. The Completeness of Existence 6. The Artist-potter 7. Émigrés 8. Art Deco 9. The International Style 10. Mid-century Modern 11. Potters and Painters 12. Conclusion: A World is Formed CHAPTER 9: THE CREATIVE EXPLOSION 1. Thunderous Emotion 2. Another Modernity 3. The World of Funk 4. Conceptualism and Minimalism 5. A New Arena 6. New American Symbolism 7. The Ceramic Landscape 8. Abstract Vessels 9. Postmodernism 10. The New Ornamentalism 11. Conclusion: The Potter Now Postscript: Attica to California Notes Bibliography Index About the Author

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A groundbreaking history of ceramics from 3000 BC to the present day, tracing the relationship between ceramics and civilisation, the culture of ceramics through history, and the social importance of ceramics.

About the Author

Paul Greenhalgh is Director of the Sainsbury Centre and Professor of Art History and Museum Strategy at the University of East Anglia, UK. He was previously Head of Research at the V&A Museum, London, and is the author of books including The Persistence of Craft (2002) and Art Nouveau (2000).


Greenhalgh describes the fluctuating status of pots and potters throughout history in connection with the technical development of ceramic as an industry and the emergence of the artist potter… [He] takes us from ancient Greece to the wilder shores of Conceptual Art, Post-Modernism and Californian Funk… Full of surprises [and] provocative
*Jane Rye, The Spectator*

Passionately written… At the end of his book, Greenhalgh writes that, ‘far more than religion, or war, or academic treatises, skill shaped civilisation’. So true, and there is no better example than ceramics. One closes this compendious history with a breathless feeling: what will potters come up with next?
*Glenn Adamson, Apollo*

This is an extraordinary accomplishment. It animates the history of world ceramics in a manner that has not been achieved before. It is full of remarkable insight and beautiful details and will reach a huge and appreciative audience.
*Edmund de Waal, artist and writer, UK*

This is an important book. History has not examined the ceramic consistently. It has not always given the medium of clay credence for the part it has played in art. Greenhalgh puts this to rights. He gives the ceramic its rightful context and underlines its importance, telling its story from around 600 BC to the contemporary. And he tackles fundamentals: examining what ceramic is and how it featured in the Classical world, Middle Ages, Renaissance and on through Modernism to now.
*The Arts Society Magazine*

Ambitious [and] indeed monumental… Greenhalgh's enthusiasm for his subject is persuasively infectious and the narrative rarely flags over the book's more than 500 pages. The text is enhanced by 409 superb illustrations, intelligently arranged on the page and so captioned to make the reader look, and look again.
*Times Literary Supplement*

An epic reshaping of ceramic art… an adventure that I am already impatient to revisit.
*Shane Enright, Crafts*

This comprehensive text on ceramics – and the culture surrounding it – discussed its critical role in civilization over millennia, historical era in ceramic art, and the contemporary role of the potter.
*Ceramic Arts 2022 Yearbook, a supplement to Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated*

A fresh, eloquent and persuasive polemic that reads like a thriller.
*Decorative Arts Society*

If you're after some excellent lockdown reading, Paul Greenhalgh's fascinating book could just fit the bill.

A glorious edition ... The photographs of excellent ceramic examples, the clear historical explanations and the pages of other interesting ceramic related information are enchanting.
*London Potters*

This is a splendid production, lavishly illustrated with superb images. It is a book to be ‘dipped into’ for reference, information, or simple fascination ... For art historians and ceramic enthusiasts, this is an outstanding book.
*Anglian Potters*

This comprehensive text on ceramics--and the culture surrounding it--discusses its critical role in civilization over millennia, historical eras in ceramic art, and the contemporary role of the potter.
*Ceramic Arts 2022 Yearbook, a supplement to the US magazines Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated*

*Emerging Potters*

Greenhalgh’s scholarship brings the rapture he feels for ceramics to life in this beautifully written and readable book. It provokes, delights, informs and exposes ceramic’s complicity in civilization’s birth, moving on to the present with the author’s contemporary, witty and ruthlessly critical voice.
*Garth Clark, historian, writer, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the CFile Foundation, USA*

Not for a long time has there been such a comprehensive account of the history of ceramics. In this book Paul Greenhalgh captures the importance of the material to our human experience.
*Dame Professor Magdalene Odundo OBE, Emerita in Ceramics and Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts, UK*

Masterful. Paul Greenhalgh has engaged the epic span of ceramic art history with a maker’s hands, shaping it into a magnificent, vibrant form, filled to capacity with the voices of individuals, both unknown and known, who devoted their lives to earth and fire … Greenhalgh’s text is a remarkable container of sophisticated insight. It offers a longed-for coherent structure upon which to build an understanding of ceramic art as it has unfolded across the near immeasurable scope of human civilization.
*Wayne Higby, Professor of Ceramic Art, The Wayne Higby Director and Chief Curator, Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Alfred University, USA*

Greenhalgh fills a major gap in the ceramics field where technique most often sets the content. His writing elevates the conversation and takes ceramics beyond its formal history to where it is effectively placed in a cultural context. His curatorial eye adds a perspective on the work not often found in such a survey. Thoroughly researched, expansive in both its timeline and depth, this book is a welcome resource for researchers and serious students of clay, as well as those with a general interest in ceramics.
*Anna Callouri Holcombe, Professor of Ceramics, University of Florida, USA*

Paul Greenhalgh takes the reader on a multi-faceted voyage exploring the long, complex history of a commonplace material and its intimate connection to human life. From humble to high society, hand or machine, meaning and function, this book is a revelatory celebration of the creativity, invention and skill of individuals and societies producing and using ceramic.
*Helen Walsh, Curator, Centre of Ceramic Art, York Art Gallery, UK*

Since the earliest of times, across myriad civilisations that have come and gone, ceramics endure. Each sherd tells us of the discipline’s discreet history, but also so much more. Ceramics form the fabric of societies and their anthropological connections to individuals and societies paint detailed and intimate pictures. Paul Greenhalgh takes the reader across the centuries citing links and dialogues between the modern and the ancient. To be able to step back and take in the panoply of this vast subject and select appropriate and relevant examples is an affirming indicator of a deep, specialist and eloquent knowledge. There are very few people qualified to take on a task such as this. Greenhalgh is one of a few and probably the best equipped to do so.
*Ashley Howard, Senior Lecturer in Ceramics, University for the Creative Arts, UK*

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