The ceramics and glassware here show how the dictates of the machine and cost-consciousness helped establish an incipient taste for abstract decoration in early nineteenth-century design. When the Industrial Revolution began, high-quality ceramics and glassware were only available to the rich and porcelain was embellished by hand with naturalistic or narrative decoration. Industrial manufacturers began to adopt production-line techniques, using molds to produce large quantities of affordable earthenware ceramics and glass intended for the growing middle classes. To keep prices down, makers devised new means of decoration that produced simple, geometric designs or abstract patterns. The pitcher and large mug here were turned mechanically on a lathe while a quill infused with colored slip, or clay, created remarkably simple, striped designs. The random decoration on the smaller mug (meant to imitate the natural veining of marble) and the glass vessels embrace the element of chance, an entirely modern notion of artistic creation that reached its greatest flowering with Abstract Expressionist painting in the mid-twentieth century.
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Decanter, ca. 1850. Glass, 11 3/4 x 6 in. (29.8 x 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by Special Subscription and Museum Collection Fund, 13.915. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.13.915.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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