Newcomb College

Active in New Orleans: 1887-

Is An Institution

Contents of File

Newspaper/Periodical Clipping(s):
Exhibition catalog(s):
Artists Directory Entry or Entries:
Book(s) or Pamphlet(s):
Official Records/Vital Statistics:
Miscellaneous Other(s):

Reference Citations:

Founded in 1886 as the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College through monetary gifts from Mrs. Josephine Louise LeMonnier Newcomb in memory of her daughter, as the women's coordiante unit of Tulane University of Louisiana. The college opened in Fall 1887 with classical, literary, industrial and scientific degree programs. Among the electives at Newcomb, art classes were the most popular, and art majors were classified as Normal Art students, who were interested in teaching; or as Special students, usually part time, who could earn certificates in art after completing prescribed courses in industrial and free-hand drawing, decorative design, modeling, wood-carving, water and oil painting, and drawing. ELLSWORTH WOODWARD was Newcomb's first professor of drawing and his brother WILLIAM WOODWARD was the fist professor of oil painting. GERTRUDE ROBERTS SMITH replaced William Woodward in 1887; and, until 1894, she and Ellsworth Woodward were the only instructors teaching art. That year, a four-year curriculum in art was organized and a new art building was constructed on Newcomb's second campus site on Washington. In November 1908, the present campus site, adjacent to Tulane University, was acqired and Newcomb moved there in 1918. From his experiences with the TULANE DECORATIVE ART LEAGUE and the NEW ORLEANS ART POTTERY COMPANY, Ellsworth Woodward developed an idea for combining the training of the fine and the industrial arts through the traditional handicraft of art pottery. All pieces were to be beautiful objects for everyday use, but thrown by hand and decorated separately. MARY GIVEN SHEERE was brought to New Orleans (1894) to be head of pottery decoration. She introduced courses in china painting and a complete course in ceramic art from pottery manufacture to decoration. A two-year apprenticeship was added as a Graduate Program during the 1895-96 session to train women as professional pottery decorators. From 1908, certain women who worked regularly were designated as craftsmen. Pottery judged by a faculty jury to be of acceptable quality was sold from 1896 until the Newcomb Guild was officially recognized (1841). JULES GABRY was hired as potter (1894-ca. 95), followed by GEORGE WASMUTH (ca. 1895), JOSEPH FORTUNE MEYER (ca. 1896-1927), GEORGE OHR (ca. 1896), PAUL ERNEST COX (1910-18), and others. The clay for the pottery came from Bayou Boguefalaya on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain and Back Bay, Biloxi MS. Decorative motifs incised into and painted on the pottery were inspired by local flora, such as pine, oak, magnolia, and oleander. Sheerer descibed the Newcomb art school enterprise in 1899 as "...a southern product, made of southern clays, by southern artists, decorated with southern subjects." Pottery production was the most prolific craft in the art department, and it inspired others. Embroideries and needlework were introduced by Smith (1902); calligraphy (1902); metalwork through MARY WILLIAMS BUTLER; bookbinding through LOTA LEE TROY (1913); and printmaking, woodcarving, weaving, and spinning. Production of Newcomb artworks, especially pottery, reached its peak after 1910 and continued at that level until after World War I, when output declined with a new generation of students and the successive retirements of Meyer (1920?), Woodward (1931), Sheerer (1931), Smith (1934), and SARAH AGNES ESTELLE IRVINE (1952).

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