Classic Black

GBP £45.00



ISBN: 978-1-911282-35-8

248 Pages

279 x 229 mm (9 x 11 in)

245 colour illustrations

In association with the Mint Museum

February 2020


A fascinating exploration of the inspiration behind, and development, of black basalt, the famous stoneware perfected by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1768 to produce his exquisite ornamental wares.

“One of the most important works on 18th-century ceramics to be published in the last decade”—Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, The Art Newspaper

“A handsomely illustrated catalog written by Mr. Gallagher, with contributions by several eminent colleagues in the field”—Barrymore Laurence Scherer, The Wall Street Journal

“A scholarly study of classically inspired sculpture and utilitarian and ornamental stoneware in black basalt”—Andrew Lambirth, The London Magazine

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Brian D. Gallagher
Contributions by Gaye Blake-Roberts, Robin Emmerson, M.G. Sullivan, Nancy Ramage

Classic Black explores classically inspired sculpture and other ornamental wares in black basalt. This famous stoneware was perfected by Josiah Wedgwood in 1768 and then went on to be produced by other prominent Staffordshire potters. Wedgwood, with prescience, said of his new creation, ‘Black is Sterling and will last forever.’

This volume presents approximately 120 examples of ornamental black basalt, including portrait busts, statues, and vases, ewers and other fully three-dimensional, ornamental forms. It also features works in low relief including tablets, plaques, medallions and cameos. Essays by renowned subject specialists enhance the fully illustrated catalogue entries, which are grouped into three chapters. These each focus on an era of the design sources used by Wedgwood and his contemporaries to create their basalt wares: Classical Antiquity, the 16th and 17th centuries, and the 18th century.

Author Biographies

Brian Gallagher is the curator of Decorative Arts at The Mint Museum. His recent projects include the publication, British Ceramics 1675–1825: The Mint Museum, which highlights over 225 examples from the Mint’s renowned British ceramics collection, and the reinstallation of that collection in a long-term display called Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675–1825.

Gaye Blake-Roberts is curator of the Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston, UK.

Robin Emmerson is the former curator of Decorative Arts, National Museums, Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Nancy H. Ramage is the Charles A. Dana Professor of the Humanities and Arts Emerita, Ithaca College.

Dr. M.G. Sullivan is an independent scholar, York University, UK.

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword by Todd A. Herman, PhD, President & CEO, The Mint Museum
  2. Acknowledgments by Brian D. Gallagher
  3. Preface by Brian D. Gallagher
  4. Classicism and the Design Business by Robin Emmerson
  5. Wedgwood’s Customers for Ornamental Black Basalt by Gaye Blake-Roberts
  6. Wedgwood’s Basalt and the Sculpture Market by Dr. M. G. Sullivan, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Art History, University of York
  7. Catalogue of the Exhibition by Brian D. Gallagher
    I. Works Based on Sources from Classical Antiquity
    Rome and Pompeii: Fountains of Inspiration
    Introduction by Dr. Nancy H. Ramage
    II. Works Based on 16th and 17th-Century Sources
    From Renaissance Italy to the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic and Restoration England
    III. Works Based on 18th-Century Sources
    Enlightened Thinkers, Contemporary Events, and New Interpretations of the Classical Past
  8. Concordance (by Object Type)
  9. Selected Bibliography
  10. Index
  11. Photography Credits