George E. Ohr

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George Edgar Ohr
George E Ohr.jpg
The "Mad Potter of Biloxi"
BornJuly 12, 1857
DiedApril 7, 1918(1918-04-07) (aged 60)
Residence New Orleans, Louisiana
Nationality American
EducationJoseph Fortune Meyer
Known for Pottery
Style Abstract Expressionism
MovementAmerican Abstract Expressionism
Spouse(s)Josephine Gehring
Partner(s)Josephine Gehring
Memorial(s) Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art
Interior of Ohr's rebuilt workshop, 1901 George E. Ohr pottery workshop.jpg
Interior of Ohr's rebuilt workshop, 1901

George Edgar Ohr (July 12, 1857  April 7, 1918) was an American ceramic artist and the self-proclaimed "Mad Potter of Biloxi" in Mississippi. [1] In recognition of his innovative experimentation with modern clay forms from 1880–1910, some consider him a precursor to the American Abstract-Expressionism movement. [2]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Ceramic inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat

A ceramic is a solid material comprising an inorganic compound of metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. Common examples are earthenware, porcelain, and brick.

Mississippi State of the United States of America

Mississippi is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and 34th most populous of the 50 United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana to the south, and Arkansas and Louisiana to the west. The state's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Jackson, with a population of approximately 167,000 people, is both the state's capital and largest city.


Personal life

George Ohr was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, on July 12, 1857. He was the son of German immigrants who arrived in New Orleans c. 1850 and subsequently married and moved to Biloxi. George Ohr tried his hand at various trades before he became interested in ceramics in 1879, while an apprentice of Joseph Fortune Meyer. Ohr married Josephine Gehring of New Orleans on September 15, 1886. Ten children were born to the Ohrs, but unfortunately only 5 survived to adulthood. George Ohr died of throat cancer on April 7, 1918. [3]

Biloxi, Mississippi City in Mississippi, United States

Biloxi is a city and one of two county seats of Harrison County, Mississippi, United States. The 2010 United States Census recorded the population as 44,054, and in 2016 the estimated population was 45,975. The area was first settled by French colonists.

New Orleans Largest city in Louisiana

New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 393,292 in 2017, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.

Ohr’s eccentric pottery did not sell well in his lifetime. As his work went unnoticed, unsold, he said, “I have a notion that I am a mistake." Yet he predicted, “When I am gone, my work will be praised, honored, and cherished. It will come.” [4]

Ohr studied the potter's trade with Joseph Meyer in New Orleans, a potter whose family hailed from Alsace-Lorraine, as did Ohr's. [5] Ohr's father had established the first blacksmith shop in Biloxi and his mother ran an early, popular grocery store there. [6] In his lifetime, Ohr created well over 10,000 known pots. He called his work "unequaled, undisputed, unrivaled." [7] In 1884, Ohr exhibited and sold his pottery at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans. [8] Of the hundreds of pieces he showed, Ohr boasted "no two alike." [9]

Alsace-Lorraine Territory created by the German Empire in 1871

The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871, after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east of the Vosges Mountains. The Lorraine section was in the upper Moselle valley to the north of the Vosges.

Blacksmith person who creates wrought iron or steel products by forging, hammering, bending, and cutting

A blacksmith is a metalsmith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils and weapons.

Grocery store retail store that primarily sells food and other household supplies

A grocery store or grocer's shop is a retail shop that primarily sells food. A grocer is a bulk seller of food.

The 1894 fire that burned most of Biloxi also destroyed Ohr's workshop, and it has been noted that Ohr's post-fire works show tremendous "energy" and "fluidity." [8] George Ohr called his pots "mud babies". Upon the destruction of his workshop and his work, he gathered the pieces that survived the fire, and although burned, he kept each piece, calling them his " burned babies". [10]


Ohr-O'Keefe Museum's "Pods" by Frank Gehry Ohr-OKeefeMuseum.jpg
Ohr-O'Keefe Museum's "Pods" by Frank Gehry

Ohr died largely unknown in 1918. For decades, his pots sat in a garage behind his sons’ gas station in Biloxi. [11] Ohr's work is now seen as ground-breaking and a harbinger of the abstract sculpture and pottery that developed in the mid-20th century; his pieces are now relatively rare and highly coveted. [12]

A notable feature of Ohr's pottery is its thin walls, metallic glazes, and twisted, pinched shapes; to this day, few potters have been able to replicate them using a pottery wheel, which is how Ohr made his works. Ohr dug much of his clay locally in southern Mississippi from the Tchoutacabouffa River. [8] Tchoutacabouffa is the Biloxi tribe's word for "broken pot." [13]

He called himself the "Mad Potter of Biloxi", groomed himself eccentrically, and inscribed this bawdy poem on the side of some of his pots: "Molly and I were on the beach engaged in nature's folly, The sand was hot upon my back but the sun was hot to Molly." [14]

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art in Biloxi has a large permanent collection of Ohr's work. Three buildings of the new campus designed by Frank Gehry opened to the public on November 8, 2010, with several exhibitions, including a large selection of work by George Ohr. In addition to the Gehry-designed buildings, the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center is also open to the public.

The museum campus was partially destroyed during Hurricane Katrina when a casino barge was washed onto the semi-constructed facility. Visitors can view the construction that is planned to continue on the western part of the campus, beginning with the Center for Ceramics building, followed by the George E. Ohr "Pods," scheduled to be completed in 2012.

From 2007 - 2010 Ohr Rising: The Emergence of an American Master, a major national exhibition of Ohr pottery, traveled to Pomona, California; San Angelo, Texas; Alfred, New York; Toronto, Canada; and the Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Many of those pieces, as well as several that have never been displayed, can now be seen at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.

Aerial view of the casino barge washed onto the site of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in September 2005 Katrina-biloxi-miss-grand-casino2-2005.jpg
Aerial view of the casino barge washed onto the site of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in September 2005

Two new Frank-Gehry designed buildings are scheduled to open in 2012. The City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics will open in late spring/early summer 2012 and will be used for classes in ceramics and other art. The Center for Ceramics will also contain community meeting areas.

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  9. Ellison, Robert A., Jr. (2006). George Ohr, Art Potter. The Apostle of Individuality. Martin Eidelberg. London: Scala. ISBN   1-85759-425-8.
  10. (The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr-Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan)
  11. Watson, Bruce (February 2004). "The Mad Potter of Biloxi". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  12. Antiques and the Arts Editorial Content (February 11, 2003). "Record George Ohr Teapot Leads Craftsman Auction". Antiques and the Arts Online. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
  13. McKee, Jesse O.; Velvelyn Blackwell Foster; Stephen Young; et al. (2005). Mississippi: The Magnolia State (PDF). Atlanta: Clairmont Press. p. 330. ISBN   1-56733-125-4.
  14. Rago, David (appraiser), Antiques Roadshow, Dallas, Texas, June 28, 2008

Further reading