A Triumph of Craft, Industry, and Design

Fritz Albert at Teco Pottery

Born in Alsace-Lorraine and trained as a sculptor in Berlin, Fritz Albert came to Chicago to work on behalf of the German government at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. He then studied briefly in Rome before returning to Chicago to work for William Day Gates’ Teco Pottery (American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Company). Albert swiftly became one of the top designers at the firm, helping them win a gold medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. He modeled architectural terra cotta, garden urns, and statuary for the company, but above all he crafted beautiful sculptural forms that highlighted his love of nature.

Model 310 is one of his most impressive designs and was achievable, in part, because of the innovative production methods used at the pottery. Teco’s clay was formulated for low-fire work, which meant that their pots were much less susceptible to shrinking, cracking, or warping in the kiln. The present model began as a solid slip-cast mold, followed by the cutting away by hand of the slender, sinuous leaves swirling around the base. It was then sprayed with their proprietary soft matte glaze and both fired and cooled slowly. The result is a masterful combination of industrial process and organic sculptural decoration that represents “the imprisoned inspiration of the artist who dreamed it”, as Gates’ publicist so eloquently extolled their wares.

Albert departed Teco not long after designing this model. Owing to the brevity of its production and the delicate nature of the tendrils, few examples have survived the past century. The present lot, miraculously free of any damage, is rarer still, and stands as a graceful yet imposing reminder of Teco’s remarkable legacy in the American Arts & Crafts movement.