Mr. Ohr's glazed pieces are fairly riotous in rich coloring. There are reds and greens, blues, browns, and yellows...every conceivable color is to be found; sometimes the color is solid, again several are harmoniously blended, but always they are unlike anything else you have ever seen.

William King, "The Palissy of Biloxi," Buffalo Express, 12 March 1899

George E. Ohr 1857–1918

Born to Alsatian and German immigrants in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1857, George Ohr learned the art of blacksmithing from his father, was apprenticed first to a file cutter, and then to a tinker, worked in chandlery and became a sailor, and otherwise knocked about until 1879, when his childhood friend Joseph Meyer invited him to New Orleans to learn the art of pottery. Meyer was a traditional potter, of the type common throughout the country prior to the industrial revolution and well into the 20th century in much of the rural south.

Ohr absorbed Meyer’s folk aesthetic and ultimately transformed it into something totally original. His vessels are technical tours de force, unexcelled in the thinness of their bodies and the control with which they are shaped—and misshaped; he threw perfect vessels and then folded and twisted them into unique and original forms.

Bombastic self-promotion was a habit with Ohr, one which alienated him from his more restrained contemporaries in the art pottery and Arts and Crafts movements. It took the form of signs, broadsides, and public demonstrations, such as the Mardi Gras float in which he appeared as an old man bearing a huge cross. He loved word games, and variously referred to himself as the Biloxi M.D. and P.M. (mud dauber and pot maker), The Unequalled Variety Potter, Crank, Etc. and most memorably, The Mad Potter of Biloxi. He used his own name in numerous variations, calling himself the Pot-Ohr, Biloxies Ohrmer Khayam and Greatest Ohr-nament and his shop, the Pot-Ohr-E. Many of his creations were inscribed with his memorable quotations, such as Potter sed-2-clay/B ware/and it was/a thing of the future.

Apart from novelties and functional wares, he sold very little of his work, in part because he doubted that potential buyers could value it as much as he. Over the years he accumulated nearly ten thousand "mud babies", which he boxed up around 1909 and put in the attic of his studio before turning it over to his sons, who converted the space into an automobile repair shop.

Alone in his aesthetic, understood and appreciated by too few of his contemporaries, he was quickly forgotten after he gave up making pottery around 1908. It was his consistent hope that his collection be purchased in its entirety by the Smithsonian as a gift to the nation. Prior to the rediscovery of this trove by an antique dealer in 1969, Ohr was known only from a few turn-of-the-century articles and a handful of works in various collections. The rediscovery of his work coincided with a renewed interest in the art pottery movement and necessitated a re-evaluation of turn-of-the century American art history. Most recently, The Museum of Modern Art furthered this reconsideration of his genius, and the importance of his work in the history of art and craft, by displaying six of his works in a room displaying modern masterpieces by Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

Auction Results George E. Ohr

GEORGE E. OHR, exceptional and very large vessel | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

exceptional and very large vessel

estimate: $20,000–30,000
result: $100,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional and Large vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional and Large vase

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $81,250
GEORGE E. OHR, snake vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

snake vase

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $78,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Large vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Large vase

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $62,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional tall vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional tall vase

estimate: $37,500–42,500
result: $56,250
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional vase

estimate: $35,000–40,000
result: $50,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Fine large double-sided vessel | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Fine large double-sided vessel

estimate: $6,000–9,000
result: $46,875
GEORGE E. OHR, Tall vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Tall vase

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $40,000
GEORGE E. OHR, exceptional large vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

exceptional large vase

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $40,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional and Tall vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional and Tall vase

estimate: $35,000–40,000
result: $37,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Large two-handled vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Large two-handled vase

estimate: $30,000–40,000
result: $37,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Vase

estimate: $9,000–12,000
result: $37,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional large coupe | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional large coupe

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $37,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Large pitcher | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Large pitcher

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $35,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Vase

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $33,750
GEORGE E. OHR, Two-handled baluster vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Two-handled baluster vase

estimate: $28,000–32,000
result: $32,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Vase

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $31,250
GEORGE E. OHR, Exceptional vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Exceptional vase

estimate: $25,000–35,000
result: $30,000
GEORGE E. OHR, pitcher | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

pitcher

estimate: $12,000–16,000
result: $30,000
GEORGE E. OHR, Large coupe | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Large coupe

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $27,500
GEORGE E. OHR, Tall vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

Tall vase

estimate: $8,000–10,000
result: $27,500
GEORGE E. OHR, large two-sided vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

large two-sided vase

estimate: $7,000–9,000
result: $25,000
GEORGE E. OHR, vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

vase

estimate: $6,000–9,000
result: $25,000
GEORGE E. OHR, vase | ragoarts.com

George E. Ohr

vase

estimate: $8,000–10,000
result: $25,000