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THE MAD POTTER by Jan Greenberg


George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius

by Jan Greenberg ; Sandra Jordan

Age Range: 7 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59643-810-1
Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Greenberg and Jordan bring to life George E. Ohr, a 19th-century American potter largely unknown today and not especially successful in his own day.

George Ohr proclaimed himself the “Greatest Art Potter on Earth.” From the wild-eyed and mustachioed portrait on the cover to the artist’s own words sprinkled throughout the text in boldfaced, oversized typefaces, Ohr’s eccentricities and his penchant for self-promotion are clearly presented. What is not made clear is why Ohr’s work is considered great. What makes a George E. Ohr vase sell at auction nowadays for $84,000, and is he really America’s greatest art potter? Certainly his work is whimsical, as demonstrated by the many full-color photographs of Ohr’s work—vases tilting like leaning towers, a teapot with a spout like an open-mouthed serpent, and all manner of wrinkled, twisted and squashed vessels. Unfortunately, the text doesn’t equal the volume’s visual appeal. Poorly developed paragraphs, too-abrupt transitions between and within paragraphs, occasionally awkward phrasing and quirky punctuation make this volume less successful than it might have been. The backmatter, however, is interesting, including information about the Frank Gehry–designed museum that houses the Ohr collection and lessons in “How to Look at a Pot” and how to use a potter’s wheel.

A fascinating introduction to an innovative artist worthy of a more effective text. (bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 7-12)