Thelma Marcuson's porcelain vessels in the Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg.
The aim of this dissertation is to contextualise the use of porcelain by the South African ceramist Thelma Marcuson (1919-2009). This paper focuses on her ceramics in the Tatham Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection in Pietermaritzburg. I hope to give recognition to Marcuson as she is considered one of the pioneer South African studio potters by Garth Clark and Lynne Wagner’s in Potters of Southern Africa as she is ranked amongst the top fifteen in that distinct group (appendix 4: Potters’ art demo). This dissertation is divided into three chapters. Chapter one primarily focuses on the influence of contemporary European studio potters on Marcuson’s work, in particular that of Lucie Rie, Mary Rogers and Ruth Duckworth. This chapter also examines the development of ceramics from industrial ceramics, involving mass productions in factories, to the modernist revival of studio ceramics by Bernard Leach, where each piece was handmade and often regarded as an art form, as in the work of the twentieth century British ceramist William Staite-Murray. Chapter two focuses on Marcuson and South African studio ceramics and considers South African potters who had an influence on Marcuson’s early training, and also looks at her involvement with the Association of Potters of Southern Africa (APSA) founded in 1972. In the last section of this chapter I will discuss ceramic practices and technical issues about porcelain and high-firing glazes, specifying how they are made and used, with particular reference to South African developments and local studio potters. As Marcuson was particularly interested in porcelain, this chapter also outlines glaze applications with specific reference to porcelain and firing methods. Chapter three focuses on Marcuson’s ceramics and offers in particular an analysis of the nine pieces of her work in the Permanent Collection of the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. Through my research I was able to acquire photographic documentation from other South African museums for comparative purposes, such as the Durban Art Gallery and the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley, as well as some private collections (see appendix 1).