Van Briggle - CSPM

Van Briggle

The Van Briggle exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was a triumph that ended in tragedy. The pottery won two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals. El Paso County Commissioners asked local citizens to underwrite shipping and exhibit costs, as Van Briggle represented the artistic and commercial promise of the region. Sadly, Artus Van Briggle died of tuberculosis that summer, on July 4, 1904, at age 35. Eventually, many of the pieces from the 1904 exhibit were donated to this museum.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Artist Artus Van Briggle (1869-1904) was one of countless tuberculars attracted to Colorado Springs because of its reputation as a health resort. When he arrived in the spring of 1899 at the age of 30, he had succeeded in recreating a matte glaze dating back to the Chinese Ming Dynasty, a technique he would perfect while residing in Colorado during the few remaining years of his life.

Originally from Ohio, where he apprenticed at the famous Rookwood Pottery, his employer recognized his talent and financed an overseas stay in Paris from 1893 until 1896 to further his studies. It was there that he met and became engaged to fellow American artist, Anne Gregory, but after their return to the United States, they lived in separate states until Anne followed him to Colorado in 1900, where they married two years later. In their home on North Nevada Avenue, they created beautiful pottery in the Art Nouveau style, which was hailed regionally and nationally, and which bore their trademark, two intertwined letters “A” within a square.

In 1903, all 24 submissions to the Paris Salon were accepted, a remarkable achievement in and by itself, but they also received 2 gold, 1 silver, and 12 bronze medals. Of 100 pieces sent to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, 2 were crowned with gold, 1 with silver, and 2 with bronze. Alas, while the fair was underway, Artus succumbed to tuberculosis, and the Van Briggle exhibit in St. Louis was draped in black crepe. Subsequently, the El Paso County commissioners purchased what pieces of the collection had not been sold and donated them to the El Paso County Pioneers Association, precursor of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. They were displayed in the halls of the 1903 El Paso County Courthouse, long before any inklings of its future as the home of our local history museum. They also formed the beginning of what has since grown into the largest collection of Van Briggle pottery in the country, numbering over 700 pieces. Following Artus’s death, Anne continued to operate the pottery, and in 1908, moved into its new artistic home at the north end of Monument Valley Park on land donated by city founder, General William Jackson Palmer. Anne sold the business in 1912, but Van Briggle-style pottery continued to be produced by a series of owners in a variety of locations until 2012.

Generously Submitted by Tanja Britton, CSPM Volunteer Educator

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